Skip to main content
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
Get full digital access to globeandmail.com
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
// //

The Question:

I have had a lot of formal education, including two masters degrees and several professional designations. During my normal day-to-day correspondence, I don't draw attention to my education – for example, my e-mail auto signature only has my job title in it. On occasion, especially when dealing with customers overseas, I will list all of my qualifications in order to give them assurance about the honesty and integrity of the people with whom they are dealing. The result is that there tends to be a bit of an "alphabet soup" after my name.

Some people have told me that it is not necessary to list having a BA when you also list a masters degree. In other words, you should only show your highest degree. Other people have told me that all degrees should be listed, in the order they were achieved. Still another school of thought is that you don't mix formal educational degrees with other designations.

Story continues below advertisement

What is the proper protocol in this matter? I'm proud of my educational achievements, but I also don't want to come across as ostentatious.

The Answer:

I am afraid I have conflicting advice to add to your repertoire of opinions on this matter. There is no absolute correct answer but, you are right, perception is important.

As someone who regularly reviews résumés, the "alphabet soup" (as you called it) always draws my attention, and not always in the most positive way. As with résumés, only the best material should be showcased. And sometimes it can be seen as compensating for lack of experience. As in "I have limited work experience, but I have 20 years of full time postsecondary education."

If you need to truncate the letters, here are a couple of rules I recommend:

List only relevant degrees/diplomas/designations. If you obtained an accounting designation and now you work in health and safety, indicate the health and safety credentials.

List the highest degree. If you have a masters degree in biochemical engineering, it is safe to say that people will assume you earned the bachelors' degree necessary to get into graduate school.

Story continues below advertisement

List letters that make sense to people. If I need to look it up, then it really does not make much sense to list it, especially if it is some obscure degree or diploma from a non-credentialed university or college, or something from overseas that is not recognized in Canada.

List only official abbreviations. You may have a diploma in corporate communications (as I do) but that does not mean you put DCC after your name. Make sure whatever you list is the correct abbreviation and is somewhat widely known within your industry.

Your signature on your e-mails, as well as the headline of your résumé should provide credibility as applicable. You certainly do not want to minimize your education and professional designations. Rather, you want to acknowledge them in a way that enhances your achievements rather than detracts from them.

Eileen Dooley is a certified coach and lead consultant for McRae Inc. in Calgary.

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: careerquestion@globeandmail.com Your name and address will be kept confidential.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies