How to Put Unfinished Degree on Resume w/ Examples [Resume Writing Guideline]

unfinished-degrees-on-resume
Created by CakeResume

You're looking to get into your dream career, but don't have a degree or it’s still in progress. You think this hinders your job prospects and start asking yourself the following questions:

"What can I do?"

"How to write an unfinished degree on my resume?"

"Should I put my unfinished education on my resume?"

Such questions may arise, along with what employers might think when they see an unfinished degree on a resume. However, there is no need to worry. Lacking academic credentials should not undermine your value as a candidate. Whether you didn’t complete your degree or you are currently getting one, this article will provide tips and examples on how to list an unfinished degree on a resume.

Should I Include Unfinished Education on My Resume?

You may think including an unfinished degree on your resume may not be appealing to employers, and you are concerned about what they might think of you. However, this is wrong as readers may have a different outlook once they glance at your resume. Moreover, having an unfinished degree on your resume is not the worst-case scenario if you know in what situations you can list an incomplete degree on your resume.

When You Should Put Unfinished Degrees in Your Resume

  1. The incomplete education is related to the position.

This is usually a wise practice, as your previous education in the field may be related to your future profession. Even if it’s an unfinished degree on your CV/resume, it displays your education is still relevant to the position. 

  1. You lack relevant education or training in the job.

If you do not have any previous education or training, you may not have enough experience in the field of work for which you are applying. However, this is not the same as having no qualification at all. If your qualifications are limited, listing an unfinished degree on your resume is better than displaying no education at all.

  1. There is a significant gap in your work history.

This issue should be addressed by showing you were studying or doing something productive to cover the gap. Even if the unfinished degree on your resume is not relevant to the job, it is better to have it in your resume/CV than not having anything at all.  

  1. You are currently still pursuing the degree.

When it comes to listing an ongoing degree on a resume, consider listing the name of degree, school name, and mention it is currently “ongoing” or the expected graduation date. 

  1. You are not going to/did not finish the education.

If you're not going to finish your education, you'll need to come up with a way to make your unfinished degree on your resume look as good as possible. Including your GPA, relevant courses, and extracurricular activities are good practices on how to put college on your resume if you didn't graduate or you plan to not finish your studies.

When You Should Leave Out Unfinished Degrees in Your Resume

  1. You are already an experienced professional with enough experience.

Having an unfinished degree on your resume when you have solid experience should be the least of concerns. Even if you don’t know how to include an unfinished degree on your resume. 

  1. You performed really poorly.

If your GPA is below 3.0, it is best to leave it out. Displaying an unfinished education on a resume along with poor academic performance will do no good to your job prospects.

How to Put Unfinished Degree on a Resume/CV

When it comes to how to add unfinished education to a resume, the most common elements that should be present are school name, degree name, years of study, and any relevant coursework or achievements. Generally speaking, academic sections are brief, so an unfinished education on a resume should not be extensive.

Regarding how to write an unfinished degree on a resume, there are two cases, which are to be covered in this part.

Ongoing Degree on Resume

Let’s say you are on the job hunt, yet you still need to graduate or finish your studies. You might ask yourself: How to write an ongoing degree in your resume? Well, this is no hard task.

Here are the following things to consider when listing an ongoing degree on a resume:

  • Mention the program name
  • Name of institution
  • Location
  • Expected graduation date

When it comes to how to put the expected graduation date on the resume, the year will suffice and it is optional to add the month. There is no need to write a lot of details for elaborating your education in progress on your resume.

Here is an example of a degree in progress on a resume:

EDUCATION

University of Washington | 2016 - Ongoing
BA in Business Administration - GPA: 3.8
Expected graduation date: 2020

Got any apprenticeships or achievements?

Listing any of these with a degree in progress on your resume gives you the advantage to show you have valuable skills based on your studies. Some examples in this situation for an unfinished degree on a resume are relevant courses, achievements, apprenticeships, teaching or research assistance, projects, or studies abroad.

Here is another example of having an unfinished degree on resume with the aforementioned aspects:

EDUCATION

University of Davenport | 2014 - Ongoing

Associate of Applied Science - Medical Assisting
Expected graduation: May 2018
Awards: Student of the Year 2015
Completed Medical Research Apprenticeship

As shown above, any information that will be a plus should be included when drafting an ongoing degree on your resume. When it comes to how to list education in progress on your resume, make sure you have enough space for your education section.

💡  Tip: Other than the essential details such as school name, degree title, and GPA, knowing how to put an ongoing degree in a resume with the extracurricular stuff relies on what employers seek. If they value relevant experience more than studies, listing apprenticeships or internships prevails over academic awards.

Did Not Graduate

As for the second situation, you are wondering, “should I include unfinished education on my resume?” You obviously think writing “unfinished” or “incomplete” in your unfinished education section on a resume does not look good, but it really depends on how you display it in your education section.

Let’s take a look at each example for an unfinished degree on a resume.

Example of how to list an unfinished Ph.D. degree on a resume:

EDUCATION

Columbia University, NY
Graduate Work in Economics

Perhaps listing the university and program may suit more than university name + degree. Besides showing it’s an unfinished degree on your resume, it is best to not mislead or lie that you possess a degree you didn’t finish. 

Here is another example using an unfinished masters degree on a resume:

EDUCATION

Columbia University, NY
MBA Program

  • Completed 30 credits towards an MBA
  • Relevant projects: Sustainable Finance

This example contains roles and information about your progress for an incomplete degree on a resume. Examples that show progress on your resume with an unfinished degree are the number of credits obtained and relevant courses.

Here is another example of how to list an unfinished bachelor degree:

EDUCATION

Columbia University New York, NY | (2014-2016)

  • Relevant courses: Investment and Portfolio Analysis, Corporate Finance, Supply Chain Management.

📝  Note: All three examples are not exclusive to a degree type and they can be interchangeably used for an unfinished degree on your resume.

Tips on How to Add Unfinished Education to a Resume

Here are three tips to further help you if you have an unfinished degree on your resume:

💡 Create a portfolio/personal website if you have an unfinished degree on your resume.

Whether you didn’t finish your degree or your education is still in progress, having a portfolio on your resume can be helpful. You can display assignments or any kind of work for employers to show your value and your efforts during your studies. On the other hand, a personal website is a good approach to show yourself in ways a resume or a CV with an unfinished degree is unable to do. Moreover, having a personal website shows you took time and effort to show what you bring to the table despite having an unfinished degree in your resume.

💡 Opt for an objective statement.

Unless you have a good amount of experience to outweigh an unfinished degree on your resume, an objective statement can be more suitable than a resume summary. An objective statement can show your ambition and goals. Moreover, you can describe how you will help the company regardless of having an unfinished degree in your resume.

💡 Prioritize qualifications obtained on education.

If you have a lot of qualifications obtained during your studies, prioritize which ones shall be listed on your resume regarding an unfinished degree. This will help you focus on what elements are important as you may not be able to include everything in your resume.

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How to Boost Your Resume/CV with No or an Unfinished College Degree

Still keen for more tips and suggestions on how to write an unfinished degree on a resume?Here are three tips that will help you boost your resume/CV with an unfinished degree:

✨ Include other personal/professional projects that are relevant to the position.

Showing any relevant projects can give you an edge, especially if you have an ongoing or unfinished degree on your resume. Whether you are still studying or you have an unfinished education, relevant projects on your resume show you are capable of the job.

✨ Create a skills section to highlight your existing hard and soft skills.

Skills can be a decider for getting that interview you are aiming for, as they compensate for an unfinished degree on your resume. You have a specific set of skills acquired therefore it’s relevant to include them if your education is in progress on your resume.

✨ Go for informal or non-formal education. (i.e. online learning, on-the-job training, etc.).

There is no better way to educate yourself than learning something online to cover any unfinished education on a resume. We have discussed how to put college on your resume if you didn't graduate, so adding a certification from online training or courses shouldn’t be an issue.

🔑  Key Takeaways:

  • Listing an unfinished degree on your resume is recommended in general except for certain situations such as already possessing vast experience or poor academic performance.
  • When it comes to how to list your education on a resume if you are still in college, adding the expected graduation date is key. If you didn't graduate,  there are many ways on how to put your college background in your resume with the examples provided before.
  • Using personal websites, adding online courses, and any relevant achievements or coursework you undertook in college/university will boost your chances to get an interview, even if your resume relies on an unfinished degree.

--- Originally written by Jose J. Rosales ---

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