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Resume Tips

How to Put an Unfinished Degree on a Resume: Examples

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So you never finished your college degree. That’s okay as some 40% of college students drop out before the graduation date. But should you bring up your unfinished degree on your resume? 

In many cases, the answer is yes. After all, even if you never got to that part of being handed the diploma, attending a college has helped you develop many worthwhile core competencies, along with interpersonal skills

Still, have doubts? In this post, we’ll explain why you should put an unfinished degree on a resume and how to do it right. Let’s dive in! 

Why Should You Include an Unfinished Degree

Your college experience can be seen as an asset on its own in many cases as we mentioned above. Plus, mentioning that you went to college can help avoid some awkward questions or negative assumptions. 

And here are several other strong reasons to include your unfinished degree:

  • Use it explain a gap in employment
  • Demonstrate that you pursuing or open to pursuing further education
  • Leverage it as a way to highlight the skills you’ve gained 
  • Showcase the relevant work or research experience.

Should You Ever Leave an Unfinished Degree Off Your Resume?

Yes, you may want to omit an unfinished degree from your resume in some cases.  For example, if you are an experienced professional, you don’t need to mention that you attempted to pursue an unrelated degree in your late teens. 

Likewise, if your academic performance was exceptionally poor, or you were dismissed from school for cause, that may be best left unsaid.

In all other cases, it’s best to mention your unfinished degree, than not! 

How to Put Your Unfinished Degree on Your Resume

Before you add your college experience to your resume, consider your career goals. What idea are you trying to communicate to the potential employer? Here are several scenarios that may be relevant to your case. 

Gap in Employment

If your career history has this ‘blank’ in the middle when you were attending college, you should draw the employers’ attention to the fact that you were doing something productive and legitimate instead of working. 

In this case, style the education section of your resume in the following way: 

University of Arizona (2017-2018)
Tempe, AZ
BA: Business Administration — Completed 20 credit hours

Attending University

If you are currently enrolled in a program, put your latest entry at the top of the education section of your resume. Keep in mind that you can call yourself a current student if you have taken a hiatus of less than a year. 

In this case, you can include the name of the school you are attending, the date you started, and the degree you’re pursuing. You can also include any relevant memberships, research projects, or activities. 

You can use the following as an example:

University of Arizona (2019 — Present)
Tempe, AZ
BS: Mechanical Engineering
President: Society of Mathematics And Engineering Students
Research Assistant: United Automotive Engine Efficiency Project

Employed with Unfinished Degree 

For those who choose to go in the field, instead of pursuing a complete education, the unfinished degree can be leveraged to showcase the gained skills. 

But how do you style this? Well, you have several options. 

First, you can write a functional resume and can include all the skills you’ve gained in college to the ‘Skill Set’ portion of your resume. In that case, your entry might look like this:

Skill Set
HTML5 *****
Visual C **
A+ Certification *

Education
University of Texas (2018 – 2019)
Austin, TX
BS: Computer Science — Completed 24 Hours
Passed A+ Certification Examination
Completed Web Design Externship

Alternatively, you can include the work you’ve done in school as part of your work experience section.  Here are some examples of when this would be appropriate:

  • You were a paid TA or research assistant.
  • You participated in a dedicated research project with a commitment similar to a job.
  • In cases where you took part in an apprenticeship, internship, or study abroad program.

If the above sounds like your case, follow this example:

Work Experience
Computer Science Dept. (2018-2019)
Software Design Assistant
University of TX

Duties: Gathering user requirements, testing and debugging software, coding software modules according to designer specifications.

Education
University of TX (2018-2019)
BS: Software Engineering — Completed 18 hours
Work-Study Employee: Software Design

Committed to Finishing a Required Degree

Should you give up on an opportunity simply because you haven’t finished your degree? Maybe not. If you’re a great candidate otherwise, an employer may be willing to hire you with the condition that you finish your degree quickly.

Of course, this isn’t going to work if you are years away from graduating. This is more appropriate for students who are within a semester of attaining their degree. 

To do this, simply include your unfinished degree in the education section of your resume. Then, address the situation in your cover letter. For example, you may write something like this:

“I’m currently on a two-semester leave from the Haus Cooking Academy as I focused on honing my skills as a sous-chef at Parker’s. However, I’m committed to returning to school in April 2021 to earn my BA and get a food handler license.”

Don’t let an unfinished degree stop you from pursuing a great job! To maximize your chances of landing the job interview, frame your college experience as an asset, rather than a liability. The examples we’ve provided should help you do just that!

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