31

If someone has just got his diploma, usually his resume will contain very few actual work experience in his field. Most student jobs are not in your field of work, so they are barely relevant to a resume. The only purpose of putting them there is to show you do work, not to show off any relevant skills (except interpersonal skills or generic skills like being reliable).

So when you leave university to look for your full-time job, your education on your resume is significant.

How significant is the time you needed to complete your studies?

For example, if you studied in a program that usually takes 6 semesters (3 years), and you failed a few classes, you might have taken 4 years instead of 3. If you were working part-time during school, you might have done fewer classes per semester, and thus needed 4 or 5 years to complete it.

On the other hand, if you took extra classes and summer classes, and ended up doing it in only 2 years, this is also a big difference.

I always put the dates (just the years) of everything I did on my resume. If I add the dates I was in university, will it be a red flag to have done it faster or slower than expected?

I could imagine en employer being cautious of someone who needed 2 extra years to get his diploma, but I could also imagine an employer seeing this as proof that this person doesn't give up or something. The same goes for shorter duration, I could see it going both ways.

So how significant is the duration on your resume, and specifically is shorter always good or bad? What about longer? Should you leave out the dates completely in some cases to avoid hurting your case?

  • 18
    You answered this question yourself. Some prospective employers will see it as a positive others will see it as a negative. – Mister Positive Aug 28 '17 at 15:20
  • 1
    Yep. Joe Strazzere provided an excellent answer for you. – Mister Positive Aug 28 '17 at 15:24
  • 1
    I interview almost every prospective developer at our company. I wouldn't really care if a 4 year degree took you 5, 6, 7, 8 years. Maybe you were going part-time because that's how you could afford to go; maybe you had a kid during your academic years and had to stop going momentarily, etc. The most it would realistically harm you is if I ask you why it took you so long and you didn't really have a good answer. – Lil' Bits Aug 28 '17 at 19:03
  • 1
    Here in the US, the concept of getting a college degree in the traditional 4 years is pretty much dead. An example near me is California State University, Fullerton, which graduates 16.5% of its students in 4 years, 51% in 6 years. There is a variety of reasons for this, including work, unpreparedness for college, and a lack of seats in required classes at public schools. If I were your prospective employer, I would not care at all about the time it took, but I would want to see, for example, whether you failed every course in your major the first time you attempted it. – Ben Crowell Aug 29 '17 at 0:16
  • 1
    Be aware that this is very country specific. It is almost unheard of in the UK to take other than the standard time for a given degree (usually three for a Bachelor's and four for a Master's, but some Bachelor's degrees have a one-year industrial placement in them). Pretty much the only exception is if you study for a part-time degree through the Open University (and anyone who does that is really dedicated and hard-working). – Martin Bonner Aug 29 '17 at 9:18
67

So how significant is the duration on your resume, and specifically is shorter always good or bad? What about longer? Should you leave out the dates completely in some cases to avoid hurting your case?

In most cases in my experience, it's not significant at all.

If you attain the degree, it doesn't matter if it took 4, 6, or 2 years to do so. Some of us took even longer, attaining degrees through part-time education on nights and weekends while working full-time.

A few employers will be looking for graduates from specific schools and in a specific number of years. A few employers might be impressed a little bit if you took less than the normal amount of time to complete a degree.

But in general, it's not worth worrying about either way. Many other factors overwhelm the "number of years" attribute when assessing a potential candidate.

  • 1
    If you were working full-time during the degree, wouldn't you expect this employment to also be on the resume with overlapping dates? – Kaito Kid Aug 28 '17 at 15:28
  • Not to mention if you can't get student loans you don't have a CHOICE but to work through it to pay not just for the school but you have to continue to eat and be warm and clothed and showered during it. – corsiKa Aug 28 '17 at 23:23
  • 12
    Speaking as someone who has reviewed resumes and given interviews for hiring (for software development positions), I probably wouldn't have even noticed how many years it took. I'm not going over resumes with a fine-toothed comb. (I don't have time for that, maybe an HR department does). I'm looking for what I care about and number of years it took you to complete your degree is not one of those things. – Derek Elkins Aug 29 '17 at 2:13
  • @corsiKa I think you're assuming a country, in some countries in Europe you will still get funding and no fees. Sure you can do some work and finance a bit more but it's not that gruesome. I spend 8 years on my bachelors working part time. Was great, sometimes people ask and I'll just mention I've been working and didn't put enough effort in my studies due to work. – Mathijs Segers Aug 29 '17 at 12:27
  • Also a shorter than usual duration might raise suspicions: a friend of mine, who completed her degree in a much shorter than usual time, when applying abroad was told that they first did not want to talk to her because they thought she did not meet the prerequisites for the job. The only thing that saved her the job was a common contact, who knew both education systems and thus was able to convince them that the short duration of her studies was not a sign of an insufficient degree (e.g. bachelor, where master was required). – Johanna Aug 30 '17 at 5:26
23

It should not be listed on a resume what-so-ever. Education should contain the following information:

  • Name of institution
  • location (if needed)
  • Type of degree earned (MS, BA, etc...)
  • Major and minor(s). Certificates if appropriate.
  • Date degree earned (month and year)

That is it. If you are soon expecting to graduate, you might change the date degree earned to something like "Expected June 2018".

Given that it should not be listed when a program is started length of time is irrelevant. Also I do not list my AA degree as it was just a path leading to my BS.

The other part of your post points to the importance of internships. As you rightly said your part time job in college suggests a work ethic, but relevant experience is more important. Often they also lead to full time work or scholarships to further studies.

  • 6
    If you leave the workforce to attend school, but decline to specify the time spent in education, you run the risk of that appearing as an unexplained gap in employment history, which some would say is worse than the educational program taking longer than "normal". Additionally, some online applications and job posting sites require beginning and ending dates for things like that. – Juggerbot Aug 28 '17 at 17:38
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere or is it? Is it really relevant when I got my degree? You already say how many years of experience you have, it seems to me that even the completion date is irrelevant. – tfrascaroli Aug 29 '17 at 10:43
  • @JoeStrazzere thank you. That means something coming from a guy like you. – Pete B. Aug 29 '17 at 11:14
  • I would tend to agree with this approach but if a person did something particularly note-worthy like "completed a 4 year degree in 2 years" it might be worth mentioning in italics underneath the information you've listed. Probably won't sway many recruiters but it's doubtful it would hurt. – DanK Aug 29 '17 at 12:52
  • Still you need to mention your time at the university/whatsoever in your CV. – Do Re Aug 30 '17 at 11:48
7

i tell you my point of view as someone who was in the position of taking 2 years extra:

  • i graduated as an electrical engineer B.Sc. in Germany
  • i had like 10 interviews out of 12 applications
  • noone asked about my grade or what courses i took. i didn't even send my grade with my application
  • all of them asked me to tell my lifestory after normal school. maybe 3 asked why it took so long in university. i simply told the truth before and after the question (including my current employer)
  • i got 4 job offers

I think the time you needed plays a smaller part as you might think. As for dates i would include year and month of beginning and end of employment

4

Longer:

In my experience some employers will notice and might ask for a reason, others won't.

If they do ask, an explanation is worth a lot. They want to know if you were lazy or had a reason (caring for a relative, working to finance your studies, going abroad, a difficult university, extra classes ...). If you can convince the employer that you didn't spend your time in the sun or a bar instead of studying, you're fine.

Shorter: Some will think you should have taken extra classes or whatever, others will think it proves that you are intelligent/motivated. In most cases it should not be perceived as negative.

  • I perceive "shorter" as an indication that they might have done the absolute minimum required to attain the degree and left out everything that is optional. My technical interview questions would then aim at finding out if this is the case. – Simon Richter Aug 28 '17 at 19:34
  • @SimonRichter I know some people have that opinion. At my university in most of the harder fields shorter would mean that you are really really good - and almost everyone who does something extra needs more time. – DonQuiKong Aug 28 '17 at 19:49
4

As others have pointed out most employers won't care about how long it took. However for entry level positions they're likely to ask for a transcript. From that they can see how long it took you to complete your degree. If you failed and had to retake a number of courses that would be outed there.

I know someone who was advised midway through schooling to change her major in A to a related major in B because she'd failed enough courses specific to A that even if all of them were retaken with high grades her transcript would make her nearly unemployable in A. I don't know if it was relevant or not, but working in A would have required a degree of vetting and bureaucratic scrutiny significantly higher than is needed with B.

1

It strongly depends on a balance of factors.

  • Edge case 1: The perfect candidate completed his diploma in the shortest time with full marks
  • Edge case 2: red flags will raise on a candidate took 12 years for diploma with minimum marks

In the middle there are people who failed a couple of classes, people who worked during academic time, people who were sick, in need to assist sick relatives, or carrying a handicap affecting the ability to complete classes in time.

From what I can see in the question, and excluding people who complete in less than the expected years, I find nothing that could raise a red flag on your resume. It can be an opportunity for your to train your self-selling skills not to "justify why you took so long" but rather to focus the attention on what really matters, e.g. on your actual skills, non-academic work, etc.

Really, if a couple of more years did matter, a lot of people would find a hard time seeking for a first occupation.

1

I can tell you what I look for, and that is "holes".

If you took 8 years to earn a "2 year" degree, but there was employment the entire time, then I wouldn't care.

If you took three years to earn a six year degree but there was a year of nothing between then and now, I would want to know about the year of nothing.

Essentially, the time taken doesn't matter. So long as it doesn't appear that you were "slacking".

For example a 2 year degree in 8 years, with no other employment would make me ask why, but if you said "I stayed home to take care of the kids and did school at night." That's a big plus.

Again it's not about the time it took, it's about a big gap that looks like you did nothing but couch surf.

If I see Graduated High-school in 2000, Got AS degree in 2017. I will want to know why. Specially if there is no work listed between 2000 and 2017. But there are plenty of good answers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.