My friend has recently finished her PhD, and is now looking for a job, probably outside of academia. In the mean while, she is planning to apply for a temporary, simple admin job to make ends meet while she looks for a better job. Since the admin job does not require a PhD (or even a Bachelor's degree), she is planning to omit her PhD from her resume. However, doing that will result in a gap in her resume. Hence, she plans to write that she has 4 years of working experience, working as researcher in a laboratory (nothing to indicate that she has a PhD). My question is: is this ethical? Can you "convert" a PhD education to work experience in your resume?

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    I think this question is more suitable for workplace.stackexchange.com. But I do not think that presenting a PhD as work experience is unethical: in many countries a PhD is (also offically) seen as work. – Louic Jun 8 at 5:40
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    "working as researcher in a laboratory" Employers are not stupid. They will suspect immediately that this was a PhD position, in particular once they know who owns this laboratory. My assumption would be that this person failed the PhD. – Roland Jun 8 at 5:52
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    @Roland It is very unlikely that an employes for an "admin job oustide academia" will assume that lab work equals a PhD (even in academia most informed people know that plenty of lab workers do not have PhDs), and it is even more unlikely that they know who owns the laboratory. – Louic Jun 8 at 7:04
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    Your friend should expect that her/his "creativity" when writing the CV will come out eventually. Employers don't like to be lied to, this includes lies by omission. Regardless, of ethical consideration, your friend should expect repercussions eventually if she/he gets the job. – Maarten Buis Jun 8 at 7:46
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    @henning my friend says she often gets the question on why she does a PhD, and she is tired of answering them. – Jean Diharo Jun 8 at 8:12

I would say it's perfectly reasonable to omit some information. I looked through hundreds of resumes and conducted dozens of interviews. Every person has a diverse set of interests and experiences and you need to mention only the relevant ones. I would say it is even helpful. To exaggerate, if you try to work as a software engineer, you don't need to mention the student summer job as a boy scout leader. As of the Ph.D. - the goal is to teach you to make the research by practicing it. If she managed to finish the Ph.d., she is definitely published some works, so, she did do some research work successfully.

If she would say she has the Ph.D. when she's not, then it's another story and would be totally unethical. But in described case everything's totally fine.

  • Thanks for your reply! I guess I did not phase my question clearly, my friend wrote her PhD under the working experience section in the resume, instead of the education section. Strictly speaking, she was not 'employed' by the university, she was a student there. Will this be fine? – Jean Diharo Jun 10 at 1:43
  • See, there are two sides -- practical and legal. Legally the mileage may vary, as if she didn't formally have an assistant or researcher position, in some cases/countries it wouldn't count as a work experience. Practically, the CV is not a legal document, it's a way of communicating your previous work history to a future partner. And as the work of post-doc and good PhD student is very similar, it's a minor detail for the employer from the other fields. – Kirill Fedyanin Jun 10 at 12:05
  • And as @Louic mentioned before, the PhD in many countries (i.e. Germany, Norway, Netherlands) is considered a full-time job in the first place. Bottom line -- I don't see a big problem here if your friend believe it would fit as a job experience better. – Kirill Fedyanin Jun 10 at 12:05

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