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I have a PhD. What I don't have is a high school diploma, a bachelor's degree, nor a master's degree. Due to family stuff when I was younger, I dropped out of high school in 11th grade after already starting to take courses at a local community college, then attended two other undergraduate institutions (gaining acceptance after sending community college transcripts and they never asked for HS stuff since I had 30+ credits from community college). I earned a total of 130 US credit hours before applying to grad school in the UK. I wasn't awarded a bachelors degree due to residency requirements and needing the final XX credit hours to be at the last school I attended.

I was accepted into a MSc. program in the UK since all of my transcripts combined together to be the equivalent of a BSc. (Hons) in the UK. I transitioned into a PhD program after I completed coursework and my research proposal was accepted for continuing as a PhD candidate instead of writing a MSc. thesis.

I have been working for a while as a post-doc researcher in the UK but recently started to apply for some industry positions in the US (where I'm a citizen). Many of those applications have been forms asking for all my education (high school, college, grad school, etc...).

I've been asked a few times by HR people on phone screening interviews about my high school and bachelors since I don't list any on my resume/applications (since I don't have them). I think the reason they are asking is because I'm a US citizen but only have a PhD from a UK school on my resume and my post-doc positions, so I get their curiosity.

Any advice is welcome. In case it matters: PhD is in a mechanical engineering specialty.

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    You were not a high school drop out. It sounds to me more like you were homeschooled and skipped a grade. Aug 23 at 23:37
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    You have been asked about a high school diploma after how many years after receiving a PhD? It’s not normal to list lower degrees unless they are relevant. If these positions require a doctoral degree then it’s strange they would even care about your masters or undergraduate let alone your high school diploma from I will assume is closer to a decade (based on a extrapolate of your description)
    – Donald
    Aug 24 at 1:27
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    @Donald, In the US, they always ask for graduation dates of high school or college. Asking for that information is a roundabout way to ask for your age without making it seem that they're asking for your age. Aug 24 at 3:50
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    @Stephan - Strange, I am actually from the US, and was never asked for my high school information since I had a undergraduate and graduate level degrees. So I wouldn’t say it’s always asked for. I also didn’t list completion dates on those degrees as that’s irrelevant information.
    – Donald
    Aug 24 at 12:13
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    @StephanBranczyk I haven't ever had my high school info on my resume. I live in the US. Nobody has ever asked about it. Nobody cares about high school if you have a college degree. Hell, nobody cares about your undergrad if you have a masters or phd in the same field. And they aren't going to use that to guess your age- they can do that just as well from college dates, and be within a year or two. Not that they really care about age anyway- they care about how expensive you're going to be, which is more of a factor of experience than age. Aug 24 at 16:34
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This is an unusual situation. It's quite rare to have a Ph.D. and nothing else. Sometimes that happens with extremely talented kids who skip a lot of schooling and get their Ph.D. early in life or come from countries where schooling is difficult or disorganized.

See for example https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/17841/phd-without-previous-academic-degree-truth-or-myth

Other less flattering but possible explanations are a "pity Ph.D." for someone who has spend a lot of time at a certain faculty without anything to show for it OR it's coming from a Ph.D. mill that basically doctorates anyone who will pay the money for it.

I have no idea whether any of these are applicable to you, or whether your case is different. I would recommend that you provide an explanation. If you don't do this yourself the person who reads it WILL make some assumptions and these could very well be the bad explanations.

Should I list incomplete high school and incomplete undergrad on my resume or job applications (and if so, how)?

You should list an factual correct explanation of why you have a Ph.D. and nothing else. You don't need to list the details although a time line would help to assess this.

Frankly, a lot of this depends on your current age. If you are 22, you are golden. If you are 42, than that's going to be very hard to put a positive spin on you educational background.

Having a letter from your university that Ph.D. without any previous degree is "normal procedure" for them would help.

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You will need to put down the dates you attended, and leave out the degrees/diploma conferred, since you don't have them. You should probably address this in a cover letter because it will be odd.

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Dont know how you can get a PhD without a bachelors and masters, but it is what it is I guess.

Usually I would recommend putting in any time you spent being educated, even if you dropped out. Usually it shows that you spent time with that topic and might be more educated than other people. It certainly did help me land jobs that required a bachelors degree, which I dont have.

But since you have a PhD I dont know if it is even beneficial for you to include it? I personally would still include it, as to avoid gaps.

I dont know about CVs in your country, but here we usually have a section "education" and there you put something like: "University of my city 2011-2013 Major in Topic Bachlors degree/Masters/without a degree" or something along those lines.

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    In the UK, you can be accepted onto a higher degree without a first degree if you have equivalent experience such as working in a relevant field for a few years, or sufficient other educational qualifications. It's not particularly common, but it's accepted by most institutions. And as the OP mentions, it's not uncommon to be accepted for a Masters but transition to a doctorate.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 24 at 9:39
  • Thank you for your insight
    – bibleblade
    Aug 24 at 10:46
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    Even in the US it is common to skip the Masters and go straight to a PhD. The undergraduate degree is expected to be there, but your working seems reasonable. Aug 24 at 17:08

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