A Matter of Degree: A Satirical Look at College Degrees and Letters

BA, MA, MEd, LPC, PhD???
BA, MA, MEd, LPC, PhD???

College Degrees and the Letters

Have you ever wondered what it means to be a man or a woman of letters? A person of letters is, in short, an intellectual. Why "of letters"? Because of all the letters that follow their name, of course, and the more letters the more intellectual. An intellectual stamp of approval, if you will.

However, with the proliferation of licensure requirements, it seems as though to be of letters is the rule rather than the exception. Gone are the days when colleges and universities were the only institutions bestowing letters, now the many legislatures and their legislatively created licensing agencies bestow letters for almost any license imaginable. Before long, I will be Peter M. Lopez, LPOMV (Licensed Professional Operator of a Motor Vehicle, certified by the State of Texas to drive my car).

A Review of College Degrees and Letters.

The traditional degrees conferred by colleges and universities are the Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral degrees. Junior and community colleges dub the graduate "Associate," but so do department stores (sales associate), customer calling centers (service associate), and escort services (adult associate - no joke, Google "associate"). So do law firms (associate attorney), major research institutions (research associate), and, again, colleges and universities (associate professors). Because of the ambiguity, I will ignore the associate.

Each degree is then abbreviated or acronymized by a combination of the first or first two letters making up the words. The abbreviations or acronyms are then proudly attached to the end of the bestowee's name for the world to see. Thus, you become of letters.

...I suppose this is the case, I really have no idea, but this seems to make sense, does it not?

So, let's have a little fun:

Bachelor's Degree: The Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Sciences (BS). A degree confirming your status as a single, eligible male (or female, as in "actor" designating both an actor or actress, colleges and universities being bastions of political correctness. Imagine: Bachelorette of Science. Yikes!). I wonder if this is why most bachelors do not display the BA or BS at the end of their name(?), the shame of displaying to society a state of bachelorhood. I suspect it was southern mothers that first started prohibiting bachelorettes from admitting that they were still single after having gone to college to find a husband.

However, I have encountered a few daring buckers of the system who amend the title of bachelor to their name, producing such questionable signature lines as, "James Smith, BS."

BS indeed!

But, the Bachelor's degree confirms that you are officially a college graduate, although graduate school awaits if you no longer wish to remain a bachelor.

"What? You mean after I graduate I have to go to graduate school? I'm confused..."

A Primer on Post-Nominals

Rule: Graduate Letters Only.

Rule: No Double Dipping.

  • Cool: Arnt U. Smart, MA, PhD
  • Uncool: Dr. Arnt U. Smart, MA, PhD

Rule: No Commingling Degrees & Certifications.

  • Cool: John Doe, MA, MEd, PhD, LPC.
  • Uncool: John Doe, MA, MEd, LPC, PhD.

Master's Degree: The Master of Arts (MA) or Sciences (MS). You are a master, like Yoda. You have achieved a level of mastery above and beyond what you had before you typed the last period on your thesis. At the very least, you have mastered the art of writing long research papers no one will ever read.

You are an expert, but not quite the ultimate expert. No, you have to return to graduate school and graduate yet again. Perhaps Yoda should have gone back to the academy for his Jedi Doctorate.

You are stuck in the middle, looking down on the bachelor but still looking up to the doctor. Should you pat yourself on the back for your achievement and enter the work place or totally submerge yourself in a vat of student debt whence you will never emerge and become a professional student? Tough call, to be sure, but what you will lack in money you will earn in the prestige of being able to insist lowly undergraduates, even masters, call you "Doctor".

Variations on the Masters Degree include, but are certainly not limited to: The Master of:

Business Administration (MBA): You are an expert administator of business. Not to be confused with the expert administer. You are not qualified to operate the machine operated by the junior-high drop out on the assembly line, but you are certainly qualified to sign his or her paycheck and emend "MBA" to your signature on said paycheck.

Social Work (MSW): You are a master of the inner workings of society...wait, no your not, that would be a Master of Arts in sociology. You are a master of working a social setting... wait, I have never met an MSW who was a "social butterfly". Maybe we run in different social circles. Your heart is big, your paycheck is not, and not one of your clients has a clue what "MSW" means. The world would probably be a better place if there were more people like you, but your existence hangs by a thread ready to snap at the slightest pressure applied by any legislative whim. And I'm still not entirely sure what you do exactly.

Education (MEd): I always think you are a typo, someone misspelling an abbreviation, a doctor perhaps. You are a master educator, but you are probably administrating education rather than administering education. Once again, the administrator/administer dichotomy. Puzzling? Would you care to educate me on this? Or, would you administrate an educator to administer the education to me?

Divinity (MDiv): Either a master confectioner, or a master of the divine. Possibly both, but doubtful. I have often wondered: would not mastering divinity make one divine? I see no evidence of this from the masters, but it should be so, and the degree reserved for only the divine. I propose a renaming on the grounds of impossibility.

Fine Arts (MFA): Oh no, a Master of Arts wasn't good enough for you, you wanted to be a master of the fine arts. You poo at all other masters of mere arts, and are among the few who distinguish art from fine art. I object! Is not the orator an artist on par with the one performing the oratorio? Yet, the orator can only achieve mastery of the arts, while the song bird, the actor, the painter, and the sculptor can achieve mastery of the fine arts.

Doctorate (PhD): The Doctor of Philosophy (and the countless variations thereon). The pinnacle of the American education system. Ironic, how the ultimate achievement in a particular discipline only indicates that you have mastered (wait, no, doctored?) the art or science of being a student. Funny, too, how 40-year-olds who have only ever held part-time jobs are either doctors or deadbeats. But, the achievement is most honorable and confirms a lifetime of dedication to something truly noble, something other than mere family or friends.

I'm joking, of course. I kid PhDs because I am envious, although I hold a Doctor of Jurisprudence, most lawyers are not referred to as doctors. Sad, but true. And the tension between the PhD's and those holding mere professional doctorates is palpable, the nobility of the PhD on the one hand and the earning capacity of the professional degrees on the other. It is the equivalent of the high-school cliques all over again.

Professional Doctorates:

Doctor of Medicine (MD): The most familiar of all doctors, the MD is not a Doctor of Philosophy, but of medicine. No, you have no desire to ponder life and the meaning thereof, but you do help keep those that do alive to continue their pondering. You walk the fine line between genius an insanity as tightly as anyone with your OCD, paranoia, anxiety, and/or whatever other disease, syndrome, or condition will get your golfing partner to prescribe you legal methods of sedation or inebriation.

Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD): Leave it to lawyers to confuse everything. The initial graduate degree conferred by law schools is the Doctor of Jurisprudence, you have to go back to law school to then achieve the Master of Laws (LLM). Apparently you don't need a mastery of the law to file a lawsuit and exacerbate the MD's mental condition described above, but you do need the doctorate. Three years of intensive study and training in and about the law, in particular how to avoid, evade, find exceptions therein, and create loopholes therethrough (and how to use words like "therein").

  • Client: Mr. Jones, I would like for my company to be able to build a housing development down on the bank of the river.
  • Lawyer: Why Mr. Smith, that would be illegal because of local zoning ordinances, state and federal environmental protection regulations, and, not to mention, that the land is owned by someone else.
  • Client: I know that. Can you help me do it?
  • Lawyer: Of course, but I will need a retainer of...

Ain't the law fun?

College Graduate
College Graduate

Education is the Best Investment.

I hope you have enjoyed this little review of college degrees and letters. Regrettably, I have not included license designations or other similar titles, there are simply too many. And in the time it took you to read this hub 1,376,294 others were created.

I do not in any way mean to disparage anyone for having obtained or to discourage anyone from obtaining a quality education. There is simply no better investment than the investment in one's education. But, what is the point of an education if you can't have a little fun?

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Comments 33 comments

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California


Nice Hub.  Perhaps we can just skip all the hoopla of college and give a title to our new born child (oh dear, maybe this comment should go on "Baby Names Gone Bad").  There was an older gentleman who went to my church who was fondly called "Doc" Rollins by everyone.  After years of calling this man by that name( my assumption had been he was evidently a retired doctor of some sort), I inquired as to what field of medicine he was involved in.  His wife chuckled a little and said he was a ship builder.  Confused I asked why we all called him "Doc"?  She responded... "his first name is Doctor."

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

LOL! Very funny Peter!

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Too funny, Doghouse. Yes, perhaps "Baby Names Gone Bad" would have been a more appropriate forum for "Doc". Thanks.

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thank you, amy jane. I appreciate that.

Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 8 years ago from Midwest USA

Great hub Peter!

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thanks, Rob.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

As always - highly entertaining. Honors for this one. :-)

helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan

Excellent investigation of these letters, Peter, though I admit that when I clicked on this hub, I was expecting to see comical potential abbreviations for the ones we see so often. (MBA being Miss Big Ass or something to that effect... but hopefully funnier...) Regardless, this hub was thoroughly entertaining. Well done!

Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Peter your hubs are always entertaining. Since my baby is in College right now I seem to be reading most everything that comes anywhere near education. I'm not sure I got extra mega knowledge from it but it sure was more fun to read then all the others.

I love your great & funny hub

regards Zsuzsy

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Good one Peter. Coupled with military honours, some people boast a string of letters longer than their name.

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thanks, steph. I accept the honors.

Helenathegreat, I'm glad you were entertained. There is plenty to make fun of with the status quo, there was little need to generate artificial humor...although the potential is definitely there.

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Zsuzsy, thank you. I specifically intended not to educate with this hub about education, just to have a little fun. Others are far more qualified that I to do so. Best wishes to your child in college. Thanks.

Paraglider, yes, I came across a lot about military honors, and opted to leave all of that out...the British "order of wear" being a little too intimidating. Thank you for reading.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

How droll and witty, Peter.

I think "masters degree" means like when you call a little boy "master william", meaning a sort of miniature human being (not real yet) -- some PhD's sometimes look down their noses at MA and MS people... And some high school graduates are prejudiced and very rude to people with masters' degrees! 

By the same token, each of my 9th degree black belts is equivalent to 2 PhDs, but some look on it all like an entry level job at minimum wage. Some think there is no training involved at all (they've no idea)-- No degrees in Heaven, I think, though! That's justice. LOL LOL

Wonderful fun Hub. Thumbs up!

The Nameless One :)

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thank you, Nameless One. Yes, the MA & MS folks seem to be stuck in the middle. I would award you an honorary PhD for the blackbelts if I could. But, alas...

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Hahahaha - those belts don't even have letters to put at the end of my name or pen name.

Help me make up some appropriate letters, for fun!

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

BB seem appropriate, or some Oriental characters would be cool.

Stacie Naczelnik profile image

Stacie Naczelnik 8 years ago from Seattle

Hey now, writers can also become Masters of Fine Arts too.

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Writers, yes. You are correct. I actually thought about trying to do that right out of undergrad, but I sold out and went to law school instead. I just sit back and look at MFA's (writers) with envy.

Stacie Naczelnik profile image

Stacie Naczelnik 8 years ago from Seattle

Peter, I once thought about law school, but am currently applying to MFA programs.

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

We can envy each other then, how's that?

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Many attempted to persuade me to obtain an MFA in writing and attend law school. I'm happier and more productive with other choices, but like I writing more and more...

BB - no, reminds me of those miniature butterfinger bbs. LOL Will keep belts hidden.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Did anyone hear about a Texas university offering a Masters Degree in Creationism? 


Stacie Naczelnik profile image

Stacie Naczelnik 8 years ago from Seattle

Peter, you can make lots of money and I will starve - more likely. My husband is studying accounting, and I was saying when we "grow up" and go to cocktail parties, people will point at us and say: "He's an accountant and she's a writer." His response: "She loves her job, and he pays the bills."

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Patty - An MFA and law school, why didn't I think of that? Oh, yeah, I did, but the student loan debt is bad enough. I had not heard of such a degree, an MC perhaps.

Stacie - I will admit I sold out to the prospect of making lots of money, but the student loan debt and desire to defend the defenseless means an MFA likely would have yielded as much, perhaps more. If I had married an accountant, I might be able to afford being a writer, but, alas, a kindergarten teacher won my heart. So, here we are, overeducated and underpaid. And writing for fun!!!

Constant Walker profile image

Constant Walker 8 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

Fun stuff, Peter, glad I checked it out. It made me "LOL... out loud."

If you get that you, like me, are watching too much TV.

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thanks, Constant Walker. I'm happy to make someone LOL out loud. Too funny.

Woody Marx profile image

Woody Marx 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Brilliantly funny! A real gem!

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thank you, Woody Marx. You are too kind.

JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

JYOTI KOTHARI 8 years ago from Jaipur

Dear Peter,

A nice satire. I like to add a joke:

At that time only a few Indian women used to go to colleges. My grand father once told me that my grand mother was MSc.(Master of science?). I was really surprised. My grand father clarified, yes, She is mother (M) of six(S) children(C).


jyoti Kothari


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Too funny, JYOTI KOTHARI. I bet her education raising 6 children was better than if she had obtained an MSc. Thanks.

The Rope profile image

The Rope 7 years ago from SE US

Another great read. I think you met your calling - all lawyers have to be great with a "turn of the phrase"! I'm sharing it now with several of my "highly educated" professor friends, this will make it around several campus hot spots I'm sure - it may even become "required" reading for some of our less inspired students.

babynology profile image

babynology 3 years ago from New York

Congratulation on maintaining a great blog. My blog is about baby names and baby names meaning - All suggestion baby naming.

babynology profile image

babynology 3 years ago from New York

Indeed an informative article. I am working on baby names site via naming their meaning and origin.

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