I have already seen similar questions, like this one: How to explain that my experience makes up for my lack of qualifications?, however I don't think that they fit my current situation. In my experience, some formal education in Computer Science could be too big asset to simply omit in favor of previous work experience.

I started attending a 4 year computer science degree 15 years ago, but at the start of the fourth year I started working as a software developer. By that time, I had passed about 80% of the lessons required with good grades. The lessons that I hadn't attended were mostly unrelated with the field, like physics, advanced calculus etc.

When I started working I didn't have enough time and motivation to complete my studies, since I decided that my time was better spent studying about the technologies that I worked on. I haven't regretted this decision and as I am continuously employed for the past decade and my lack of a formal degree was never an issue.

However I understand that most of the lessons that I had attended at the university gave me a broader understanding of my field and are a valuable asset. Most software developers without some kind of formal education are usually lacking in some core areas, and it is one of the first things I ask the people I interview.

On one hand I can explain my position at any interview. On the other hand I am afraid that it will have a negative impact on my resume and I may not even make it to an interview because of it.

So my question is: Should I include my time at the university on my resume, noting that I dropped out?

  • 1
    see also: How to explain why I don't have a degree
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 10:06
  • I have no problem explaining why I don't have a degree, my problem is whether mentioning my would help or hurt my case.
    – user33790
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 10:57
  • well this is covered in answers to another question, "Try to act like a mature professional...."
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 11:15
  • Why are you asking this now? You appear to have survived the last decade... Did something change for you to now care?
    – bharal
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 11:28
  • @gnat Sorry, I meant to write that my problem is whether to mention it in my written resume. I have no problem mentioning and explaining it at an interview.
    – user33790
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 11:55

4 Answers 4


For a fresh grad, might be difficult to justify dropping out on the third year, but with more than 10 years of working experience, you should consider writing a CV instead of a resume.
In CV, focus on the experience you've gained and how you would bring those experience into the new job.
If you must submit a resume, put emphasis on the job and responsibilities you've had over the degree which you did not complete. The degree should be written in a short and simple sentence. If you can't explain why you did not complete in less than 3 sentences, don't explain at all as it tends to get very wordy and ruins your resume. Instead, let them ask you on the interview then you would have all the time to explain.

Unless the company have a strict rule of
"Masters degree holder = X position",
"Bachelors degree holder = X-1 position",
"Non degree holder = Ignore"....
you should be fine with some related working experience to show for.

  • I understand what you are saying, but there in cases where I cannot downplay my education, like in my linkedin profile, would you propose that I omit it?
    – user33790
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 11:06
  • Personally I never finished my higher education either, and in my linkedin profile I simply mention the field I studied and the period I studied it for and that's all I write.
    – Cronax
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 12:12
  • As a fresh grad, that dropped, you should be also prepared for a question why you dropped.
    – ne2dmar
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 12:59

It depends what positions you are applying for.

If you are a web programmer, you'll get away with not knowing a lick about data algorithms and theoretical computer science. In fact, you'll get away with not knowing a lick about how to write code that scales. In fact, when it comes to web programming, I am not even sure what you'll get away with not knowing - No, I don't think highly of web programming.

For any other type of programming, this ignorance will kill your candidacy.

  • I am interested in back end or full stack developer positions.
    – user33790
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 11:53

Don't waste much time with it but a line or two to explain what you were doing does avoid leaving a gap in your CV. I was asked about a gap in employment ten years before and struggled to explain why i'd left university at that stage in interview. I felt like if I'd just stated the name of the course and that I didn't complete the course I could have avoided this completely.


Like it or not, there are many companies that apply the "has a college degree" test as one of the first criteria for filtering applicants. For such companies, you really don't stand much of a chance, unfortunately. Your best hope is to know someone there who is respected and influential and can advocate for you. Sometimes the red tape is flimsy and you can get past the first filter that way.

For other companies, you should try to find out their views on a completed education. It's a part of the research you should to as you find out about the company. You may or may not be able to find out much, but you should try. For those who value education but do not immediately disqualify candidates based on lack of a completed degree, you should include your education on your resume, stating the area of study and the years you spent. Note also any special projects, internships, awards, etc., just like you would with a completed degree.

If you don't know whether a company values a completed degree, then go ahead and include your education experience. Let them make the call whether you meet their expectations. Be sure to be completely honest, and never leave the impression that you have a degree. Answer honestly the minute it comes up, even if it's when you show up for your first day of work.

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