Do You Capitalize Job Titles?
Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No. So, How Do You Know?
So, you’re up late, working on your resume while the kids are asleep, and you’re stumped: How are job titles capitalized? Writers and editors refer to style references when they face questions like these. Many reference guides are available, but one of the most common is the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, which is used by many journalists, authors and their publications. AP recommends that writers capitalize less rather than more and then only under certain specific conditions.
The overarching rule for job titles, says the AP, is that when the job title comes before the name and is a formal title, it should be capitalized. In general, when the job title comes after the name, it should be lowercase. When the word or phrase is a job description, however, rather than a formal title, it should be lowercase at all times. Also, when the title is set off by commas, either before or after the name, it should be lower case. For example:
- Vice President John Nance Garner (title before name)
- John Nance Garner, the vice president for FDR (after the name)
- When he was vice president, John Nance Garner (title set off by comma)
- Lance Corporal Roberto Sanchez (title before name)
- machinist Roberto Sanchez (job description, not title)
- The company president said... (job description here)
These rules hold true in most of the places in which you would use them: in a report, cover letter, essay, etc. Two exceptions, though, are when you’re creating your resume (sometimes) and when it’s in the title of work such as a book, article, thesis, report or essay.
When writing your job titles on your resume, the rules still apply, unless you’re listing your job titles or the format you’re using works better with capitalization. There are hundreds (at least) of resume formats and template. So, let’s say you decide on a format that uses job titles as headings to showcase the applicant’s progression toward increasing responsibility. So your headings might be:
- ABC Company, Sales Clerk
- Clothing Closet, Assistant Manager
- Downtown Boutique, Manager
In this case, your headings are like titles for the descriptions that follow. Your resume is somewhat of a creative piece, too, in that you want to draw the reader’s eye to your headings and your job titles. In your descriptive text, however, apply the AP rules for capitalizing titles.
“As the assistant manager of the Clothing Closet, I often opened the store and...”
Capitalization in Titles
All types of written work use the same rules for capitalizing words in a title. The first and last words should be capitalized. Then capitalize all the larger, principal words, whether they’re proper nouns or formal titles. A good guide is to capitalize words of four or more letters. The words that are not capitalized are the smaller words that are not unique to the title, such as “to,” “a,” “and,” “the” and similar words, unless they are the first or last word of the title or a short verb such as “is.” Some examples of proper title capitalization are:
- “Alice in Wonderland”
- “Gone With the Wind” (“With” is capitalized because it’s four letters)
- “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” (“The” is capitalized because it’s the first word)
Majors and Fields of Study
Usually, you should not capitalize your college major or your field of study. The exception is if it’s a proper noun, such as English. For example:
- She’s trying to decide whether to study biology or chemistry.
- He’s considering majoring in Spanish or linguistics.
- Your son is so interested in the constellations. Do you think he’ll study astronomy?
- If you like to write, you should major in journalism or creative writing.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.