How should degrees be listed in an e-mail signature?

  • I have the following degrees:

    • PhD in Information Technology (Computer Science concentration)
    • MS in Systems Engineering (MSE)
    • MS in Engineering Management (MEM)
    • BS in Computer Science

    What would a proper e-mail signature look like?

    Examples:

    Dr. Bob Roberts
    PhD IT, MSE, MEM
    

    or

    Dr. Bob Roberts
    PhD Information Technology
    MS Systems Engineering
    MS Engineering Management
    BS Computer Science
    

    I don't think I have read anyone's email signature even once in my life. IMO, you're overthinking this very much.

    It's also worth mentioning that listing all of your degrees (especially when the list is that long) could come off as obnoxiously pompous to some people.

    And it is generally regarded as incorrect to prefix your title and to repeat it after the name. Even with a single degree, you should either say "Dr. Bob Roberts" or "Bob Roberts, PhD". Saying "Dr. Bob Roberts, PhD" isn't good. So, if you really want to list all of your degrees, you should probably omit the title before your name. Aren't you going to include High School, Junior High, Elementary, and Kindergarden as well? It all seems a bit excessive. I think I would just stick with "Dr. Bob Roberts". Including the rest seems rather unhumble.

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  • astronat

    astronat Correct answer

    3 years ago

    There is no formal academic convention for email signatures, although your university or institution may have formatting guidelines. You can simply include as much or as little information as you want the recipient to know.

    Personally, I think your name and position are sufficient and listing every degree you have is a bit redundant (and, as others have pointed out, pretentious). People will probably infer that you have a BS and MS if you also have a PhD.

    I listed my degrees to communicate my area of expertise (mostly internally), I am in a VERY diverse school, where the PhD student sitting next to me, might be studying something completely different. So if it provides useful information, is that still problematic? Although I am now considering deleting that section, in light of your answer.

    There are cultures where a MS is not a requirement for a PhD. This being said, for normal communication, I think using the Dr. title is enough.

    @A.T.Ad: You don't seem to be the person asking the original question, but I would expect your official position to cover your 'area of expertise'. If you feel the need to specify, do so by specifying your position. Don't just rattle off all your degrees.

    @A.T.Ad It's not necessarily problematic, it just has the potential to come off as trivially boasting. If it conveys useful information, I wouldn't be too concerned. For example, for a Professor of Ethics with an MS in Biology, listing both might help to inform people of diverse (relevant) experience. However, it's rather pointless for a Professor of Biology to list a PhD, MS and BS all in biology - also mentioning the additional degrees doesn't add anything, except perhaps ego padding. -- Rule of thumb: only list them if they indicate expertise not implied by the most advanced title.

    @A.T.Ad: Do you really think people would go on to read your signature to find out your area of expertise? Just put that on your website.

    @R.M. Just out of curiosity, have you ever actually acted on such information that was included in a signature? Generally when I'm emailing someone I already know who they are and have a reason to email them. If I want to find someone who has expertise in area X I wouldn't send a mail to everyone and then check their signatures to find whom I'm looking for.

    @Voo Good point. (Though following that argument to the logical conclusion, *any* degree/position listed in the signature is superfluous.) I was thinking less about searching for someone with expertise, and more emailing in one context which touches on another (e.g. when talking about bioethics with an ethics expert, discovering they also had an MS in biology may be useful) -- but true, I've never personally been in a situation where such an email sig was useful.

    This is very culture-dependent. In Germany (and Austria, according to one of the answers) only listing *four* qualifications might be considered subversively informal. On the other hand, in the USA it is probably four too many.

    @alephzero I don't know where people get their information about German culture. A typical German e-mail signature looks like "Prof. Dr. Christian Schmidt, Institute of Quantum Mechanics, address, phone number, website". Nobody lists qualifications, but some list positions.

    @Roland : But that *is* different from UK/US where the "Dr." would not be included.

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