How to Deal with an Incomplete Degree on Your Résumé


When you are applying for a job, chances are either you have not yet completed your degree or you don’t intend to finish it any time soon. Whatever the circumstances are, the question of whether to include details about education on a résumé is always a tricky one for many jobseekers. Well, many feel concerned that an incomplete degree may make an employer view them in a negative light but, in fact, even an incomplete degree can help you prepare for certain careers. It is important, though, to skillfully handle the incomplete education scenario to emphasise your strengths and detract from any perceived weaknesses.

Here’s how to address your incomplete education on your résumé in two different situations:

If you didn’t finish the degree

State the college you attended, the name of the program you studied and the dates you attended college. Of course, you wouldn’t include a degree here as you have not been awarded one.

Alternatively, list the university you went to, relevant courses you took (focus on those that are more relevant to the position you are applying for) and dates you attended school.

You need to be extra careful on how to incorporate this information into your résumé. You want to avoid misleading a hiring manager into believing you have graduated and got a degree when you have not. This can backfire if they give you a job offer and then fact-check.

If you are currently studying

If you are pursuing a degree, you should definitely state it on your résumé, especially if the degree aligns with your career goals and the exact position you are applying for. If the degree you are currently pursuing does not completely relate to the job you are looking for, then you may want to omit it or put it at the end of your résumé. Instead, you may list other education/job training or certification that is more relevant.

So, if you decide to include the information on your résumé, there are two ways to do that:

List the college you are attending, the name of your degree, the area of study, current GPA (if 3.0 or higher) and your expected graduation date (this is especially important if you are to graduate within a year). However, in case you are still going to be in school for several years, add a remark: “In Progress”.

If the job you are pursuing requires you to have a degree and you have luckily recently got it or expect to complete it soon, list your education at the top of your résumé. If the position requires work experience more than education, then you may put your work experience on top of your résumé.

What else to bear in mind when listing education:

- Will excluding information about your education create a large gap in your employment history?

- Would it help your application more if you highlight work experience than education?

- Don’t worry about what the person reading your résumé might think of you if you haven’t yet finished your degree; you can give more details as to why you were unable to complete your degree during the interview.

- List ongoing training, workshops, and seminars attended in a separate section called "Professional Development" in place of or in addition to incomplete college courses or degrees. Explain the skills you developed or knowledge gained through these experiences.

All in all, dealing with an unfinished degree/course on a résumé can be daunting but, fortunately, you can alleviate the stress associated with it by following the strategies outlined above. Have you ever faced a dilemma of whether or not to include your incomplete degree on your résumé? How did you tackle this issue? Please comment.