I am not happy with my PhD program, and after several years I am graduating with a master's this month. I earned the M.S. along the way as a PhD student, but have never formally requested it before this semester. What is the best way to indicate this situation on a CV or resume? I don't want to put just M.S. because then it looks like it took me a really long time to get a master's and I can't put that I am a PhD student because I no longer am.

Right now, I am thinking something like

M.S. in <field>, <University>, May 2016
PhD student in <field>, <University>, Aug. 2011 - May 2016
B.S. in <field>, <Undergrad University>, Aug. 2007 - May 2011

Would that be clear what's going on? Alternatively, should I list PhD above M.S. even though I didn't complete it? Should I list both M.S. and PhD in same line since it is the same university and span of time?


Personally, I would just put the M.S. People might assume that you were working towards a Ph.D. and decided to leave with a Master's, or they might assume you were working on it part-time; if you think it is important to distinguish, then you can mention it in a cover letter. But I would guess that, while dropping out of a Ph.D. program might not necessarily look bad, working towards a Ph.D. that you didn't complete isn't something you want to put on your CV.

(Disclaimer: I've never been in a position where I have evaluated people's CV for hiring, so this is just my guess).

  • People might assume that you were working towards a Ph.D. and decided to leave with a Master's That's exactly what happened. – Nicu Stiurca May 4 '16 at 21:13
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    @NicuStiurca Yes, so they may correctly assume that, or they may assume it took a while for other reasons. But I would not say that specifically on your CV, because "was working towards a degree I did not finish" is not something I would want to list as an accomplishment. – Morgan Rodgers May 4 '16 at 21:19
  • Ok, I understand your point now. I don't agree with it, but I'm open to seeing what others think as well. – Nicu Stiurca May 4 '16 at 21:37
  • @NicuStiurca I think many people leave a PhD program without finishing because they are not able to finish (fail exams, etc.). That is the main reason I wouldn't want it on the CV (in a cover letter you can explain why you left the program). – Morgan Rodgers May 5 '16 at 8:31

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