Is it a lie to say you earned a college degree when you didn't really get it? Even if you had enough credits but just didn't get the actual degree?
Here's a question from Jim (not his real name) who wants to know if he can tell a white lie about education on his resume.
I Didn't Lie About Education on My Resume... Yet
I have a question on how to properly list my academic level. I went to a four-year university and received over 135 credit hours. My degree plan required 130 hours, and of the 135 hours that I completed, 124 counted toward my degree plan.
I was recruited by a company prior to my graduation and never finished the remaining six hours of electives. Also, I've moved out of state and cannot go back and finish these classes.
Now that I have left the company that hired me as a college graduate, I'm wondering how I put this in my resume. Should I claim to be a college graduate and explain the situation when I'm in the interview? Or, do you have another suggestion? As you know, many jobs require that the applicant have a college degree.
I was very successful at my last job and worked there over six years.
The Truth About Lying on a Resume
Lying on your resume is a serious issue. I'm glad you asked your question, so we can find an honest way around it.
You didn't really lie on your first resume -- you just didn't fulfill something (your degree program) that was in progress. So don't start lying now. If you do, you're apt to get stuck with that lie for the rest of your career, or at least until you get caught.
You see, employers know that a lot of job seekers lie about their education. So, many -- not all, but many -- employers take the time to contact colleges to verify applicants' degrees.
In your case, your college records show that you haven't completed all the requirements for your degree, which means you would be lying if you listed that degree on your resume. You'd probably get caught sooner or later in your career, which could cost you a job and hurt your professional image.
So let's see how you can avoid that for the long- and short-term. Here are my thoughts:
1. Is it possible that you have enough credits for a different degree? You might contact the college to ask if that’s possible. Maybe you could officially receive the other degree and then list it honestly on your resume.
2. If you intend to finish your degree (perhaps online with your old college or through another school where you currently live), list your education in one of these ways:
Degree (near completion), Major, School, City, State
B.A. (near completion), Business Administration
Harvard College, Cambridge, MA
Degree Candidate, Major, School, City, State
B.A. Candidate, Business Administration
Harvard College, Cambridge, MA
Degree, Major, School, City, State, graduation anticipated (date)
B.A., Business Administration
Harvard College, Cambridge, MA, graduation anticipated 2008
3. If you do not plan to finish your degree in the near future, use an approach like this:
Area of Studies, School, City, State, dates
Business Administration Studies
Harvard College, Cambridge, MA, 1996-2000
Whether or not you intend to finish your degree, place your Education section near the end of your resume. That way you won't draw too much attention to the fact that you haven’t completed your program. And not matter what, please don't lie about education on your resume.