So, in addition to my PhD and bachelors degrees I have another advanced degree that is ultimately irrelevant (and entirely unrelated) to my research efforts and current academic discipline. Should I include this on my CV under education or not? Will it make me look less focused or simply more educated? Is it standard practice to include everything, regardless of relevance?

My understanding of the CV is that it should be specific to relevant research experience and pursuits, not necessarily complete.


This post received WAYYYY more attention than I anticipated. Some background. I completed bachelor's degrees in physics and mathematics. I then went and completed a Juris Doctor, but, found myself a bit unchallenged working with softer logic and went back to Physics. In Physics, I've mostly done mathematical physics which borders on pure mathematics and computer science. My main concern was seeming flaky and unfocused.

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    Curriculum Vitae means you should list the achievements in your lifetime, not a shortened version. Otherwise it'd be a resume :) Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 20:14
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    For what it's worth, now that you've clarified the situation, I think it's awesome that you got a JD. To my mind it makes you a more interesting person who has shown himself to have wide interests (something that is a big plus in my book). In a job/admissions context I would still evaluate you primarily for your math/physics abilities, but the JD would certainly give you some points in an orthogonal direction that still matters. With that said, I speak only for myself. Other scientists with different personalities than me may see things differently.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 4:43
  • Dan, thanks for all of the helpful comments. The only reason I didn't accept your answer is that, were I to, it would be at least partially out of disciplinary bias :). Thanks again. Hopefully you can also respond to my upcoming followup post on letters of recommendation. (You can tell I'm entering the postdoc market this year.) Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 12:47
  • Would love to hear comments on my recent post from anyone who was interested in this one. link Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 18:11
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    Michael -- no problem! I'm glad you evaluated my answer for its merits and not because you were impressed by my unrelated advanced degrees. ;-)
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 21:55

7 Answers 7


While there are some circumstances in which is it appropriate to use a "shortened" C.V. that does not include everything that you have done, I have never heard of a circumstance under which it is appropriate to omit a degree. An irrelevant degree will not hurt how your C.V. is perceived, and if it is later discovered that you omitted a degree from your C.V., it may be considered suspicious or dishonest. Furthermore, it may under some circumstances be considered a plus---you never know what kind of interesting cross-disciplinary connections somebody reading your C.V. might make in their head. I would thus advise you to include all of your degrees, even if some seem irrelevant to you.

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    This all sounds good. I would make a stronger statement than "it may under some circumstances be considered a plus", though. My own experience with a career change has been that the unrelated Bachelor's tends to impress people. Basically, if you're proud of what you did, toot your horn. Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 21:43
  • I've been told by recruiters, hiring managers, and some staff from college I attended that having any degree at all to post on a CV/resume is often beneficial, as a degree shows that you can take a long term project (2, 4, 8 years, etc) and see it through to completion. One common sentiment I've heard is "it doesn't matter if you have a degree in basketweaving, simply having a degree has value."
    – phyrfox
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 6:21
  • @phyrfox - I think that depends heavily on the industry. I'm in programming, and I've yet to meet anyone who gave a single f**k about my degree. I even interviewed at Microsoft, and they only asked me to solve tasks, no one even took notice of anything on my CV except the projects I've done.
    – Davor
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 10:38
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    @Davor are you sure HR hadn't already filtered applicants based on whether their CVs ticked boxes?
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 10:59
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    @Davor It likely depends strongly on the position that you are applying for. If you're applying for an entry-level programmer job where they just want you to be a cog in a programming machine, they probably don't care. I guarantee you, however, that Microsoft cares about advanced degrees for its higher-responsibility positions.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 12:38

I will answer with an anecdote. In my discipline (mathematics), several times while reading recommendation letters of job candidates I have seen them extol some skill or education that the candidate had in an area unrelated to mathematics. For example, on at least a couple of occasions the letter mentioned as a side remark that the candidate was an extremely gifted classically trained musician. One such candidate actually got a tenure-track offer from my department; obviously not for her music abilities, rather because she was also an excellent mathematician. However, the remarks about music abilities still left me (and probably others in my department) with a terrific impression. I think you'd be amazed how big the psychological effect (both conscious and subconscious) can be of learning that someone you are considering for a job/grad school application has impressive skills or knowledge, even about an area that is completely unrelated to your discipline. I have seen the same effect at work many times in other (more informal) situations.

To put things differently, you have another advanced degree on top of your PhD and bachelor's! How awesome is that?! Most people would kill just to have the "extra" advanced degree, let alone all the other ones. It is hard to imagine why you would want to hide this.

  • Hi Dan -- Given that your field is the closest to my own (it may even be my own shortly) this is a really helpful answer. I suppose that part of me wants to be evaluated based on my qualities as a mathematician and physicist and not based on something that I ultimately abandoned as a path that, while teaching me something about myself, was mistaken. Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 15:55
  • Michael, I understand and that is very admirable, but keep in mind all of us are always judged based on the totality of information that is available about us, some of it more relevant and some less. Sometimes this works against us, other times to our benefit. If I may be a bit cynical, I'd say use every (fair) advantage you can get, because your competitors certainly will, and this way you only level the playing field and have a better chance of getting a fair evaluation. Good luck in any case!
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 3:44

It won't hurt you at all. It shows couple things about you:

  1. You can clearly commit to a long-term task and focus on the goal (graduation)
  2. You care about educating yourself
  3. You are well-round, not just focused on one narrow field

And of course, if you get to a personal interview, you can always find and pinpoint some transferrable skills you picked along the way and make it a really strong advantage.


I have wondered this myself at times. However I have only ever received positive feedback from having degrees in unrelated areas. I have a Bachelor of Science with honours in maths and PhD in maths (from a maths department but actually in statistical genetics). I applied for a job in a project in air traffic control in an engineering department; they seemed impressed that I also have a Bachelor of Economics and a Master of Arts (linguistics). People seem to love that I also have those degrees and I got the job in air traffic control (with a bunch of software engineers). The point is whether you have the capability in the job you're applying for; the extra law degree just adds to how generally awesome you appear.

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    Thanks Jacki, I'm told this by enough people now that I actually believe it. :) Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 20:39

Depending on the context, you should include what is required. "CV" is often shorthand for the shortened biographical sketches required by funding agencies when applying for grants. You should scrupulously include every required item that the agency requires in its preparation instructions and nothing more or less. Typically, this would include all of your educational preparation. For an academic position, post doc, etc, include it.


When I was hired at my position in an academic science research lab, both the director and assistant director had J.D.s. In an academic environment, dealing with bureaucracy is a necessary evil, and someone with that kind of training can be a huge asset.


Having a JD is relevant to every field. As a JD you have the opportunity to do IP work (i.e. patents) for yourself or your organization/company.

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