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Just like the title says, I completed my master's degree in computer science. I work part time in a large corporation, and also as a consultant. I always considered this to be reserved for the PhDs out there, but I've seen others do this.

When is it appropriate to sign my e-mails, informal business letters, formal letters, introduction emails to potential clients, etc. as "John Doe, M.S."?

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    Hi John, I think we could possibly look at reopening this if you can make the question more clear. Currently, it's pretty broad and open ended, and broad questions don't really fit our site's Q&A model very well. The duplicate, for instance, has more detail in it, so you might look at it for guidance on how you might edit and clarify your question. If you need additional guidance, please see How to Ask and help center. – jmort253 Feb 26 '14 at 2:33
  • I do not think this is a duplicate. Degrees are different than certifications. The other question focuses exclusively on certifications and does not address academic degrees, which is what this question is asking. Voting to reopen. – enderland Feb 27 '14 at 21:49
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I would not do this with a Masters of Science at all.

I am very close to finishing my own MS and had never considered doing so.

Here are some reasons:

  • A masters isn't really that big of deal, all things considered. You can get one in a year in some places.
  • MS degrees mean many different things, some people get one without a thesis, some write a thesis, some are teaching assistant based, research based, etc. Most other professional certifications have much more consistent meanings (by comparison, at least)
  • Seeing a masters doesn't really provide any context or communicate anything about your skills. Masters degrees can give you broader or deeper understanding. Other professional degrees generally translate to much more tangible things. For example, a PhD is saying "I have spent a lot of time researching on one topic." A MS has no such meaning other than "I took more school, mostly."
    • Because of the second point, MS can mean so many different things in terms of how much schooling people have too. You might have 30 credits worth of classes. I had considerably fewer classes (in fact only 14 credits for my MS program are coursework based).
  • Masters degrees are also more and more common too.
  • Last, it just comes across as fairly smug about something which doesn't really matter.

But the real reason is people care a heck of a lot more about "what can you do" than "what letters are after your name."

A masters doesn't really give any insight into this at all. Many other qualifications and credentials DO.


Potential exceptions include more "academic" settings, such as publishing or more professional articles where credentials do have some value. But this is considerably different than most day to day communication or email signatures.

This can also vary culturally somewhat. In the United States, you would be laughed at for doing so. Other cultures may have different expectations.

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    Its different unless you work at a university... In which case the PHd's want to see the MS so they know they can just ignore you – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 25 '14 at 17:24
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    +1. As you say, in the US, Master's degrees are fairly common in many tech fields, and some MS degrees are nothing more than continuing education. (I had coworkers years ago who got Computer Science MS degrees in an evening program at a big-name university, and their courses included things like Shell Programming.) PhD's, on the other hand, tend to be rigorous so is more of a known currency. (Though I personally wouldn't add PhD to anything except submitting papers or applying for positions.) Other countries may value an MS more highly. – Wayne Feb 25 '14 at 17:46
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    This comment surprises me, mainly because of the difference between the US and Belgium. In Belgium, an MSc is considered one of the toughest educations we have and requires 5 years of diligent study and a master's thesis. The diploma grants the use of the protected prefix 'Ir.' (Engineer). Almost everybody is invited to start a PhD (another 4 years of study); accepting one is considered 'continuing student life' and 'not facing the real world'. – parasietje Mar 5 '14 at 10:06
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I would highly discourage it from my perspective as a programmer in the US. This simple fact is that your email will not be read differently based on this information.

Of course you should put this information on your Resume, and on LinkedIn, and it will help you in getting jobs, but putting this information in front of your colleagues and clients every time they communicate with you is borderline obnoxious.

Incidentally, I have a Ph.D., and my email signature contains only the information that my colleagues are likely to want -- my name, mobile phone number, and instant message handle.

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    "This simple fact is that your email will not be read differently based on this information.", this is not technically true... Quite a lot of people (myself included) will ask themselves why you felt the need to have a signature of Eric Wilson BSc MSc (for example) and wonder what you're compensating for. It's not explicitly negative but it can lead to potentially negative connotations. – Ben Feb 25 '14 at 22:03
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According to the Oxford style guide, these are the appropriate titles and the order in which to use them:

Postnominals

remember that you do not need to list only all awards, degrees, memberships etc held by an individual – only those items relevant to your writing

the order for postnominals is

civil honours

military honours

QC

degrees, in the order

bachelor’s

master’s

doctor’s

postdoctoral

diplomas

certificates

membership of academic or professional bodies

do not include a BA for Oxford/Cambridge graduates if they also have the MA give the name of the awarding university (using a shortened form if required and if easily recognisable (Oxf, Camb, UCL etc) if academic qualifications are relevant. A space is used to separate degrees from the same institution, and a comma is used to separate sets of degrees from different institutions; if the same level degree has been awarded by more than one institution, list them in alphabetical order of institution

Professor Xavier Postlethwaite, QC, BEng PhD UCL, MA PhD Camb, MA DPhil Oxf, PhD Manc, FRS

Sir Charles Overlord, VC, BA S’ton

I would not use anything lower than a PhD when signing a letter. It is inappropriate in most countries, definitely in the US. Other titles including P.E. and and political titles are also acceptable.

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