In Ontario, Canada. I'm feeling like I'm doomed after reading multiple articles online regarding an unfinished masters as a black mark of death.

So, like many other students, I have not flourished in the graduate environment the way that I did when I was in my undergrad. I should have done more scoping, and did think about quitting one year in, but was persuaded by my successful partner (who finished his masters and is now in his PhD) to stay in it and just work harder.

Despite my internal screaming and misery, I stayed. I finished my coursework but struggled quite a bit with the thesis. I think I can admit the worst to myself at this point and say that I will not be able to defend my thesis in time to receive the degree. I also took all available extensions (making it three years instead of two).

During the degree however I gained experience as a graduate assistant (helping a prof mark, doing test stats, and meeting with students), supervised undergraduate students on a project, and helped to create/teach a class with my supervisor. I have also completed two contracts with an employment agency, gaining "real world" experience.

Is there anyway that I can highlight all those positive and enriching experiences, or at least have a decent chance at having my CV/resume considered by employers despite this?

  • 1
    Sorry, but this question seems to be about gaining employment (in a non-academic career), not about academia. A bunch of students + professors are not really the right people to answer this.
    – ff524
    Sep 1, 2017 at 15:55
  • 3
    Does your supervisor agree that you will not be able to defend? It may be that you can severely reduce the scope and have something that will be acceptable, or maybe it is impossible at this point. Your supervisor is more likely to have a objective, experienced opinion. Sep 1, 2017 at 15:55
  • My communication with my supervisor has been very sparse and I have, very largely, been left to my own devices. Given the deadline to submit marks is later this month and my committee has not yet received the finished thesis for review, I know that my degree will be incomplete.
    – StatNoob1
    Sep 1, 2017 at 16:31
  • what do you mean by GA?
    – DarkCygnus
    Sep 1, 2017 at 16:53
  • 1
    Sorry, graduate assistantship. Basically working with a professor on their class doing marking and meeting with students.
    – StatNoob1
    Sep 1, 2017 at 16:57

1 Answer 1


Is there anyway that I can highlight all those positive and enriching experiences, or at least have a decent chance at having my CV/resume considered by employers despite this?

I am afraid that including a degree you have not finished may not be beneficial to your resume or applications. Although "black mark of death" is quite strong, it is undeniable that this can cause a bad impression to your possible employer.

However, the experience you gained during your masters is indeed something valuable. You could include that experience without having to mention that you already obtained the degree, something like:

Academic Experience:

  • Supervised Undergraduate students projects, for the Course of [...]. Jan, 2016 - Nov, 2016

  • Teacher Assistant for the Course of [...] imparted by prof. [...]. Jan, 2017 - Jul, 2017

... etc.

Whatever you do, do not include your masters as the educational degrees you have obtained. It would not be professional to falsify the contents of your CV or resume. Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Listing educational experience you don't intend to finish is equally as bad as listing it claiming you had finished it. So list the positves (teacher assistant). If you do make it known you were a degree seeking student make sure it's clear you no longer are one.
    – Donald
    Sep 1, 2017 at 21:30

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