Post-nominal letters

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Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, military decoration, or honour, or is a member of a religious institute or fraternity. An individual may use several different sets of post-nominal letters, but in some regions it may be customary to limit the number of sets to one or just a few. The order in which these are listed after a name is based on the order of precedence and category of the order. Post-nominal letters are one of the main types of name suffix. They should not be confused with pre-nominal letters, which precede the name rather than follow it.


Order in which qualifications/awards and honours are listed

The order in which post-nominal letters are listed after a person's name is dictated by standard practice which may vary by region.

In the US

In the United States, standard protocol is:

  1. Religious institutes
  2. Theological degrees
  3. Academic degrees
  4. Honorary degrees, honors, decorations
  5. Professional licenses, certifications and affiliations
  6. Retired uniformed service (active duty service brackets the name – e.g., Firefighter John Doe, CFD – and active duty armed services do not display postnominals other than branch of service)[1]

In the UK

In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Justice has previously issued guidance that describes the following ordering, for British Citizens:[2][3]

  1. Bt/Bart or Esq;
  2. British Orders and decorations (in descending order of precedence, e.g. OBE);
  3. Where non-British Orders have been awarded and permission given by the Crown for their use, they may be listed in the following order, after British awards:
    (a) Commonwealth awards (where the British Sovereign is Head of State) (in order of date of award),
    (b) Commonwealth awards (where the British Sovereign is not Head of State) (in order of date of award),
    (c) Other Foreign awards (in order of date of award);
  4. Appointments, i.e.:
    (a) Privy Counsellor (PC), Aide-de-Camp to the Queen (ADC(P)), Honorary Physician to the Queen (QHP), Honorary Surgeon to the Queen (QHS), Honorary Dental Surgeon to the Queen (QHDS), Honorary Nursing Sister to the Queen (QHNS), and Honorary Chaplain to the Queen (QHC)
    (b) Queen's Counsel (QC), Justice of the Peace (JP) and Deputy Lieutenant (DL), Member of Parliament/Devolved Assembly (MP, MSP, AM, MLA);
  5. University degrees (in ascending order starting from undergraduate); where Postgraduate Certificates or Diplomas are listed, they are usually listed after academic qualifications, but before professional qualifications);
  6. (a) Religious institutes (e.g. SSF),
    (b) Medical qualifications (e.g. FRCP),
    (c) Professional qualifications (e.g. DBCI),
    (d) Professional certifications (e.g. PSP),
    (e) Chartered professional status (e.g. CSyP);
  7. (a) Fellowship of learned societies (e.g. FRS or FRGS),
    (b) Royal Academicians (RA) and associates (ARA),
    (c) Fellowships, Membership, etc. of professional institutions, associations, etc. (e.g. FICE),
    (d) Writers to the Signet (WS);
  8. Membership of the Armed Forces (e.g. RAF, RN, VR, RM, RMP).[4]
The Zirkel of a German Student Corps. This symbol captures the letters "v, c, f, A", as post-nominal for that fraternity.

In European fraternities

Going back to the mid 17th century, today's classical European fraternities such as the German Student Corps are using post-nominal symbols and letters to allow their members to indicate their fraternity membership and honorary positions held in their signature. The German word for the symbol is "Zirkel", literally "circle", referring to the hand-written symbol representing the fraternity which is commonly composed by combining letters from an acronym such as "vivat, crescat, floreat" (Latin: grow, bloom, prosper) followed by the first letter of the fraternity. The word "Zirkel" became a synonym in the late Middle Ages representing the entire group of close brothers. An example was Schiller's use of the sentence "Schließt then heil'gen Zirkel dichter" (literally: closer draw the holy circle [of brothers]) in the original version of the Ode to the Joy.

Listing degrees in ascending order

According to both the University of Oxford[5] and the Chicago Manual of Style,[6][page needed] university degrees should be listed in ascending order: bachelor's degrees first, followed by master's degrees, then professional doctorates and then research doctorates irrespective of the order in which one obtained them. Postgraduate Certificates and Postgraduate Diplomas are usually excluded from social postnominal lists, however, for professional lists are included after all other academic degrees, but before professional qualifications.

Etiquette for deciding which higher educational qualifications may be listed post-nominally

In the US

In the US, common practice is to name only the highest degree in a particular discipline (e.g., if one had earned one's BS, MS, and PhD in Biology – even from different schools – as well as an MBA in Management, then the preferred listing would be John Doe, MBA, PhD).

In the UK

In the UK, it is customary to list all academic qualifications (excluding step qualifications) in order of academic status (which may not be the same as the order in which they were obtained). So, one might list a Certificate or Diploma of Higher Education first then Bachelor's degrees, then Master's degrees, then doctorates. Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas are listed after doctorates, but before professional qualifications.

In the case of somebody who has a substantive doctorate, it is not customary to list one's degrees post-nominally if "Dr." is listed as a title: for example, one should only list oneself as either "Dr. Smith" or as "John Smith BSc, MSc, PhD" not "Dr. John Smith BSc, MSc, PhD".

Practice in the UK varies from that in the US partly because it is designed to draw attention to the fact that not everybody who possesses a higher ranking award possesses lower ones as well. For example, it is perfectly possible to obtain a PhD without getting a master's degree first. It is also possible for somebody who has never received a formal university education to be awarded an honorary degree. Therefore it is customary to list all higher educational awards post-nominally although one should not list step qualifications. In other words, lower awards that are wholly incorporated, or automatically converted, into higher-ranking awards should not be listed separately. For example, in the case of an MA from Oxford or Cambridge University, one would style "John Smith, MA(Oxon)" rather than "John Smith, BA(Hons) MA(Oxon)" (since 2007, "Oxf" is also acceptable, and is used in Oxford University publications) - to do otherwise would give the impression that one possesses two distinct academic qualifications.

Some confusion arises in the case of step qualifications as distinct from passport qualifications. A step qualification is given to recognise that one has completed part of a higher qualification whereas a passport qualification is often a precondition of going on to a higher qualification. So when the lower qualification is a passport to the higher qualification (e.g. where a bachelor's degree is a requirement for doing a master's degree) or the credit for a lower award (such as a Certificate of Higher Education or Diploma of Higher Education) is not wholly incorporated into a higher award, lower qualifications may be included. However, when the credit for a step qualification such as a Certificate of Higher Education is used to exempt the holder from some of the requirements of a bachelor's degree, in such a case it would be wrong to list one's qualification as "Jane Smith, CertHE BSc". However, if one did not apply some of the credit for one's CertHE to obtaining one's bachelor's degree, it would be acceptable to list both qualifications.

Where two different postgraduate qualifications with the same name have been obtained (for example two different postgraduate MAs from King's College London and University of Sussex), this can be indicated by using one degree postnominal, and the abbreviations of the two awarding bodies in parentheses, sometimes joined by the Latin "et" (or with an ampersand), e.g. "Jane Smith MA (KCL et Sussex)", and not "Jane Smith MA MA". However, when qualifications with the same name have been gained through different routes (for example an MA from Oxford University converted from a Bachelor of Arts, and a studied and examined postgraduate degree from King's College London these are listed separately with the institution only listed after the non-examined qualification (e.g. "Jane Smith MA(Oxf) MA", and not "Jane Smith MA (Oxf et KCL)").

Etiquette for deciding order of fellowship or membership of learned societies, academies or professional institutions

In the UK and Commonwealth countries, if the individual belongs to more than one, these should be listed in the order of the establishment of the organisation.


Examples of post-nominal letters:

In the United States, one may indicate one's major field in parentheses (e.g., PhD (Astrophysics)), but this is rarely seen except on resumes or applications for employment.

See also


  1. Hickey, Robert. "Forms of Address". Honor & Respect. The Protocol School of Washington. Retrieved 5 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Honours and Decorations". Ministry of Justice (UK). 2009-03-14. Archived from the original on 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2012-06-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Forms of address: Hierarchies: Letters after the name". Debrett's. Retrieved 28 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Letters after the name: Armed Forces". Debrett's. Retrieved 22 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Oxford University Calendar: Notes on style" (PDF). University of Oxford Gazette. 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2013-05-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. University of Chicago Press Staff (2010). The Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-10420-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. OXFORD UNIVERSITY CALENDAR: NOTES ON STYLE Page 13 ("Abbreviations for British and Irish Universities") (accessed 24-02-2015)

External links