Enhance your CV by learning how to present your degree professionally

You're hungry to enter the world of work, keen to get stuck in and progress in your career right from the start. But you're either part way through your degree, or you started a degree but didn't finish it… for whatever reason. Should you add an unfinished degree to your CV or not?

Let's look at this conundrum in more detail, as there are two main scenarios here - either you just haven't completed it yet but you're nearly there, or you started a degree but never actually finished it.

Should I put university on my CV if I dropped out?

The answer to this is - it depends. It needs to be on a case-by-case basis. Whereas on the one hand, you want to show that you reached this level of education, on the other hand, if you dropped out because you couldn't hack it or failed the course, it's not going to show you in a very good light.

These are the things to consider when deciding whether to put an unfinished degree on your CV if you left college before completing the qualification. The key here is to make it clear. This is important for recruiters as it shows a level of transparency, as well as providing context if there are any gaps within your education section.

Justified reasons

If you had to drop out of your course for a justified reason, then it's worth including your unfinished degree on the CV - especially if the degree dovetails with your choice of job. A simple and truthful explanation on your CV as to why you had to stop will suffice. You can go into more detail, if necessary, in the cover letter.

These justified reasons could be:

  • Your health - if you've suffered from a health problem, whether that's physical or mental, this can put your academic journey on hold

  • Family commitments - giving up college to care for a family member will show your empathy and caring nature

  • Financial concerns - struggling to be able to afford university fees is another valid reason for having to stop midway through your degree

  • A switch in professional goals - you might realise that the course you started wasn't right for you and a change of path, before it's too late, is the way to go

Unjustified reasons

These reasons below conjure up a more delicate situation, as they point towards a lack of commitment, decision-making, and dependability.

Three unjustified reasons are:

  • You failed the course - if you didn't pass the required exams and had to leave, this shows you weren't up to the task of reaching a certain academic level

  • You were expelled - for whatever reason this was, it won't do you any favours to put this on your CV

  • You lost interest - if you decided to abandon your degree just because you lost interest, this is another red flag to a prospective employer as it shows a lack of dedication and following through on long-term plans

If you did have to drop out of college for any of the above reasons, it's advised not to include your unfinished degree on your CV.

Top tip: Focus the CV on your other attributes, experience, and school or college qualifications

Formatting an unfinished degree on your CV

Now that you have an idea of whether to include your unfinished degree on your CV or not, let's turn towards the best way in which to present it and what details you need to include.

What to include

  • The subject of the degree i.e. what course you're taking, such as Applied Languages, Marine Engineering, or Physiotherapy

Example: BA (Hons) in Applied Languages

  • The name of your university or further education college

Example: Manchester Metropolitan University or Gloucestershire College

  • Expected date of completion, if you intend to complete the degree

Example: Due to complete in Jul 2025

  • A justified reason if you had to stop your degree part way through

Example: Paused degree to look after a family member who required immediate support

  • Any modules or coursework you finished to show the study you've undertaken

Example: Completed modules in Statistics, Linear Algebra & Geometry and Differential Equations

  • Added value such as awards, honours, or transferable skills that you've picked up during your time at university

Example: Demonstrated problem-solving attributes, teamwork, and collaborative communication

How to format an unfinished degree on your CV

  • Start with the title of your degree course, then the name of the university, and then the date you will finish in brackets

  • Use bullet points underneath to highlight any extra detail, such as your reason for not completing the degree, awards, modules, and skills


BA (Hons) in Economics & Accountancy, Sheffield Hallam University (due to complete in 2025)

  • Predicted 2:1

  • Modules: Professional Skills in Economics, Intermediate Microeconomics, Management Accounting Applications, Maths for Economics, Introduction to Macroeconomics, Financial Accounting and Management Accounting

Top tip: Make it very clear from the start if you haven't completed a degree and don't intend to in the future.

Unfinished degree on a CV - examples

That's the theory nailed. Now let's look at some practical ways in which you can add an unfinished degree on your CV, with the following examples:

Degree in progress

This one is for an undergraduate who is currently pursuing a degree in Psychology, getting ahead of the game by applying for psychology-related jobs before finishing the degree. Note how the student has incorporated the full title of the degree, the dissertation title, and all modules, to add weight to theoretical study. Adding in the word '”ongoing” proves that the undergraduate is still in the process of completing this higher education course, so although it's an unfinished degree on the CV, it won't be for long!

BSc (Hons) in Psychology, University of Newcastle (ongoing)

  • Dissertation: The Effects of Social Media Snack Adverts on Hunger & Purchase Intention

  • Year 3 Modules: Obesity & Appetite Regulation, Psychology of Pain, Psychological Issues in Ageing, The Psychology of Health and Forensic & Investigative Psychology

  • Year 2 Modules: Lifespan Development Health & Wellbeing (74%), Clinical & Forensic Psychology (66%), Psychobiology & Motivation (64%), and Cognitive Neuroscience (57%) 

Incomplete degree on CV

This student is being totally honest about why they didn't finish their degree. While including detail in your CV that your degree isn't complete is not ideal, at least it shows that you were capable of reaching that standard until circumstances outside of your control waylaid your plans. If that's the case, in a cover letter, you can turn this to your advantage by focusing on your flexibility and adaptation to change.

BA (Hons) in English, University of the West England (2022-2023)

  • Completed a year before taking time out due to ill health

  • Modules completed: Middle English Texts, Exploring Languages & Cultures, 20th Century American Novels and Creative Writing

Degree in progress, with expected finish date and prediction

This student has added in a prediction, as well as an expected finishing date, so the reader has a clear idea of what level of degree is expected when their education comes to an end and the start of work begins. Instead of including modules, the candidate has highlighted further skills acquired during academic achievement.

BEng (Hons) in Engineering, predicted 1st class, University of Nottingham (due to finish May 2024)

  • Organised and headed up seminars of up to two hours for 20 peers

  • Comfortable with statistical analyses by applying SPSS Statistics

Key takeaways

  • Make it clear that you haven't finished your degree

  • Set it out in a clear way so it isn't misleading

  • Give a reason for an unfinished degree, if it's justified

Once you've finished your degree, check out TopCV's post on how to write a graduate CV that will get you noticed.

Any questions about how to craft your first CV can be answered within the TopCV's blogs. There are so many to choose, from overall perspectives, such as the correct format to use, right down to the nitty gritty, like how to list your complete educational progressUse our free CV review to get started on your road to success.

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