Should I Put In An Incomplete Degree On A Resume
Oh no, what are they going to think
Thats probably the first thing that runs through your head when you think about putting your incomplete degree on your resume.
Breathe, its okay. In fact, 40% of college students drop out before having the chance to graduate. In many cases, including your incomplete degree in your resume can only work in your favor.
Just make sure you format it correctly and professionally, and the recruiters will hire you right away.
Stay with us and you will find out how to include your unfinished degree on your resume when you:
- Have a large gap in your employment history
- Are currently pursuing your degree
- Are not going to finish your education
As well as whether you should ever leave an unfinished degree off your resume.
So lets dive in and get your unfinished degree working for you.
Tailoring Your Resume For Each Application
Where To Place Your Education Section
Either before or after your work experience section. It depends on your resume format and where you are in your career.
As with the rest of your resume, the rule of thumb is: always put the most important information first.
Are you a student or fresh graduate? Then remember: your education is still one of your biggest strengths. Naturally, you should play to your strengths and put your education section in a place where recruiters can immediately see it.
Place it near to the top of your resume just below your resume objective/profile section.
Are you an experienced professional? Then you can place your education section anywhere on the page .
Just remember: you should always put the most important information first. At this point in your life, your education isnt nearly as important as it used to be. Because of that, it should probably find its place near the bottom of your resume.
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Where To Put Gpa On A Resume
You should put your GPA in your education section, next to your major. If youve earned honors at your university , those honors should be listed below your majorin italicswith your GPA beside them.
Heres how it should look:
DePaul University | Chicago, IL | December 2009-March 2013
Bachelor of Arts in English Composition
Bear in mind, you should only list your GPA on your resume if it is over a 3.5 and if youre a recent graduate. If youre a recent graduate and your GPA is below 3.5, use the space to talk about an impressive senior thesis project instead.
Advanced Education When You’re Overqualified For A Job
If you’re applying to a job you’re overqualified for, it’s acceptable to leave off advanced degrees. There are many reasons why you might be applying for a job you’re overqualified for, including an industry switch, targeting a less stressful workload, or focusing on a company or mission you support. Your resume does not have to be an exhaustive list of everything you’ve done–in fact, it shouldn’t be.
If your education makes you look overqualified for a job you want, you can remove it from your resume. Appearing overqualified puts you at risk of multiple preconceptions, from salary expectations to feeling threatened. You can get ahead of this by leaving out some of your qualifications.
Example of when you should exclude an advanced degree:
If you have a Master’s degree but you’re targeting a part-time administrative position, you can safely exclude your over-qualifying degree. While you may be looking for a job that allows you to be home before 3 p.m., the hiring manager may think you’re applying to any position you can find. Tailor your resume to fit the job sometimes that means trimming off your advanced degrees.
*Word of caution: while you can omit information from your resume, you should never lie about your education or experience on a job application. Job applications are signed, legal documents and if you’re asked about your academic history, you must answer honestly.
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What To Include In The Education Section Of A Resume
First things first. What should be included in your resume education section? Here are the basics:
- Name of Institution
- School Location
- Years Attended
From there, you can add academic honors, scholarships, and other achievements if applicable. You can also include coursework, but should only if its absolutely pertinent to the job for which youre applying. If you do include coursework, use the titles of each course as a description instead of the course numbers.
If coursework doesnt feel like the right fit, consider including relevant projects or groups that you really excelled in. For example, a senior thesis, an initiative to change a school policy, or an impressive on-campus group you headed up. Anything that exemplifies your passions and relates to the job is worth considering.
Adding in extra details like coursework and projects is best for job seekers who have recently graduated or have minimal work experience. Well talk more about how to format projects and coursework later.
A cover letter is also a great place to expand upon your relevant coursework.
As for naming your education section heading? Jobscan sampled a collection of resumes and found that 35% used unconventional titles for their education heading name. These can cause parsing errors in ATS, which lead to unnecessary disqualifications. A simple heading of Education is the best option. It doesnt take up a lot of space and ATS will know exactly how to parse it.
Strategy : Be Direct About Your Online Degree
Your resume is your strongest tool to differentiate yourself from other candidates early in the application process. Potential employers will examine resumes and cover letters before deciding to move forward with face-to-face interviews. If you plan to be direct about your degree acquisition, then you will need to focus on how your online education will bring value to the workplace.
As an online student, you well know the unique skills and attributes online graduates gain in school. Before sitting down to write your resume and cover letters, take an inventory of these skills:
- Be sure to highlight your familiarity with distance learning and video conferencing software.
- If you led a group project in an online course, point out that you have experience in managing teams remotely.
- Explain that you are accustomed to troubleshooting technological issues on your own.
Employers are also looking for independent learners and people who are accustomed to managing their own time. If you’re a disciplined self-starter who held a job down or fulfilled other duties while completing school online, make this clear in both your resume and cover letter.
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Should I Include My Gpa
If you’re wondering when should you put your GPA on a resume, you shouldn’t typically include it unless you’ve just recently graduated and don’t have much experience to show.
“If you earned your degree twenty years ago, it’s expected that you’ve done plenty in the meantime to demonstrate your relevance in the workplace and that your GPA is pretty much a defunct measure of your abilities. If you earned your degree recently, however, including your GPA can be a great move, but only if it is 3.0 or higher. You also can put down your major specific GPA if that was higher than you overall GPA . A lot of employers don’t actually care about your GPA, though there are some who will only consider you if you exceeded a certain level.”
If Its Not Relevant To The Position
If your area of study was unrelated to the position youre applying for, then you dont need to include much detail. You can simply list the college and years attended.
If you excelled academically, include your academic achievements such as a high GPA, inclusion in the Deans List, or other academic awards or scholarships.
Heres an example of how to list an unfinished degree on your resume:
SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY Syracuse, NY2017-2019
If you took some courses related to the job, include those under your university information. You can list them by individual courses taken or by number of credits earned in a certain area of study.
Heres what that looks like:
SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY Syracuse, NY
Relevant coursework: Data Driven Inquiry, Big Data Analytics
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List Your Most Relevant Major First
Consider which of your majors is more relevant to the job youre applying for, and list that major first. If youre applying to a variety of positions, tailor your resume to each position.
For instance, if you graduated with a double major in Creative Writing and Spanish, list Creative Writing first for a journalist position, whereas you should list Spanish first for a translator position.
Both majors should be written on the same line. For instance, if you received a double major, do not write Bachelor of Arts in French and Bachelor of Arts in Politics on two separate lines. Writing your double major in this way suggests you graduated with a dual degree rather than a double major.
Didnt Quite Earn The Degree Mention It Anyway
Last week, I counseled a woman who had completed her masters program, but not the thesis. She wondered if it was OK to list that shed completed the coursework, or if would it appear deceptive. Um, mention it. Absolutely mention it. Id frame it something like this:
Master of Business Administration Degree Candidate, Marylhurst University, Marylhurst, OR
Thesis under development anticipated completion June 2013
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Tips For The Education Section Of Your Resume
Consider subsections. If you have a lot of information to include in the education section of your resume, consider breaking this section into subsections. The main section might include your schools and degrees, and then you can have other sections such as Awards and Honors, Certifications, and Professional Development. If you held a leadership role in a school-affiliated organization , you can list that below the Awards and Honors line.
Provide specifics . If the sub-college of your university is well known and relevant you can include that before you include your university name. For example, you could say School of Hospitality, XYZ College.
You can leave out your GPA. If you’re a student or recent graduate and your GPA wasnt great, but you have other accolades, just leave the GPA out and put something else, like XYZ Award Recipient. Once you’re out of school for a couple years, you should take your GPA out of your resume altogether.
You can leave out high school . Once you’ve been in college for a year or so , you can leave your high school degree and GPA out of your resume. However, you should mention your high school diploma if it is your highest degree.
Tell the truth. It’s very easy for an employer to confirm whether or not the education information in your resume is true or not. He or she can simply check your transcript. If you’re not happy with your GPA, leave it out, but dont make it up. Be honest.
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When Should You Include An Unfinished College Degree On Your Resume
Dont focus on whether or not your degree is finished, but rather put your attention on some more important questions:
Remember: if your degree does not match the position youre applying for at all, you should consider leaving it out of your resume.
But dont forget mentioning your unfinished degree can also avoid awkward questions during the interview. Also, adding it avoids negative assumptions that stop the Hiring manager from considering you for the position.
What are the different scenarios, you wonder?
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List Any Coursework Relevant To The Job
If you have coursework thats relevant to the job youre applying to, you can also include this relevant coursework on your resume under the respective major.
Although adding relevant coursework is usually unnecessary if your resume already fills a page without it, it can be useful to include if you recently graduated from college or high school, or if you lack professional experience.
If Youre A Current Student
You can still include your degree on your resume if you havent graduated yet in fact, if youre applying for jobs in a related field, you definitely should. You should put your education section at the top of your resume, since thats likely to be your most relevant experience, and list an expected graduation date. Its okay if this changes employers understand that things dont always go exactly to plan.
If youre currently on hiatus, you dont need to change the way you list your degree unless its been over a year. Within this timeframe, you can still legitimately consider yourself a current student.
If youre a current student or have been on hiatus for less than a year, list your education section first and include an expected date of graduation.
For more tips on what to include in your education section, check out our guide on how to list education on your resume.
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Where To Place Education In Progress On Your Resume
The second issue you need to address is placement. Where should you place these details when youâre trying to figure out how to list education in progress on a resume? There are two main possibilities, depending upon whether the degree is needed for the job youâre seeking.
If the job requirements include the degree that youâre pursuing, then you should try to emphasize that information in your resume. Position it near the beginning of your resume, after the summary section. That way, the employer will see that youâre close to completing that requirement before he or she delves any further into the document. This placement helps to showcase your interest and suitability right away.
On the other hand, you should place this detail later in the resume if the degree isnât needed for the position. In that instance, you can place your work history and skills higher up in the resume and leave your education for the end.
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When You Didn’t Go To College
If you didn’t go to college or only took a few courses, you don’t have to list them. Of course, you also have the option of leaving college off of your resume entirely, which becomes a better option as you gain valid, relevant work experience.
There are many things you can include on your resume besides college, to highlight and prove your qualifications for a job. Relevant coursework, awards, certifications, volunteer positions, and even clubs and hobbies can often be included appropriately in other sections of your resume.
If you don’t have work or much other experience, you may want to list your GED or high school information on your resume. Otherwise, you don’t need to include it. For example:
General Educational Development Certificate
- The Susan Jones Family
- The Dean and Janice Blake Family
- The Franklin Travers Family
Resume Education Section Format
Many ATS parse the information from an applicants resume into a digital applicant profile. If your education is formatted incorrectly theres a very good chance that information will be parsed incorrectly or left out altogether.
Typically, the degree is listed before the school, but if you went to an impressive, Ivy League university, leading with the name of the school cant hurt.
Remember, a solid education section will include the name of the school, the degree earned , location of the school, and the date of graduation. For example:
Bachelor of Arts: Theater, Shakespearean, 2016Columbia College, Chicago, IL
Masters of Business Administration, 2014University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
You can add societies, activities or relevant coursework if it makes sense to the job for which youre applying. This information can be included at the bottom of your education section, like this:
Bachelors Degree, Elementary Education and Teaching, 2013Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, INSocieties: Delta Delta Delta, Habitat for Humanity, Student Support Group
If you are still completing your degree, you can list your expected graduation date, but be clear that you havent yet graduated. Like the above examples, you dont need to list the start date . For example:
Bachelor of Science: Civil EngineeringWashington University, St. Louis, MO.Expected Graduation Date 2019
University of Miami, Coral Gables, FLEnglish Composition, 65 Credit Hours Obtained
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