Bachelors vs. Bachelor’s

Bachelors Degree

Image Source

Learning the lingo and grammar for talking about academic degrees can be tricky. Many face the conundrum of picking between “bachelors” and “bachelor’s” when describing their undergrad program. Even after actually earning the degree, you may be stumped. Well, the correct term to write or speak would be “bachelor’s.” The plural form of bachelors is only applicable when you’re talking about a group of graduates who have finished the degree. In another context, bachelors could also describe eligible, unmarried men looking for love. Whenever you’re referring to a general undergraduate degree, bachelor’s is the right term.

Why is “Bachelor’s” Correct?

According to Associated Press Style guidelines, using the lowercase form with an apostrophe for bachelor’s degree is proper English. The term must suggest possession because the degree belongs as property to a student. In cases where bachelor’s degree is too long, writing simply bachelor’s is sufficient. Let’s clear up any misunderstanding with some examples. Here are some grammatically correct sentences:

• Sophie is finishing her senior thesis for a bachelor’s degree.
• Ralph has earned two bachelor’s degrees.
• Carmen graduated with her bachelor’s in only three years.
• Having a bachelor’s degree prepared me for the workforce.

Writing that someone holds a bachelor’s degree is appropriate for establishing their credentials. AP Style prefers using this generic phrase rather than listing the degree’s full name. The same holds true for a master’s degree. Graduate schools offer master’s, not masters, programs. Again the apostrophe helps display how students possess the degree. However, please note that two-year undergraduate programs hold the exception. Saying associate degree is correct here.

When Should “Bachelor” Be Used?

There’s one case where you should use the singular form of bachelor. This comes when you’re talking about a specific degree granted by a college or university. Since it’s a degree’s title, the word must be capitalized. Avoid adding an apostrophe here. Capitalize only the official degree title but not the major. English is the exception because it’s a language and proper noun. Review the following accurate examples for clarification:

• Temple University offers a Bachelor of Science in biophysics.
• Dante is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English to become an author.
• I began by acting career with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drama.
• Rachel and Melissa are graduating with Bachelor of Social Work degrees.

What About “Baccalaureate”?

There’s no difference between saying baccalaureate and bachelor’s degree. Both terms refer to the lowest academic degree granted at the university level. Baccalaureate is the original name first used in the mid-17th century when higher education prospered. It’s derived from the medieval Latin word “baccalaureus.” In the United Kingdom, baccalaureate can also be an examination given as a school performance indicator. The United States also offers International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas to high school students undertaking advanced study.

It’s grammatically correct to write a sentence like “Amanda is receiving her baccalaureate from Princeton University,” though saying bachelor’s degree is more modern. Either of these options will reign supreme to mistakenly writing “bachelors.” Always remember the apostrophe unless you’re writing an actual degree title.