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How to List an Unfinished Master's Degree on a CV
Even if you haven’t completed your master’s degree, the experience could still serve as a selling point when included on your resume. Instead of focusing on the fact that you didn’t finish, however, emphasize what you learned from the program and how it relates to the job for which you’re applying.
How to List
If you’re currently pursuing your master’s degree, list the estimated date of completion and your major field of study. If you left school without finishing, list the dates you attended and the courses you took. Don’t include the degree you were working toward, because this draws attention to the fact you didn’t complete it. In addition, an employer could misconstrue this to mean you did earn the degree. Instead, describe your primary area of study. For example, say “Studied finance at XYZ University” or “Pursued graduate-level coursework in economics at ABC School of Business.”
Rather than focus on the degree, concentrate on the classes you completed. For example, say “Completed 30 credit hours in psychology.” If you took only a few courses, list them and describe projects and assignments you undertook as part of your coursework. You can downplay the fact that you didn’t finish your degree by titling this section “Professional Development" instead of “Education." This depicts your studies as continuing education instead of an incomplete degree. If you completed several courses or are still pursuing your degree, briefly summarize the types of classes you took and highlight a few that are particularly relevant to the position you’re seeking.
Place your education section at the top of your resume if you’re still pursuing your degree. For soon-to-be or recent graduates, academic credentials carry significant weight when going through the hiring process, especially if you have little to no professional experience. If you didn’t finish your degree, move this section to the bottom of your resume, especially if your education dates back several years or if you have considerable full-time work experience. In this case, your work history has more influence. In addition, moving an incomplete degree to the end of your resume can downplay the fact you didn’t finish.
When describing your incomplete degree on your resume, know that employers often spend just minutes, and in some cases, seconds, reviewing each applicant’s resume. If you’re vague about your past education, employers might think you’re hiding something. Be honest about not having earned your degree, but don’t let that overshadow your other qualifications. Also, remember that you’ll need to address it in the interview. If you make it sound as though you completed your degree when you didn’t, you’ll have to own up to this when you meet with the employer.