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27 July, 2012 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Leadership
6 comments

Graduate Degrees, Professional Credentials and the Resume

The use of academic credentials following a candidate’s name is a source of debate, spurred on primarily by those who hold the degrees and want everyone to know.

resumeLet’s assume, perhaps prematurely, that everyone knows that you NEVER list an undergraduate credential on your resume or business card following your name versus listing in the credentials section of the resume.  That brings us to the most common question in the debate: whether graduate degrees such as an MBA, MHA (Master’s of Hospital Administration) or Master of Science in Nursing, should be added after the candidate’s name, particularly if a potential employers requires it.  The answer is NO.  

There are academic degree credentials and professional credentials.  The rules for their use are different.  All degrees and credentials should be listed at the bottom of the resume under the category called Academic Credentials/Professional Certifications or something along those lines. The only degrees that should be listed after a candidate’s name at the top of a resume, biographical summary or on a business card include MD, DO, DDS, DVM, PhD, EdD, etc.  For most executive leadership positions, a master’s degree is a minimum requirement and should not be listed after the candidate’s name.  Ever.

Professional credentials such as CPA, fellowship, or certification in a medical specialty or professional association should be listed.  Always.  The only question here is how many. For example, in some medical or scientific fields, candidates occasionally have multiple certifications. I have seen as many as six for one candidate.  When you add their PhD and fellowship credential, that candidate’s professional “initials” exceed my unlimited suffix data field.  I would suggest following the “less is more” rule — use only the professional certification(s) specifically required by the job selection criteria and list the remainder at the bottom of your resume.

Again, seasoned executives should always list their degrees and credentials at the end of their resume.  The only time academic degrees should be listed at the top of the resume is for new graduates with limited executive leadership experience.

I realize these standards may not be universally popular. It is understandable that some people are so proud of their academic accomplishments they want them front and center.  The problem is that this pride, coupled with endless credentials, can be interpreted as reflecting a lack of confidence, or a candidate who is not sure what they want to be.  Jack Welch famously called them “dabblers.” 

Why would a professional wan to create that image — fair or not — as a first impression?

© 2012 John Gregory Self  

© 2014 John Gregory Self

6 comments

  1. I signed into this comment space using my full academic and professional credentials. ;>

    I use them on my signature and business cards. Your points are well-taken, but I think it’s also important to consider your audience. Yes, among my colleagues, it could be assumed by the FACHE that I am MHA as well, but I have spent my career working with physicians. As a group, physicians tend to rely a lot upon credentials after names to understand where someone is in the hierarchy and, to a certain extent, the credibility of that person. I discovered early on that listing every credential I had on my business card helped with my audience.

    Granted, that was over a decade ago and now my graying hair gives me some credibility when I walk into a room, and my expertise hopefully does the rest. ;>

    I also appreciate the tip about listing Education at the end, but I like it front and center on the dozens of C.V.s I review each week–right away there is an opportunity to look for a commonality with a candidate. “Hey, I know Charlottesville! My husband also went to UVA!” And while experience is what really leads to your next step, one’s education is the foundation of all of that experience and can give people a sense of how you approach the profession and how you respond to challenges. I hate to see it dismissed to the end.

  2. I signed into this comment space using my full academic and professional credentials. ;>

    I use them on my signature and business cards. Your points are well-taken, but I think it’s also important to consider your audience. Yes, among my colleagues, it could be assumed by the FACHE that I am MHA as well, but I have spent my career working with physicians. As a group, physicians tend to rely a lot upon credentials after names to understand where someone is in the hierarchy and, to a certain extent, the credibility of that person. I discovered early on that listing every credential I had on my business card helped with my audience.

    Granted, that was over a decade ago and now my graying hair gives me some credibility when I walk into a room, and my expertise hopefully does the rest. ;>

    I also appreciate the tip about listing Education at the end, but I like it front and center on the dozens of C.V.s I review each week–right away there is an opportunity to look for a commonality with a candidate. “Hey, I know Charlottesville! My husband also went to UVA!” And while experience is what really leads to your next step, one’s education is the foundation of all of that experience and can give people a sense of how you approach the profession and how you respond to challenges. I hate to see it dismissed to the end.

  3. Paul Cwynar says:

    Thanks, John. I often see people listing their academic degrees after their names. I always thought it was silly. I don’t do it and have 3 Masters degrees. Your advice has confirmed my hunch.

  4. Paul Cwynar says:

    Thanks, John. I often see people listing their academic degrees after their names. I always thought it was silly. I don’t do it and have 3 Masters degrees. Your advice has confirmed my hunch.

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