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How to List PhD ABD on Your Resume — Pro Tips

How to List PhD ABD on Your Resume — Pro Tips

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First things first: A lot of students are already qualified to write the accomplishment PhD ABD on their resumes, but they don’t know what it means!

If you have completed all the requirements of a PhD, but have not yet finished a dissertation, then you are ABD. Should you include this on a resume?


Should you list PhD ABD on your resume?

Students in the process of obtaining a PhD but are ABD should absolutely list this experience on a resume. It is still a great achievement, and lets an employer know you are in the final step of your schooling. PhD ABD should always be listed in the education section on a resume. 


How do you know if you’re ABD?

First, you want to be completely sure that you are ABD before listing it on a resume. Being ABD means that you have done three things:

  • Completed all courses required for your PhD
  • Passed the necessary exams for your program
  • Defended your dissertation proposal

The only thing left for you to do is to research and write up the dissertation, and this means you are ABD: All But Dissertation.


When to put ABD on a resume

Anytime a student is ABD, it should be included on a resume. If the most recent experience in the education section shows a master’s degree rather than your PhD schooling, then the employer will have no reason to believe you continued your education after that point. 

PhD students also cannot take on the same workload as a non-student, which could result in gaps on a resume. Including ABD assures the employer that you have been using your time wisely.

ABD students have years more experience than those who stopped their education after receiving a master’s degree.

Be sure that your potential employer knows it, and always include it on a resume!


How to format PhD ABD on a resume

For someone who is ABD, the education section on their resume should be formatted largely the same way it would be if they achieved their full PhD. 

While some phrases on a resume should be written out fully, others should be written as abbreviations.

ABD should always be abbreviated, and never written out as “all but dissertation”. This is too wordy and turns the phrase negative. Don’t tell an employer what you don’t have… tell them what you do! 

A properly written education section including PhD ABD looks like the following:



Boston University PhD ABD in Chemistry (9-2017) – (5-2020)

Brunswick University BS in Chemistry, Minor in Human Biology  (9-2013) – (5-2017)


Here’s how that should look like on your final version of the resume:

PhD ABD on Resume Example 1


Listing a minor is not necessary, but is a good idea if it is relevant to the job which you’re applying for. 

Education is typically listed in reverse-chronological order on a resume, meaning the newest experience should come first.


“Should you list PhD ABD if you dropped out / left the program?”

Getting to the point of being ABD still requires years of hard work and experience, but what if you do not intend to finish the degree? How can you best include this experience without being in a gray area of honesty?

PhD ABD should not be listed on a resume if one does not intend to continue the program. However, the years of schooling leading to that point should absolutely be written on a resume. An employer will still be impressed with the years of experience, so include this in the education section. 


How to format experience for an incomplete PhD 

When including PhD experience on a resume after you’ve left the program, include the school’s name and location in the education section. Since this is likely the most recent educational experience, it should be listed at the top of the section.

List the dates of attendance using the month and year format, as well as the degree subject. 

Do not include the degree type (PhD), because the degree is unfinished. Some people opt to include the phrase “PhD – incomplete” as the degree type, but this is negative and should be avoided. 

You should not give an employer any negative impressions from your resume. 

Note: If asked about this experience in person, be honest in your answers. Though you didn’t finish, you still have years of extra experience under your belt. Be clear and confident when giving this information!

In order to frame these years as a positive experience, the education section could be formatted as follows:



Boston University Boston, MA (9-2017) – (5-2020)

  • Field of study: Chemistry

Brunswick University New Brunswick, ME (9-2013) – (5-2017)

  • Field of study: Chemistry (BS) and Human Biology (Minor)


This is how it should look on your final version of the resume:

PhD ABD on Resume Example 2


A resume does not need to follow this exact format, but these rules should always be followed: 

  • Do not include negative phrases on a resume
  • Include any relevant educational experience, even if you dropped out
    • (with the exception of extremely short-term education)

Be cautious when listing PhD experience after you’ve dropped out. Experiences which are two years or longer are usually impressive in the education section.

Any experience that is less than two years in duration may raise some eyebrows in a bad way.