I know some potential employers in the IT/Development field think that quitting shows I can't get stuff done and chicken out on difficult tasks.

The truth is I quit because I got a job during my third semester and was thus unable to attend the lectures and some of the classes. That caused me to fail some classes and repeat some semesters. After some time I decided that studying is limiting my possibilities and does not let me pursue my personal projects and some freelance jobs that I wanted to do.

All in all I think I'm a worthy employee and no worse than people with BSc degrees. How big a problem is being a dropout? What can I do to avoid my CV is being ignored just because I'm a dropout?

  • see also: How to explain why I don't have a degree
    – gnat
    Feb 11, 2015 at 14:54
  • 8
    Frankly of everything, this phrase bothers me the most - "no worse than people with BSc degrees". You have to be better, not just a little better but a lot better to make up for no degree.
    – HLGEM
    Feb 11, 2015 at 20:07
  • 1
    I got a full time, professional programming job after only 2 semesters of college and I dropped out two or three semesters later. So far I don't feel I've been hindered by my lack of a degree but I do think it will become a bit more of an issue if I try to pursue a managerial position in the near future. I think the more experience you have on the job, the less important a degree is but there are always companies or positions that do highly encourage if not outright require a degree. If you don't feel you're being hindered by not having a degree, then don't worry about it right now. Feb 11, 2015 at 21:50
  • 1
    Why don't you do full time free lance and part time degree. Since you enjoyed so much doing personal project and freelance. Get a Degree, It will help you in getting a permanent job. A degree is only a ticket for the interview. Never allow a situation where your boss would say, we can't promote you as this position requires a degree or a master(rare case but it does happen). Unless you plan to open your own company soon. In that case you set your own rules. Feb 12, 2015 at 9:04
  • 1
    @KL The point is, without actually investing the time and money to employ you and "competitor X" they have to go by what information they have. So if it's "These two seem equally good, but one dropped out of college", bad luck. Hence you have to make it "This one dropped out of college but everything else about him is better."
    – deworde
    Feb 12, 2015 at 12:31

4 Answers 4


Like you, I left college early for a job. At first it seemed like a really good idea. I was flat broke, my grades were only so-so and, quite frankly, I wasn't exactly sure why I was even there. It wasn't until about 5 years down the road that I ran into a few brick walls.

To try and overcome these I made some tweaks to my resume. I still listed the University I attended however I left out the dates. I also left off what I was majoring in.

If I was asked a direct question such as "What did you get your degree in?" I'd be completely truthful that I did not get a degree but majored in X while steering the conversation to my experience. That said, at the time almost no one asked. Today I run my own company so it's really not an issue.

How big a problem is being a dropout?

Simply put not having a degree, any degree really, closed a LOT of doors to me. Larger companies demand that you have some kind of degree, even if it's in Underwater Basket Weaving just to get an interview unless you happen to know people. This basically means you are going to have to up your social skills and keep good contacts.

Funny story - a friend of mine got a job as a DBA. They had no previous computer experience but they did have a degree in English Lit. The company just needed to fill a spot and a degree was required..

That said, there are numerous companies that normally don't care. Startups, small businesses, etc. These are more likely to grant an interview based on your past work than to use a degree to filter people out.... unless the industry you are in is has a plethora of candidates.

Which is the real kicker. Professions can go through spurts where there are not enough "qualified" people. In those cases it's far easier to get in somewhere without that piece of paper. However they tend to pay very well and, as such, will attract more and more talent. Meaning at some point market saturation is reached and companies then move from hiring anyone they can to being able to filter out candidates because of various things like no degree, the font used on the resume is "awful", they wore the wrong tie to the interview or whatever.

Speaking of which - @JoelEtherton is absolutely right - gone are the days that you can get a decent job in IT without a degree.

My point is, if possible, go back to school now. Lots of people work their way through college; I suspect you just need to set it as the priority. It may seem like a good idea to do your own thing now and not be saddled by having to attend classes. The reality is, if you get the degree now you'll have a MUCH easier time later forging your own path instead of having so many doors closed that you'll hit a hard ceiling.

  • 2
    i really like this answer. it has, i don't know. it has passion behind it? it tells a story, a nice one, and i think is a good answer too.
    – bharal
    Feb 11, 2015 at 19:20

By asking this question, I think you've already learned that not finishing has limited your possibilities. Being a dropout is an enormous problem. I once had no degree, plenty of experience, but there came a time when everyone I was competing with had experience and a degree. So I tucked my pride away, went back and got it done.

If you want to freelance, that's all well and good, and if you can find the contracts to pull it off then good for you. But in the IT world, a degree is the price of entry these days. Gone are the days when "4 year degree or equivalent experience" actually meant something. Why should an employer look at you twice without a degree when he's probably got 4 other candidates with similar experience but they have a degree in a technical field.

Impartially this is what I see: you couldn't handle the pressure of college, you gave up, and you failed at parts of it. You decided to "do your own thing", and when you realized that wasn't working you decided to "go back to working for the man". You have no degree and some experience. Since you don't have a degree, there is no gauge to determine if you possess the fundamentals of your specific profession to be successful long term.

Ask yourself, what makes you stand out? Since you don't have a degree, you have to find some other measure to prove that you have the fundamentals and capabilities. In software development this means a portfolio. Not just any portfolio will do. It has to be extensive, replete with very complex projects and skills usage. It has to have public code, accessible demos, and it has to be described on your CV in metrics that can translate into winning numbers for a potential employer.

Most employers have an HR department that already scrubs resumes/CVs for a degree before even moving to the next chain. To bypass this you'll need a recruiter either in the company or contracted with the company. You'll need to network and connect with people who can/will vouch personally for your capabilities. Without a degree, human connection is the only way to get past that first hurdle and put your CV into the hands of the guy who really needs to read it.

My recommendation to you, though, is go back and finish it. You've obviously done a good portion of it. Just put your excuses away and get it done. Personally, someone who dropped out, got some experience, then figured out a way to just get it done is so much more valuable than someone who simply got their degree in the allotted time. Employers want individuals who know how to overcome adversity. If you can do that, you'll have no problem getting past the first barrier.

  • 6
    "Objectively this is what I see: you couldn't handle the pressure of college" -- no, subjectively you suspect that he couldn't handle the pressure of college. You don't know how good that job was he took instead ;-) Feb 11, 2015 at 17:23
  • @SteveJessop: You're right. Objective is the wrong term here. The intent I'm going for is more for impartiality. (and yes, this edit came an hour after originally posting to correct something really, really stupid) Feb 11, 2015 at 18:23
  • Also, OP will almost certainly never work in a major bank without a degree.
    – bharal
    Feb 11, 2015 at 18:28

How to mitigate the negative effect of quitting college in my CV?

It depends on the company. The best thing I've found is to be undeniably awesome. IT tends to be a meritocracy in ideals if not in practice. Giving your hiring manager a chance to show those ideals is a great hook.

To help try and bypass HR, I do not explicitly call out that I did not finish college. I just have the colleges, the major and the dates.

I know some potential employers in the IT/Development field think that quitting shows I can't get stuff done and chicken out on difficult tasks.

Yes, that is absolutely true.

How big a problem is being a dropout?

A significant one.

Even now, some 15 years into my career, not having a degree has closed doors on me. Some HR departments will not even consider me for positions, both in hiring and for promotions. I've spent the majority of my career making 10-40% less than my degree'd peers.

What can I do to avoid my CV's being ignored just because I'm a dropout?

You can get a degree. You can not send your CV to people (by having a long term job or starting your own business). You could lie on your resume (not recommended).

Realistically, there will always be people/companies that value the paper and will ignore you. Having a good personal network can help mitigate that, but it will not eliminate it.


If your are looking for a solution. Here are some tips used by some of my colleagues.

  • Do certifications: This will help to shadow you college drop issue.
  • Add you first 2 semester in your resume highlighting as completed successfully with grades.
  • Do complete your Degree. Even if it is distance learning.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .