When B cells encounter an antigen, they alter their physiological state and anatomical localization and initiate a differentiation process that ultimately produces antibody-secreting cells (ASCs). We have defined the transcriptomes of many mature B cell populations and stages of plasma cell differentiation in mice. We provide a molecular signature of ASCs that highlights the stark transcriptional divide between B cells and plasma cells and enables the demarcation of ASCs on the basis of location and maturity. Changes in gene expression correlated with cell-division history and the acquisition of permissive histone modifications, and they included many regulators that had not been previously implicated in B cell differentiation. These findings both highlight and expand the core program that guides B cell terminal differentiation and the production of antibodies.