I've read a couple threads on how to state a PhD dropout in a CV, but wanted to query opinion on the case where the degree in question is a Master's instead. Additionally, my situation is a bit different from others in that I'm mostly done. I plan to complete 33 units by the end of this semester but need 36 to graduate with the degree. I'd rather not stay an extra semester for 3 units.

My M.S. program in Statistics (top 3 program) ended up being mostly theoretical, similar to the Ph.D program here, and the theoretical courses were largely uninteresting to me after my first year. I found that I'm more interested in the programming aspect of things, as well as machine learning. My program specializes in a specific branch of statistical thought, rather than machine learning.

I am now looking for a data scientist position in industry. The question is, How should I state a 'MS dropout' in my resume?

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    Strongly related question How much will dropping out of a Master's program hurt job prospects?
    – Nobody
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 3:57
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    If you're missing 3 (out of 36) credits towards an M.Sc. in stats at a top 3 school, I'd strongly suggest you finish. If you drop out early in the program, just write "Worked towards an M.Sc. (...)" in your CV, and that's fine; if I'd see your CV with just 3 missing, I'd probably not believe whatever reason you give (and yes, I'm of course aware of how expensive a semester can be), and question your persistence. That's just me, of course. Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 4:07
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    FYI, everyone I know well strongly considered dropping out of our master's at about this same time. We stuck with it, and at this point our jobs are all dependent on having that degree. Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 17:33

2 Answers 2


First, some advice. I agree with @gnometorule, but I would state it stronger: IMHO and based on limited information you've shared, it would be a mistake to drop out so close to graduation. Even though the current culture within startup ecosystem and, overall, tech industry largely ignores education credentials in favor of "being a hustler", "being a doer", "being street smart", etc., the data science subset of the both areas actually seem to have more respect and pay more attention to people's education. This is quite understandable, considering the relative complexity of data science and, especially, its machine learning and artificial intelligence fields of study and practice.

I would strongly suggest you to consider things in perspective and do your best to successfully finish the program. Not only it will give you some advantages when competing in the job market, but also might be useful to you, should you decide in the future to go for a Ph.D., teach at some educational institution or pursue other opportunities (i.e., scientific research or consulting).

In regard to your specific question - should you decide to ignore my advice - I think that it would be better to formulate in your resume the phrase "MS dropout" not as such or, even, not as

"University XYZ, MS program, Statistics, Years Range, Incomplete",

but rather as a positive fact / achievement:

"University XYZ, MS program, Statistics, Years Range, Completed 90% of curriculum".

Having said that, again, I strongly suggest you to consider finishing your Master's program.


I think that you should finish because you are so close. I know that employers don't like quitters. If you don't finish, you can always say "The idea of a masters just floated away", or you can say "I am too busy so I will finish when there is a quiet time" or you can say "The salary increment is just too incremental". I actually don't have a masters degree. I have a bachelors degree and a research position. Even to this day, at the ripe old age of 54, people still sometimes ask me why I did not do a masters.

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