I dropped out of high school and went on to study in open uni. I had a year before my conscription for a 3 year service, and I planned to study during my service to make the best of a horrible situation. This semester and the previous semester I took only 2 courses because of issues that keep me from devoting 100% of my time for studying. I plan to take 1-2 courses per semester during my service and after the service just finish up what I could ASAP.

Now I worry that employers probably value the ability to cope with the amount of studying and hard work it takes to finish 3 courses per semester, not just that you know some CS stuff they teach in uni.

Should I stick to my plan or give up and resume uni after the army and drown in even greater boredom during my service.

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    My initial thought is that so long as you were working full time while it took you 5-6 years for a 4 year degree, it would be fine. I've never been involved in the hiring process though. Is there any particular reason why anyone needs to know (on a resume) how long it took? Perhaps it's acceptable to just put a graduation date next to the education entry. Apr 21 '14 at 18:33
  • employers could potentially ask because of things like "you're a bit young" or just because of the fact that it was in open uni, i don't think it's a common sight in my country. also, it's a 3 year degree (software engineering is 4). and actually that is a nice way to answer to the why it took so long. but still, could it potentially make me look less valuable? Apr 21 '14 at 18:35
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    You don't put any length of time, you put the year the degree was conferred. BS Computer Science, Awesome University, 2014 Apr 21 '14 at 18:51
  • How you explain things may be better than what you actually did. If you state that you felt it would be better to take 2 courses instead of 3, that may go over well as someone that still finished the program rather than the person that burned out by taking on too much. Do you understand how to see the positives here?
    – JB King
    Apr 21 '14 at 19:04
  • I don't think anybody - at least in the US - cares if it took you six years to get your CS degree. That is, as long as the damn diploma is in your hands. In fact, if it took you six years despite other substantial commitments, I might praise you for sticking to it. But let's not count the chickens before they hatch, shall we? You still have to produce that degree :) And do the work that justifies you getting that degree. Degree is just a piece of paper. It's the work that you did to get that piece of paper that's relevant to me. Apr 21 '14 at 19:06

The better way to approach this is simply not to have start and finish dates on your studies. For example, my degree on my resume looks like:

B.Sc. Computer Science, University of where I went to school, graduated [month, year].

Having said that, it took me 6 years to get, in part because it wasn't my only one, in part because I was working to put myself through school, and also, [other stuff], but so far, no employer has even asked why it took longer than 4 years, which would be elementary to deduce by my age and the year I graduated.

If you include your military service on your resume, and handle the issue of the degree with just a graduation date, it's unlikely anyone will notice it took you more than 4 years, and even less likely that anyone will care. After all, people do get better careers or climb the corporate ladder by going to night school part-time, so it's really not a big deal to an employer how long it takes you to get a degree.


is it risky employment-wise to take 5-6 years to finish a degree?

In the many years that I've been reviewing resumes and hiring, I've never once cared how long it took to finish a degree - I've only cared that it has actually been achieved.

Be concerned with other parts of your resume, and if they fit the model for the job you are trying to get, but don't worry about the duration of your studies.

  • They may not even care if you have the degree. I went seven years and never got the degree. In my thirty year career only one prospective employer has ever pitched a fit about me not having a diploma, and they offered me the job anyway. Apr 22 '14 at 16:04

I got a BS in Electrical Engineering the "normal" way, taking four years to complete my courses and graduate. I then got a full-time job, and immediately realized a lot of the hardware logic I was designing could be handled by a computer program (which I knew little about).

So a year after getting my BSEE, I decided to get an MS in computer science. But now I was working full-time. Luckily, one of the universities in the area was offering all of their graduate classes both during the day and at night (not necessarily the same semester), since there was a major organization nearby (Bell Labs) that was sending a lot of students there.

It took me six years to get my MSCS, taking one course at a time. (I tried taking two at the same time, but it turned out to be too much.)

So now I list my two degrees, with completion dates seven years apart. No one has ever asked me how long it took me to complete either of my degrees, they just are interested that I have them and they came from good schools.

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