How to List an Unfinished Degree on Your Resume

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

When you’re working on a college degree or withdrew before graduating, you may wonder how to list an unfinished degree in the resume education section. Learn more about how to handle this situation to optimize your resume.

[Featured Image] A woman sitting at a laptop learns how to list her unfinished degree on her resume.

If you’ve attended college but not graduated, you may wonder how to list an incomplete degree on your resume. You may think it’s best to leave it out, especially if it’s not needed for the position you’re applying for, but employers are interested in what you studied, even if you didn’t complete a degree program.

This article explores ways to craft the education section of a resume if you haven’t finished a degree program. We’ll examine how to position your education to highlight the coursework relevant to the position you're applying for. 

What are employers looking for in a resume? 

A resume tells prospective employers about your work experience, education, and skills. A resume helps an employer determine how you’ll fit into the position and the company itself. It’s a brief overview, typically one or two pages, that describes the following:

  • Summary of your strengths and career objectives 

  • Work experience 

  • Education

  • Additional information, such as awards, skills, and interests

Your resume should include all the information an employer needs to ensure you have the qualifications necessary for the position and schedule an interview. 

Why is listing your education on your resume important? 

Your education gives potential employers an idea about the skills you may have. Although it is only one of the factors that hiring managers look at, it’s essential to remember that your resume is your introduction to prospective employers and a critical tool to help you get an interview if you meet the qualifications they seek. Employers want to ensure your education aligns with the position. Education can also substitute for a lack of work experience. 

Even if you’ve only taken some college courses, list the ones related to the job you're applying for. Doing so helps prospective employers see that you have gained relevant skills and knowledge. It’s especially beneficial if you’ve never worked in the field or have little experience. 

College coursework shows prospective employers that you may need minimal training. If the courses you completed match the required skills, it can save the employer the time and cost of training.

How to list an unfinished degree on your resume 

It’s vital to phrase things positively and honestly on your resume. Whether you’ve withdrawn from college, changed majors that delayed your graduation date, or are working toward an undergraduate degree, word the education section of a resume positively. Replace words such as “incomplete” or “unfinished” with action-oriented words like “accomplished” and “demonstrated” to highlight your education.

If you are attending college but haven’t finished your program or left and have no immediate plans to return, you should list any relevant coursework and the year or years you attended. 

Many employers use the National Student Clearinghouse to verify college attendance, so you should be honest about your education. You likely won’t get an interview if the information doesn’t match. Before applying for jobs, you can request your information from the Clearinghouse to ensure its accuracy.  

You may need to tailor your resume’s education section each time you apply to a position to meet the specific employer’s requirements. Some information is standard; however, you can tailor your education to include coursework relevant to the position. 

List school and degree program title.

First, list the school you attended and the degree program title. You only need to list your high school education if a specific course relates to the position you’re seeking. For example, if you’re applying for a job requiring Spanish fluency and took four years of Spanish in high school, you’ll want to add it to your resume. 

Include the expected completion date.

If you currently attend college, include your expected completion date. If you withdrew, note the number of credits earned, the enrolled program, and the years attended. 

You can highlight your college experience by listing relevant courses, internships, or honors received while attending. You might want to add your GPA. Many employers in technical fields want to know prospective employees' GPAs, while other employers might not find it as significant as other qualifications.

Include relevant majors and minors.

You’ll want to list any majors and minors. You can specify courses you took that are relevant to the position and your major GPA if you feel it will reflect favorably on your performance. You should list your major first, followed by your minor. You can also include relevant coursework and any extracurricular activities you participated in if you lack work experience.

Include professional development. 

If you lack academic requirements, you can add any job training you received and workshops and seminars you’ve attended. If you’re attending college, you can also opt to list activities you engage in that are relevant to the job you’re applying for or the skills employers seek.

Include any relevant projects.

If you worked on any school or work projects related to the position you’re seeking, add them to the education section. This is also an excellent opportunity to share the link to your online portfolio of projects if you have one. 

An example education section with an unfinished degree

You’ll want to add the information to your education section if you have college credits but not a degree. You can write it as follows:

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Completed 64 credit hours toward a BS in computer science, 2018 - 2020. 

You should include related coursework and any other academic information, such as honors and certificates. Some colleges offer micro-credentials and other certificate programs that can boost the education section of your resume.

Other factors to consider 

The resume template you choose will dictate where you’ll list your education. Many templates are available for specific disciplines, such as nursing, education, technology, and the arts. Some templates lead with the education section, so if you haven’t completed a degree program, you might consider beginning with experience and adding education at the end.

If the coursework you completed or the degree program you’re enrolled in isn’t related to the position you’re applying for, consider moving the education section at the end of your resume. Begin relevant details that help highlight your unique qualifications for the position.  

Get started with Coursera.

Having a degree is only one aspect of what employers are looking for. Crafting an effective resume that shows potential employers all you have to offer is an essential component of applying for a job. You can find several helpful options on Coursera to help you improve your resume writing skills. 

For example, the State University of New York offers a seven-module course on How to Write a Resume you can complete in approximately five hours. Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters, offered by the University of Maryland, College Park, is a 12-hour course that can help you hone your writing skills while earning a certificate to add to your resume. 

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.