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How to Get The Job - Without the Degree

Dec 14, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

In today’s difficult job market, unemployment rates are up—and that means your competition for work is better qualified than ever. With so many people with college degrees looking for a job, those who never earned a degree are at a particular disadvantage in the job market. 

Today’s employers are faced with hundreds of applicants for a single job—generally much more than in years past. And many hiring managers and HR professionals use a Bachelor’s degree as a screening criteria—eliminating resumes without degrees as a way of reducing the stack of applications to a manageable pile. 

The problem is that while millions of people haven’t earned that four-year degree, that doesn’t make them less qualified. Many of these people are applying for jobs that don’t require an advanced education, and never did in years past. Many were only a few credits short of graduating when they left to care for a sick relative, start a family or take on more hours at work. And many have had years of experience in the field—something new college grads often lack.

If you are struggling to find a job without a four-year degree, here are a few tips for getting employed.


Don’t lie on your resume—but don’t leave your studies out, either

Hiring managers often use your lack of degree to screen you out—without taking a look at your other experience and qualifications. To get around this, don’t lie—but don’t highlight your lack of degree. Put your education at the end of the document, so readers are more likely to look at your previous job history and achievements first. Then, at the end, write something such as “Bachelor’s Studies” as well as the college where you studied, if you took classes toward a Bachelor’s degree at some point.

Rely on networking

Because you don’t look as good on paper as others—whether it’s fair or not—you are going to have to rely much more heavily on in-person networking and existing contacts to get yourself a new career. Speaking to contacts in person will help you showcase your professionalism, confidence, personality and knowledge—and help people see past your lack of a degree.

Don’t mention your lack of a degree—unless someone ask

In interviews and networking situations, never mention the fact that you did not earn a degree. Keep the focus of the conversation on your past experience and the contributions you have made to the success of past employers. If you do it right, your lack of a degree might not come up in interviews and conversations at all.

Get certified

You can also make up for a lack of a Bachelor’s degree by earning certifications in your field. These are much more doable than going back to college full-time—most professional certification programs don’t last longer than a year, are widely available online, and cost much less than a year’s worth of college tuition. Certifications will demonstrate your commitment to the industry and the fact that you have advanced training in addition to experience.

Look into online degree programs

If you were only a few credits shy of graduating when you left college, it might be worth your while to earn those last few credits and get your Bachelor’s degree. Even if you have a full-time job or full-time family obligations, you can earn an bachelor’s entirely online through a range of accredited schools—some of which also offer traditional degrees.

It’s not easy to overcome the lack of a Bachelor’s degree when looking for a new job, especially when so many of your competitors have degrees—and employers are using it to screen resumes. But it’s not impossible. Network and rely on your contacts as much as possible; earn professional certifications; and learn to put your best foot forward in interviews by keeping the focus on your experience and achievements. If you do, it’s possible that you’ll be able to beat out other candidates for the job—even those with advanced degrees.


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