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How Do I Indicate Professional Certification in a Signature?

by W D Adkins, studioD

It takes a lot of time and effort to earn professional certifications, degrees and licenses, so it’s natural to want to let people know what you’ve accomplished. Adding credentials to your signature on a letter or e-mail is one way of establishing credibility and of letting customers, colleagues and others who you are and what qualifications you have earned. However, it’s important to follow etiquette when adding professional certifications to your signature so you don’t turn what should be a good impression into a bad one.

Place professional credentials after your name starting with academic degrees, followed by professional licenses and with certifications listed last. Use abbreviations and separate the items with commas. The highest academic degree is placed first. List licenses and certifications in the chronological order you earned them. Suppose someone has a master’s degree in sports physiology, a bachelor’s in biology, a license as an emergency medical technician and certification as a water safety instructor. The signature should read: Jane Doe, MS, BS, EMT, WSI. Alternatively, some people list academic degrees in the order received.

Omit honorifics such as “Mr.” or “Ms.” before your name. In addition, do not include titles preceding your name that duplicate the meaning of a credential you list. For example, do not start off with “Dr.” if you list M.D. after your name.

Use periods consistently. From a strict grammatical standpoint, all letters or parts of each abbreviation should be followed by a period. However, when certifications, degrees and licenses are included as part of a signature, it is common practice to omit the periods. What is important is to be consistent. If you use periods, use them for all abbreviations. If you decide to omit periods, leave them off of all items.

Avoid overdoing the credentials. If you’ve been in a profession for a long time, you may have multiple degrees, more than one license and several certifications. In daily use, such as the signature you add to e-mails, listing only the most important or relevant items is sufficient. Listing everything can be confusing to the reader or worse, give the impression you are "showing off." For example, a professional engineer might simply put” “John Smith, MS, PE.” Save the entire list for special or formal occasions, such as conferences, when listing all of your certifications and credentials is appropriate.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.