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How to list your credentials and title when you publish

Updated resource (Sept. 12, 2019)
APA “Misuse of the PhD(c)

Here is a topic that is not often discussed, but remains a persistent issue for many!  “What is the proper way to list my credentials?  Which should come first, RN, PhD, MS?”  Most folks have very strong opinions about this and will most certainly object if you list their credentials in an order other than what they prefer.  TheyDiploma and notebook will typically give you very good reasons for why they feel one credential or another should be first.  Therefore, as an Editor, my guideline for this is that each person’s credentials should be listed exactly as they prefer them to be listed!

However, there is one “credential” that is frequently indicated that we will not use — the non-credential “PhD(c).”  I am not sure how this convention started, but it is one of my particular pet peeves.  And in many formal and informal polls of other editors, by far the majority agree — this is not an acceptable credential.  Yes, the little (c) does indicate that a person has passed into “candidacy,” meaning that the person has completed all coursework requirements, and (in a U.S. system of doctoral education) now only has to complete the dissertation to be awarded the degree. This is also known as the “ABD” – “All But Dissertation!”  Perhaps the trend to use the little (c) was an attempt to overcome this negative connotation.

There are many problems with using any designation to indicate candidacy as a credential.  The foremost  is that simply put, it is not a credential. It is simply an institutional right of passage.  If a person surpasses the time limit to complete the dissertation, their journey in pursuit of an actual degree ends, and they are left with whatever other credentials they had when they entered the doctoral program.

Do not get me wrong here … we are delighted when an author has achieved this right of passage.  You should acknowledge this, but in an acknowledgement, not as a credential.   If you are a master’s or a doctoral student, or candidate, indicate your status in your acknowledgements and also include the name of the institution where you are enrolled.  But do not include any initials like “PhD(c).”  Another detail that I encourage you to consider — name your primary faculty advisor or advisors – the people who are giving you encouragement and guidance.

Do you have other opinions or questions about this issue?  Leave a comment here!  I am always delighted to hear from you!

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. Recently someone challenged my position on the use of the PhD(c) designation, so I looked into the matter further. It is true that some Universities do sanction the use of this designation by those who have reached candidacy, but none that I found award this as a degree. A few do award a Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil) designation, also referred to as an “intermediate degree” but this designation is only good for 7 years, which is the typical time period after which any “candidacy” expires. There is no indication that I can find that affirms the use of this designation as a title. If it is the practice of an institution to use the designation internally, then certainly a doctoral candidate is well advised to use it in that context. However, given that candidacy does expire, its use on a published work, which will survive the time frame of the designation, my policy not to use the designation in article published in ANS remains in place.

    April 13, 2012
  2. Sharon McGuire #

    I agree that PhD(c) is not a credential and should not be used. I know someone who was a PhD(C) for 10 years, and only because her dean threatened her with firing did she finally write her dissertation and finish her PhD.

    November 19, 2012
    • Also, candidacy typically expires after 7 to 10 years, at which time any designation involving this status would no longer be valid. Bottom line, there is no justification for using this, particularly in the context of publishing. Published works extend far into the future, and well beyond the time frame of candidacy!

      November 19, 2012
  3. Debra Simons, PhD, RN #

    I agree with Peggy. I am seeing this used quite a bit. In fact it is confusing to students. One person who uses PhDc even allows students to refer to her as Dr. I think this is devalues those who earned their PhD. But, most of all this is unethical.

    May 2, 2013
    • Beth Rodgers, PhD, RN, FAAN #

      I couldn’t agree more that this is a non-credential and its use needs to be halted immediately if not sooner. It makes us look foolish trying to inflate credentials to give the impression that one has achieved a status, ranking, or degree that has not yet been accomplished. We simply cannot legitimately fabricate credentials or titles at will or it all becomes meaningless. It is incumbent upon faculty to provide good direction to students in how to present themselves and their accomplishments. Perhaps it will stimulate more expedient completion of the degree and subsequent use of the legitimate title! Thank you for bringing much needed attention to this troublesome tradition in nursing.

      January 30, 2014
      • Thank you so much for this feedback! I am not sure how to halt this practice, but I do hope that by brining attention to this matter more and more people will be discouraged from its use!

        January 30, 2014
  4. Johnathan Clayborn #

    I concur. I’m a PhD student myself. I never really understood why people use the ABD designation anyway. I saw the PhD(c) for the first time today also, and stumbled across your page. I vociferously concur with your statements and reasons. I list my Masters in my credentials, but don’t list anything with my PhD degree because I haven’t earned it yet.

    October 5, 2014
    • Thank you so much for your feedback, Johnathan! Please stay in touch with ANS – we may have some issue topics you might consider for publishing as your work develops!

      October 5, 2014
  5. Kathy Hunter #

    I also agree with not using this designation. In the 8 years of part-time work it took me to complete my PhD, I never once thought of advertising or informing others where I was in that process through some kind of designation. This was way back in the 1980’s [last century!] so I don’t think anyone thought about doing this designation. 🙂

    November 19, 2014
  6. Sue #

    Are we talking about American or Europe? I am in my 50s and those who hold a Doctoral Degree are referred to as Dr. So and So. When they write their credentials after their name, it is usually listed as Joe Smith, PhD or Sue Smith, M.Ed, etc. Whatever the abbreviation for their degree is. I have NEVER heard of a PhD as someone who has NOT completed their Doctoral degree.

    December 5, 2014
  7. I disagree with the positions here. I will be the devil’s advocate, as is my wont. I feel that the PhD (c) designation clarifies the position and social standing of the individual. I am not advocating posturing for a fraudulent claim rather recognizing a social reality. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get to the point of a PhD (C) and this is no way deters from the value and prestige of those who have been accorded the prestigious honor. I therefore argue that the use appropriate with one caveat, the individual must actual be actively working upon and seeking the degree and be a registered student t a recognized institution. This abbreviation is particularly useful in a business environment where individuals are judged according t their academic progress as long as the truth is clearly indicated and no misrepresentation is intended I see no harm.

    Please avoid ad hominem attacks and exhibit the same respect I have shown you

    JW PhD (c) Expected graduation 2016
    MA American Military University Summa cum laude
    MA University of Oklahoma magna cum laude
    BS University of Maryland University College magna cum laude
    AA Adirondack Community College

    August 27, 2015
    • thanks for your perspective, and of course, it seems that you have occasions when you can use this to good advantage. But in the publishing realm, journal Editors (myself included) will not accept this designation as a degree. You can accomplish the same thing by indicating in your affiliations that you are a PhD Candidate at such-and-such an institution. This is actually a more complete acknowledgement of your position and social standing, in that it also designates the institution where the degree is being earned. Your published article will far outlive your designation as a candidate for a degree – candidacy is not permanent. I might also mention that the PhD is not a designation of an honor – it designates an earned degree. An honorary doctoral degree is always indicated by an abbreviation showing that it is honorary, not earned. Best wishes, Peggy

      September 14, 2015
  8. Mounia #

    Phdc is acceptable for me . There is a diffrent between studying in Europe and USA . In Europe, U.K., New Zealand, I’m required to study two or three courses, but I don’t have any examination! I do present my thesis once a year to show the progress , nothing more and to get comments to improve my work or repeat a few parts.

    I don’t see it non ethical at all. There should be a difference between a MA holder and a PhD holder. A PhDc is for sure studying more.

    February 7, 2017
  9. I think it’s either you have it or you don’t. If you are unable to finish the PhD course, you don’t have it yet. So writing PhD (c) would be inappropriate and can be misleading. The last part in any program (e.g., dissertation is there because it is part of the whole, thus it is a necessary part of having the degree. At the same time, it doesn’t give you more credibility if you write attach (c) after, it just mean you are not finish yet.

    April 6, 2017
    • Well Stated! Thank you for adding to this dicussion!

      April 9, 2017
  10. Melissa #

    I think PhD(c) seems extraordinarily misleading to those of use who haven’t the slightest what the (c) stands for (until reading it here).
    How would you like to have a surgical consult with an MD(c) and not have the slightest that the fellow went to school but somehow just decided to claim the credential; however, he never took or passed the board exams. Perhaps the person was not even suitable or capable of it! Whereas us plain folk wouldn’t know the difference in the credential, for the sake of impressing other scholars like themselves the person just went on and used it while in a professional capacity. It’s fraudulently misleading to do so!
    While a person may be a dissertation away from the PhD, perhaps they are just not capable. The PhD MEANS YOU ARE, not that you ALMOST ARE!!!
    This goes along with what Kathy mentioned, “back in the 1980’s [last century!] so I don’t think anyone thought about doing this designation,” whereas today people want to be whatever they want whenever they want whether it is earned or not, it’s just not soon enough or to their liking and they feel entitled. Tsk tsk.

    October 17, 2017
    • thank you Melissa! Great points about this still-vexing issue!

      October 18, 2017
  11. Edward E Smith #

    I read all the comments with keen interest and noticed that there was real mention that, in essence, using the (c) in the PhD invites more curiosity in the person’s ability to (c)omplete the degree. Absent a drop of the “c” one would wonder if the candidate failed and should now use PhD(f)

    December 18, 2017
  12. Jean Coffey #

    I am going to add a new dimension… DNPc. Since there is no dissertation I am confused by this designation. Dr Chinn can you comment?

    January 8, 2018
    • Any “c” as part of any degree designation is totally inappropriate. Especially when it is used in a document that is permanent- as in a published article. It is not a degree. And you are correct, I am not aware of a point in time when a DNP student becomes a “candidate.” Candidacy is determined by the graduate school of a University – the graduate school also awards the PhD degree. The DNP is a professional degree that does not have oversight by the graduate school – the oversight of the degree is only the resopnsibility of the School or College awarding the degree.

      January 8, 2018
      • Dr. Chinn, I am happy to see the DNP addressed here as that is what brought me to the discussion. I agree that a PhD and a DNP are not equivalent in education or stature, but it is a terminal degree (much like a JD, or MD). While I am not sure about the concept of “candidacy” the DNP that I am working toward IS awarded by a graduate school. When I graduate I will be hooded, wear a tam, and have three stripes on the sleeves of my robe, like any other individual that has earned a doctorate degree. I will have earned the right to refer to myself as “Doctor”, and use the honorific “Dr.” in front of my name. Yes, the DNP is a clinical degree and, unless I am misunderstanding your use of the term “graduate school”, it does have oversight by the graduate school.

        October 23, 2022
  13. David StMichael #

    Hi Peggy, here is another perspective to Always keep in mind … since you are discussing PhD candidates. Up and down the West Coast, while visiting some “interesting” locations, I have came across multiple Individuals that are/were offering services as: Counselors, Life coaches, Yoga instructors, Feng-shui, Ayurveda practitioners, etc, etc. All claiming a PhD degree, but couldn’t provide an answer as to which higher institution they attended, others mentioned “schools” I’ve never heard of. It wasn’t until later, that I found out that they were purchasing “Degree’s” from a On-line company. I believe that there should be a Public Law against this type of deception, don’t you?

    April 12, 2018
    • Of course there should be such a law. The bottom line is that there are 2 things we all can do – be aware of practices of deception and check out all credentials, and second, be clear about our own credentials and how we represent them to others to assure them of our legitimate standards.

      April 13, 2018
  14. Yaser #

    What is the proper way to list an honorary affiliation such as “visiting Research Fellow or honorary lecturer” in a publication??

    April 13, 2018
    • Good question – these are not credentials, but they are, as you note, affiliations that tupically appear on the line following your name and credentials. So my “signature” for example, is
      Peggy L. Chinn, RN, PhD
      Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut
      Editor, Advances in Nursing Science

      My name is followed by my credentials on the same line, my affiliation with the Unviersity of Connecticut on the second line, and my Editorship of ANS on the third line.

      April 13, 2018
  15. Yaser #

    What is the proper way to list an honorary affiliation such as “visiting Research Fellow or honorary lecturer” in a publication??

    April 13, 2018
    • Many apologies – your question got lost in a string of comments. But I found it -and here is my answer – just list it on a line below your name – much as you would indicate your employment or professional affiliation in your signature block. Example:
      Peggy L Chinn, RN, PhD
      Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut

      November 18, 2018
  16. Anononymous #

    I disagree. A DNPc has reached a point where they have completed their defense successfully and earned that title

    April 22, 2018
    • To stand by your opinion on this, you need to provide a reasonable argument that completing the defense bestows a titile on the person. Is there a certificate of completion that is awarded by the institution? Is this title permanent? As far as I know, both of these questions yields a “No” response. One does not use the “c” title once the requirements for the degree are completed, at which time the institution awards the degree. Completing the defense is the same thing as passing a course that is required for the degree – it is indeed an accomplishment, and might even lead to more accomplishments! But it is not a degree, and it is not a title.

      April 23, 2018
  17. Eleanor #

    What about if you have multiple degrees and professional credentials? How do I list them and what do I omit when I submit for a journal publication?

    PA, AT, MMS, MSEd

    August 22, 2019
    • Yes, particularly if the degrees all represent a different focus. I do not recommend listing all the degrees in the same field such asBS, MS, PhD all in nursing; you can but it is typically only the highest degree that you list. If you have two graduate degrees in two different fileds, you can list them as follows: PhD (nursing), PhD (education) for example.

      August 22, 2019
  18. How would one enter their credentials if they have a PhD in Education with specialization in Nursing Education with a MHA, MSN, and BSN.

    May 20, 2021
    • How you list your credentials (in which order, even which credentials to include) varies depending on where you are listing them, for what purpose. The important point is making sure that you indicate each credential correctly – the exact credential(s) you were awarded. A PhD is a research/theory degree/credential – meaning the degree focused on the theory and research methods that are central to the development of knowledge in the discipline. The area in which the PhD was earned (e.g. nursing, education, sociology, anthropology, etc.) is not indicated as part of the credential. An EdD is both a degree and an indicator that the doctorate is a professional degree focused on the application of knowledge in the discipline, and appropriate approaches to teaching the knowledge of the discipline. However, these conceptual distinctions are imprecise – the main point to know is the accurate representation of any credential that you earned.

      May 20, 2021
  19. Kayla #

    Hi, there.
    I’m not sure this post will still receive responses. I’ve only recently stumbled across it, so I’m going to take a chance.

    I am actively in pursuance of a dual master’s degree that will be completed within the year. I am also currently publishing chapters in two textbooks and freelancing/contracting on other projects. I was recently discussing my credentials with a colleague, and she suggested I find a way to include my dual master’s degrees in my upcoming publishings. I brought this suggestion to two of my professors and both felt that it was a good idea for my career outlook. Is there a way to appropriately and professionally include this information in a transparent way that clearly identifies these degrees are in progress and that I don’t currently hold these degrees?

    I appreciate your responses. Thank you.


    August 17, 2022
    • Excellent question,Kayla! Once the degrees are both complete you can list both of them with the discipline in parenthesis – like this: MS (Nursing), MS (Sociology) – for sure both need to be on your CV. And you can show both when this is relevant. But until they are completed, you can use the “author information” section for a published article, or for a presentation, to say that these are in process.

      August 17, 2022

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