I have a Ph.D. in English.

I've worked as an adjunct for 30 years, and after having not been hired at my last interview, I think it's time to look for something different.

My Ph.D. is now an albatross.

Am I legally required to include my Ph.D. on applications? resumes? What happens if I pretend it's not there?

I think I can find a job which lives up to my M.A., but I'm not going to search for a job which requires a Ph.D.

Can it be my little secret?

  • what type of job are you trying to apply for?
    – enderland
    Jul 26, 2017 at 23:39
  • I have a PhD and people has warned me about the possible harm of it in job seeking. In practice, I haven't seen a single instance where it has been a downside.
    – angarg12
    Jul 27, 2017 at 8:24
  • 1
    If you are looking for a job in an closely related field, it might be a negative if you are deemed "overqualified." If you are taking up IT network engineering, no one is going to care about your English PhD, except maybe they will be worried about being critiqued on the quality of their email and text communications. Jul 27, 2017 at 15:43
  • Keep in mind that if you got your PhD at the same Uni as any of your other degrees, the employer could find out while checking your background.
    – David K
    Jul 28, 2017 at 11:54
  • I don't know of any standard I have ever heard of that forces you to list a specific education or training level achieved. The issue you may run into is when you get down to brass tacks, and have to fill out an application that asks "highest level of education achieved". In this case you must be honest IMHO.
    – Neo
    Jul 28, 2017 at 12:33

3 Answers 3


Am I legally required to include my Ph.D. on applications? resumes?

You don't need to include your PhD on your resume. You can omit anything you like.

But if you apply for a government job and they ask if you have a PhD, answering "No" could get you in trouble.

What happens if I pretend it's not there?

Most likely nothing happens.

On the other hand your degree could turn up in a background check. At that point you might be asked why you are hiding one of your degrees. That could be an awkward discussion.

I think I can find a job which lives up to my M.A., but I'm not going to search for a job which requires a Ph.D. Can it be my little secret?

It's okay by me.

I think you are asking if you can get away with omitting your PhD. And most likely you can. But as I explained above, your secret could be revealed through a background check.

  • seems unlikely for a bg check - they're usually only checking for criminal activity or bankruptcy, not academic achievements.
    – bharal
    Jul 27, 2017 at 8:18
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    I'd expect that the PhD would be hard to find, because a background checker (a) isn't looking for it, and (b) you could have got it anywhere. If they check that your PhD at university XYZ is real, there's only one university to ask. Much easier.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 27, 2017 at 9:05

I don't think the PhD is an albatross, but rather indicative of your previous career. After/during completing your PhD, you taught English for thirty years and derived a lot of satisfaction from it. Now you are looking for other opportunities. Improving your confidence and getting your cv into the right hands will improve your chances far more than doctoring any of the details of the cv itself.

While you're not required to list education or experience, especially if it's not relevant, I think a PhD in English is relevant as professional training which led to your career as an adjunct. Finding a tenured position in that field is well known to be very difficult, so own your choices and include it as relevant experience.

  • You're not wrong but I don't think it's a good answer, for the question is "Can I hide my Ph.D." and not "Should I hide my Ph.D."
    – sh5164
    Jul 27, 2017 at 7:52
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    @sh5164 I dunno, there's sort of an implicit expectation on this site that if you ask how to do X, and we think X is a terrible idea, we will tell you. Usually because what you actually want is Y, and you're only asking about X because you think it will help get you Y. As in this case.
    – Kaz
    Jul 27, 2017 at 8:12
  • @sh5164 You're also not wrong. Although I did state that he could "hide it" by not listing it. Jul 27, 2017 at 9:00
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    You worked as adjunct for 30 years, I personally would wonder why you didn't have a PhD if I saw your resume. That would make me feel less likely to interview you.
    – HLGEM
    Jul 27, 2017 at 14:11

Firstly, it would depend on the type of jobs that you are applying for. If you are applying for book editor positions with publishing companies, I don't see how including a PhD in English on your application might harm you. Instead, if you are applying for jobs that are totally unrelated to your degree, I would leave it off the application since you obtained the degree so long ago. I don't think omitting this would constitute a lie. I would chose on a case by case basis, based on the type of job you are applying to.

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