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As the title says, I have to retake 1 class in order to graduate. This is at an American university for a bachelors degree in mathematics, and the class I must retake is only offered in the fall semester.

Can I apply for full-time jobs and get an offer contingent on my graduation? How should I indicate on my resume that I do not have my degree yet (though I am very close to having it)?

I am expecting that most potential employers will not be interested in hiring me right away since I do not officially have a degree. I am considering applying for summer internships that might lead to a job as one optional to deal with this.

So, is there any way I can leverage having 98% of a degree to get a job? It seems like it would be a waste of time to apply to full-time jobs requiring a degree in May, June, July, while fresh graduates who have degrees are on the hunt. I am unsure what my best options are.

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  • Are you trying to start a new job ASAP and planning on taking that class while working? Or are you looking for a job now and intending to start after the degree is finished? – dwizum May 3 '19 at 19:45
  • If you have not finished the degree, you should not claim you have, you either have the degree or don't have it. There really isn't an in-between. You will have to be part of the Fall graduates looking for a job. – Donald May 3 '19 at 19:47
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    @Ramhound - "You will have to be part of the Fall graduates looking for a job" I don't think that's strictly true. I landed my first full-time professional job without having completed my degree, for similar reasons. I've hired many people in the decades since who also had incomplete degrees. While the OP's chances of getting hired may be reduced, there's no reason to completely give up hope until the fall. – dwizum May 3 '19 at 19:52
  • Thank you all. I appreciate your thoughtful answers. – pnn001 May 6 '19 at 20:03
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There's no reason to get bogged down in the details - the general advice about job hunting and resume-writing stays the same - remain honest, but remember that you're marketing yourself.

Generally when people are resume-writing while their degree is incomplete, but has a target completion date, they indicate along the lines of,

BA in Mathematics, American University. Target completion December 2019

In your case, since you're really only short one class, you may want to indicate that - to remove confusion about your availability (you don't want employers assuming you're still in school full time, if you're looking for a full time job):

BA in Mathematics, American University: 3 credit hours outstanding Target completion December 2019

While you are correct that many jobs require a degree, it's also the case with at least some employers that these rules are often guides more than fixed requirements, and hiring managers are more likely to be concerned with your actual skills and your ability to execute than with a piece of paper with your name on it. To help level the playing field, make sure you are "showing off" where it makes sense, in terms of selling yourself as a valuable employee.

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In addition to @dwizum excellent answer, view your resume through the eyes of a hiring manager looking for an entry level math candidate. What does she see:

  1. One class not completed: Not a problem. The likelihood that his specific class is relevant to the job is almost zero
  2. Doesn't have a degree yet: no biggie. The degree is more about the mind set and ability to think independently and scientifically than a piece of paper. In one regard it helps: it puts you in a lower salary band, so they don't have to pay as much
  3. Failed a class that was really important: Big problem. It may indicate that you are not able or mature enough yet to plan and prepare properly. This will be a red flag for many hiring managers.

The key here is to have a really good story how you managed to get yourself into this situation: What exactly happened, what have you learned from it and what did you do differently in the future to do better. No excuses, just facts. You can consider putting something in the resume or at least in the cover letter and be prepared to talk about it with confidence.

Be prepared to accept a job at significantly below market rate and/or on a probationary basis.

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