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I am a few years into my career after education and I believe I have been very good at what I started, have an aptitude for development in a big corporation (was promoted a few times already and earned the trust of senior executives, am managing various teams). Normally people in my career have at least an undergraduate education and all those I manage have a graduate degree.

I was unlucky to finish my undergraduate studies without a degree because of an unknown health problem (unknown for most of the time I was at university, found out and treated only after I had enough money to afford specialist healthcare...).

Should I ever want to look for a role in a new company, how should I handle recruiters or HR weeding out by filtering those without a degree, especially when they use automated search programs?

I was thinking of listing something like an education section, and write out the university and degree (it is quite well-reputed in my country), but put a note like...

  • 2007-2010 University of Oxford, UK
  • B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics (incomplete)
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I'm not sure on the best way to handle it on your CV, but I can reassure you that employers almost certainly won't be as fussy as you think now that you have experience. I'm not saying nobody will be, but the majority will value proven skills over education.

Therefore, the best thing you can do is not highlight the failed degree and focus on your work. This will only become easier and easier as time goes on. I've taken most of my education off my CV, now, because who cares what I did ten years ago?

You've done the hardest bit, which is getting your first career related role. It sounds like you're doing well at it, so learn how to represent it well on paper. Make sure to highlight promotions (I treat them as individual jobs) and get those achievements and responsibilities down.

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2007-2010 University of Oxford, UK

B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics (incomplete)

If you are applying to companies with must-have requirements for a degree, then you simply don't meet the requirements, no matter how you phrase it on your resume.

Some job descriptions have requirements for a degree whose lack could be offset by work experience. You may very well qualify for those.

Putting "B.A. ... (incomplete)" calls attention to what you don't have, and some might consider it misleading. You didn't attain an incomplete BA degree. You performed some studies that might have resulted in a BA degree had they been completed. And in your resume/CV you should always try to emphasize your strengths and not call attention to what you don't have.

I think better would be something along the lines of:

  • 2007-2010 University of Oxford, UK
  • Philosophy, Politics, & Economics

It's truthful, and not misleading. And if a recruiter were of a mind to consider candidates who had some studies, but no degree, then you might meet the requirements.

  • 1
    But if reading end-date 2010 I would assume it is a graduation date? So it is a bit of misleading. I suggest to have 2-page resume filled with skills and accomplishments, with education section on very end. – Peter M. May 6 '14 at 23:24
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I'd edit

B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics (incomplete)

to

B.A. candidate in Philosophy, Politics & Economics (did not complete due to health reasons)

Be sure to mention the special circumstances in your cover letter when you reach out to a prospective employer.

Put some of the odds on your side with a strong, regularly updated Linkedin profile - I get hit on regularly on Linkedin by external and in-house recruiters :)

  • I agree with @JoeStrazzere: the reason why the degree is incomplete isn't relevant. I'd certainly avoid discussing personal issues like health problems on my resume. – nadyne Mar 23 '14 at 1:14
  • I would care as a prospective employer, but I am probably not "most" people :) I'll point out that neither Mark Zuckerberg nor Bill Gates completed their degrees and in fact, I did not get an MS in CS from the City College of CUNY's Engineering School - My excuse is that I got a full-time offer before I took that last required course. So far (it's been 16 years since and counting), no prospective employer seems to have cared enough to even comment on it. Instead, all questions were directed toward my experience and skills - or real or alleged lack of them :) - all acquired outside of school :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 23 '14 at 8:51
  • I was thinking the same. At least, in Finland a professional job seeking assistant suggested the same idea (to mention difficulties caused by health reasons) in a similar situation to someone I know. – jhegedus Feb 11 '15 at 19:46

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