My job entails speaking with job seekers daily about the ways in which they can optimize their resumes to generate more responses from employers. A common concern my colleagues and I hear is what to do if you don’t have a degree and how best to approach this on your resume. While it may be true that some professions adhere to strict guidelines or thresholds when it comes to the educational backgrounds of their potential employees, in many cases there are ways to craft a strong resume without the degree and still remain competitive with other job seekers. Here are five things individuals without a degree can do to address the problem:
- Highlight Work-Related Accomplishments: In most cases, employers are more concerned about your most recent, relevant work history over your education, particularly if you have been gainfully employed for more than five years in your field of interest. Be sure to emphasize and list your accomplishments at each position rather than just your duties. By illustrating that you have accomplishments that directly relate to the position of interest, you’ll alleviate the concerns of the hiring manager when they see you don’t have the preferred education background.
- Include Unfinished Education: A common myth says you should not include education that is unfinished or currently in progress. We recommend including this section much like you would if you had the degree, but instead of providing a year of your degree, include the phrase “Expected Degree Date: 2016”. If you went to school in the past but never returned to complete the degree, you would instead write “Earned 30 credits towards XYZ Degree”. Including partial education sections will fill a gap and may be enough to keep you in consideration for the job.
- Add Professional Courses or Development: Have you obtained career related certifications, memberships, or affiliations to develop your career further? Have you done online training or attended conferences and seminars to learn about the latest developments in your field? These are all things you can include in a “Professional Development” section on your resume. While this won’t completely replace your lack of degree, it will certainly illustrate your motivation and desire to be knowledgeable of trends in your career.
- Send the Application: The introduction to this post references that some professions can be strict when it comes to being considered for roles without the necessary education. With that being said, we still recommend submitting applications for jobs where you don’t have the desired level of education. The worst thing that can happen is getting rejected for the position, but at least you give yourself an opportunity. You never know, employers may be impressed by your relevant work history and decide to set up an interview!
- If All Else Fails, Complete the Degree: If the obstacles in your job search seem too tough to overcome without a degree, it may be time to return to school. Many programs allow you to take online courses or night classes to reach your goal and still hold temporary employment. In many cases your current employer may help foot the bill for the classes too.
Lacking a degree is certainly an obstacle, but as we’ve illustrated, it will not completely deter you from landing the job you desire. Follow the steps above, stay proactive in your search, and you’ll set yourself up for success. We wish you the best in your future career!