For example: Do graduates receive a Bachelor of Arts degree or become a Bachelor of Arts?

Are Bachelor degrees grammatically and/or etymologically distinct from advanced degrees?

I note that the titles Master and Doctor are still in common usage, even though in practice frequently divorced from the associated academic degrees. (E.g, a Master as a formal designation is now most frequently associated with a skilled trade – like master electrician. And many holders of doctorate degrees eschew the use of the title outside of medicine and the academy.)

Etymologically it appears that Baccalaureate would be the correct term for a person who has received a Bachelor's degree. But I can't find that in modern usage, and its etymology (laureate) emphasizes the award of the degree, rather than the achievement of mastery or doctoral skill.

Or do I have it backward, and it is modern academia that has appropriated these different titles without establishing such terminological consistency?

  • 2
    Note that a person doesn't need to have a doctorate in order to use the title Dr. For example, in most countries medical doctors only need an MBBS to practice yet they are fully entitled to use the title doctor. OTOH, in the US, almost all lawyers have doctorates (JD), but almost no one calls Attorney John Smith "Dr. Smith". So I'd argue "doctor" the title and doctor the degree are two separate things, and doctorates are no different from baccalaureates and masters in this sense.
    – xuq01
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 2:06
  • 3
    Trying to figure out the underlying question here; are you basically interested in if it's appropriate to regard a Bachelor's degree as conferring a title upon the holder?
    – Nat
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 3:31
  • @Nat – First, does "academia" have a consistent view regarding whether people merit titles for earning any degree? And if so, does it apply to all degrees, or only some? If the latter, is there a good reason why? If the former, what are appropriate titles that go with each degree?
    – feetwet
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 12:47
  • 1
    The use of master (Meister, meester) has a long tradition in skilled trade, which goes back to the guilds. So I would interpret master electrician in that light, rather than a reference to the academic title/degree. Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


Depends on the country and education system.

For example, in English, 'bachelor' doesn't mean anything but that you finished that level of education. In Spanish, finishing university doesn't mean a person gets recognized as having the degree: there are further methods to achieve that (titulaciòn), after which the government officially recognizes the degree and the title that comes white it like 'ingeniero' (engineer) or 'abogado' (lawyer). That is why in some countries the degree is added as a title at the start of a person's name.

  • I'm unclear as to what precisely is the distinction you're drawing between the Anglo-Saxon and Hispanic systems. Is it that in the Anglo-Saxon system you just have a graduation ceremony, whereas in the Hispanic system you have a ceremony and additionally your degree is published in the official gazette of the state? The recognition of professional title sounds more like colegiarse, and that has parallels in the Anglo-Saxon system (chartered professions, bars, etc). Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 8:48
  • For generalization of latinamerica let's use México, and lets say a civil engineer degree. Finishing the 4 years (average) of university is just one of the requisites for getting the title of 'civil' engineer, the person aspiring tot he title then needs to pass through a 'titulación' phase to prove they are capable and worthy of the title (Thesis, 3 years work experience + exam, general exam, projects, etc) , after that they are awarded the tile and then can use it in their names. Then to be able to work on the field there's an extra national permit called 'Cedula profesional'.
    – deags
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 15:14
  • I'm not sure that's quite what the question is about. I interpreted it as about the use of Lic. as a title (which I certainly see with pharmacists in Spain, and I've seen with psychologists in Argentina, but I'm not sure whether it's related to being colegiado). Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 19:35
  • It is. A 'licenciado/a' is a title as much as an Engineer. But it always refer to something, like a 'Licenciado en ciencias de la informatica' (Lincesee in infomatic sciences' or 'Licenciado en psicología' (Licensee in psychology) Those are the full titles while the shortened version added to the name is the Abb. 'Lic.'
    – deags
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 19:43

They're degrees, indicating advancement on a course of study. Hence, bachelor, master, and doctor are different degrees of accomplishment in (usually) the same discipline.

  • So ... one "earns" each degree? Or is "awarded" each degree? But there is no standard of recognizing one who has achieved any of those degrees with a title?
    – feetwet
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 2:56
  • 3
    It's two sides of the same coin. You don't get awarded a degree without earning it. The only degrees that come with title are doctorates (excluding some professional degrees, e.g. MD). The only thing you would be able to call yourself after an undergraduate degree would a 'graduate'.
    – Eppicurt
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 3:27
  • @Eppicurt An MD is a doctoral degree. Perhaps you mean that certain professional degrees are unusual in that they are obviously not expected to be for teaching, yet grant the historic title of a teacher. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 2:39

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