After ~8 years doing it I decided to quit my PhD and do something else. I left with a Masters certificate at the time, thinking it was at least better than nothing, in terms official documents.

Since then, I have been listing this experience as 8 years spent obtaining a Masters degree under my CV's Education section, as well as 8 years spent working as a research student under the Professional Experience Section.

I was wondering if there's a better way to present this on the CV, because it feels:

  • There's a large overlap. It's there in Education AND Professional Experience.
  • The fact that I was originally pursuing a PhD is not conveyed. Don't know if this matters.

I see elsewhere here suggestions about excluding the start date of an experience, but for some job applications, they demand a DETAILED CV, and I've heard that recruiters are good at spotting gaps or inconsistencies on the CV anyway.

  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Incomplete Degree - How to phrase this on resume or cover letter?
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 10:53
  • What's the time exact line here? Was that 8 years after high school, 8 years after your bachelor or something else ? What educational level did you have before you started the Ph.D.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 12:28
  • @Hilmar Straight after the bachelor. I have also worked for 5 years after leaving.
    – qAp
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 13:01
  • 1
    There's a large overlap. It's there in Education AND Professional Experience. - Many people work and go to school at the same time. Why would this be odd? The fact that I was originally pursuing a PhD is not conveyed - You pursued it but didn't achieve it, so leave it off your CV. Companies don't care about the things you almost did, or thought about doing, or partially did. They care about the things you actually did.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:27
  • 3
    Please add a country tag. I also did not finish my PhD, but where I live, people working on their PhD are employed and considered to be part of the University staff, and are not students. I always put "academic researcher" on my resume for those years. But the situation elsewhere can be very different.
    – Abigail
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 18:28

1 Answer 1


There are 3 basic rules for writing a CV:

  • keep it simple and short - the people who read it usually do not have the time to read an entire complicated encyclopedia;
  • keep it true - everything you write must be true; otherwise, it might come back to hurt you;
  • leave out everything that will not help you, or if it can hurt you (or your chances). This point does NOT conflict with "keeping it true".

Therefore, in your case, I would recommend to write just about having the Master's, leaving out that you spent 8 years for it (8 years for a Master's will probably raise eyebrows).

If you do not have an PhD, leave it out completely. You do not want to brag about your "failures".

  • Thanks. I guess I could just display the dates the degrees were awarded.
    – qAp
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 13:22

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