Due to some reasons, I failed most courses in my master's degree.

Would it make sense to leave this degree work off of my resume?

FYI I went there as part of a leave of absence from my job and not after quitting the job or right after my bachelor's.

*Also, I also registered for a postbacc distance learning course twice (the University of London International Programme) which I never sat exams for...do I need to talk about this ever in any resume/grad school application?

  • Did you fail your first semester? Or were you in part ways and failed? If you made it through a couple of semesters fine, then I think mentioning "some" school for master would be good. – Dan Jul 31 '18 at 14:33

If it's not on your resume, then it's almost likely to not be talked about during an interview unless you explicitly bring this up for whatever reason.

Unless the undertaking of the master's degree is a significant factor in your credentials, you were never credited the degree itself, so I don't think there's a reason to put this in your resume.

  • 1
    Or if the employment application requires disclosing it. The resume is not the only information given when applying for a job. – Ben Voigt Jul 31 '18 at 2:49
  • 3
    No, but majority of the information taken from an applicant is from a resume. The failed master's degree should only be brought up when it's outright required or asked. – Noir Antares Jul 31 '18 at 2:55
  • @BenVoigt is that a common thing? I don't know how a company could possibly enforce that, or why they'd care. It's frankly none of their business unless they require a Master's. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Aug 1 '18 at 19:31
  • @ell: I've seen lots of applications with instructions similar to "List your entire educational history, starting with high school". They care if they catch you lying, because liars can be expected to lie again. It may be difficult to catch the lie, but that doesn't mean it won't be enforced if the information comes to their attention (either proactively through a background check, or through luck... a classmate happened to also work there and mentioned remembering you doing a presentation on such-and-such a topic). The facts are less important than being honest about them. – Ben Voigt Aug 1 '18 at 19:58

Should I include a failed master's degree on my resume?

Unless there's something about this master's degree that outweighs the failures, you should leave it off.

There's no point in bringing negatives into your discussion unless it is necessary. Your reasons for failure are likely to be vastly important to you, but not at all important to potential employers.

In my locale, there are no laws requiring you to list any degree or any failed courses. Consult your local laws to see if that is different where you live and work.


If you don't include the master's degree, the employers won't talk to you about why you didn't complete it. I have an uncompleted 2nd undergraduate major that I don't list for the same reason. The exception here being if employers explicitly request that you disclose all educational history such as the US government and then you should list your masters degree.

You may consider listing the incomplete master's degree anyway, because the admission to a graduate program alone could tell a lot about your skillset if it's a selective program. For instance, UC Berkeley's Master's of Computer Science program in 2013 only had a 1% admission rate. Even if you did not complete your degree due to unforeseen circumstances, you still were accepted into the program over your fellow applicants.

Another bit of advice, don't refer to your incomplete graduate degree as a "failed" degree. Focus on the positive of what you were able to learn in your time there.

  • I failed a master's degree during a leave of absence from a job and returned to my previous position at the same department. So in writing my resume, I started working here at my department in 2016 and am still here, the oddness of which is not obvious at first sight but still odd because you stay at a department for two years. Interviewers might think why I am staying so long at a particular department if he/she knows about my organization, which is often the case because it's a well known company in my country, – economics Oct 23 '18 at 6:55
  • and I am a prospective applicant for US branches here (at companies like the BCG, JP Morgan and the like)... On the other hand, if they don't know the ins and outs of how my organization works, then I think they wouldn't question it. Should I still omit the fact that I attended and failed a master's degree? (I went to a top-30-in-the-world university for master's but I failed it so it really doesn't count...) – economics Oct 23 '18 at 6:55

Your resume is your presentation of yourself to your prospective employer. It's expected to be biased in favor of things you accomplished and against things you, well, "failed" (as others have said, failing to complete isn't necessarily a failure in and of itself, if you can spin it the right way). So employers aren't expecting you to put negative information on your resume, and wouldn't (or shouldn't) be put off by you not putting it there and then it later coming up in conversation. So you don't lose anything by not having it there.

So the question is, does having it there gain you anything? It certainly could lose you something; if the program wasn't particularly prestigious, or you didn't do very much in it, or you don't have anything to say you accomplished, then it most certainly could be seen as a failure and work against you. So if you are going to put it there, you have to understand why you are putting it there and what you hope to gain from having it there. Remember, your resume is expected to be very heavily biased IN FAVOR of you; if you put something there that's not in your favor, expect to be grilled about it.


In my opinion, all else being equal, entering a MS program is better than having never been accepted in the first place. Therefore, I might put it on my resume, simply because a resume is there to entice them into interviewing you, after which the real decision is made.

However, giving 4 reasons for why you didn't complete the program is a huge red flag for me. At best, you make excuses, at worst you are lying about something.

If I were you, I would put it on my resume, however I would come up with one simple, concise, honest (sounding) answer as to why you didn't finish the program. "I wasn't happy in my studies" or "I decided to enter industry" are better than "personal illness", "death in family", "issues in my life". This is because, we all have issues in our lives, yet here I am interviewing you.

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