I finished my master's degree in September, and I have applied to PhD programs that begin in September 2017. Most of the schools asked for a CV with the application. I've had to take a part-time job in retail to make ends meet while looking for a better job, and I included the retail job on my CV under the employment section. My CV, of course, highlights my more relevant positions (teaching/research assistantships), along with my conferences, awards, etc. But I'm concerned that I may have made a mistake in including the retail job at all - I only felt compelled to do so because I wanted to be honest about my current employment.

Will including the retail job on my CV possibly be seen negatively by PhD admissions committees? I am hoping that it is a non-issue, but I am not sure.

Edit: I realize similar questions have been asked but I don't think my question is a duplicate of the one that was suggested. I'm asking about whether it was a good idea to include current employment, not hobbies and interests.


4 Answers 4


You've included a piece of information on your CV that's essentially irrelevant for the position you're applying for, and that's how it will be viewed. Most people on admissions committees won't care, assuming your application indicates a high level of motivation for a PhD. So don't worry about it.

That said, some people will probably want to know why you'll have a 1-year gap between the end of your masters and the beginning of your PhD. Presumably either you applied to some places last year and were unsuccessful or just didn't apply. Neither of these things would be held against you much—but there are potential concerns here that I would want to see cleared away in other parts of your application. For instance, not applying last year might lead one to wonder how serious you are about a PhD and/or how on top of things you are. Hopefully your letter writers/personal statement would put any such concerns to rest.


Disclaimer: I never served on a hiring committee so I can't speak from experience. But I did my share of applying and know how I would look at such a situation.

Working in retail is not going to get you accepted to grad school. But having a one-year gap in your CV won't help you either; that would probably be even more damaging. Not explaining what you did (or are doing) after your master's would raise all sorts of red flags: What does he do? Why won't he tell? Can we rely on him doing good work?

The best strategy would probably be to explain your current situation in your cover letter: You finished your master's in September and didn't have time to apply for PhD while finishing (or whatever your reason is). You really want to go to grad school (explain why!), so you took whichever job you could get while applying. Formulated this way, you can even use your situation to show your motivation, dedication, and perseverance, which are key skills for any PhD student!

  • 3
    To add to this: I would reinforce in your letter your choice not to go to graduate school immediately, AND why you now want to go to graduate school. If you can, I think an effective way to discuss it is to talk about how this time has reinforced, clarified, and focused your choice to go to graduate school.
    – NMJD
    Dec 28, 2016 at 20:03

In general, my advice would be to not list irrelevant positions on your academic curriculum vitæ.

If you've held non-academic positions that are at least somewhat related (e.g. you've worked as a programer and you're applying to graduate school in computer science), it's not unusual to list them in a section toward end of your curriculum with a heading like "Professional Experience" or something similar. If they're not related at all, it doesn't need to go in.

Will doing so hurt? Probably not. I'd feel especially confidently stating this in regards to graduate school applications where there's simply not a strong expectation that you'll know the norms among academic CV writing or, for that matter, that you'll have a lot of relevant material to fill your CV with.

To the extent that your work in an unrelated field as left "holes" (i.e. unexplained periods of time) in your CV, the normal place to explain that is with a line or two in your personal statement.


I finished my master's degree in September

I wanted to be honest about my current employment (retail)

Being honest means answering interview questions truthfully. If they ask you if you ever threw sand at someone when you were in preschool, tell them the truth -- but there's no need to volunteer such information.

Finishing a master's in September is inherently awkward. For significant gaps in a résumé, you can put some brief explanation in a cover letter, but for a short gap like this it isn't necessary.

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