But a graduate degree is something different. First off, you made the decision to go after a graduate degree is totally voluntarily. While technically getting an undergraduate degree is too, an undergraduate degree is basically a requirement for almost any white-collar job in today's world. Not only is it voluntary but a graduate degree is also very expensive and time consuming. I understand that you may be proud of the degree. I understand it may show you can work and study hard. But if you got one, but aren't using it, I'm going to want to understand why. It goes to my assessment of how and why you make important decisions.
Now even if the degree is on your resume, it might not be a death sentence. What is a death sentence is having a bad answer to the next question, "Why did you pursue this degree and then end up not using it?" There are a number of OK answers to this question. None of them involve you telling me that, "I just didn't know what else to do" or "I needed to grow up". Both responses I have heard.
I will grant two exceptions to this rule
- You have a gap in your resume you can't explain any other way. A gap is worse than having an irrelevant degree. However, it is only slightly worse since I may assume you just took some time off for family issues. This is a path I usually won't (and can't) go down too far.
- It is your first job after you got your degree. This you should explain away by being honest. Either you have discovered you don't like what you went to study or you can't find a job in that field. Both are acceptable answers. Just don't expect me to pay you for the advanced degree that is irrelevant for the job.
So what do you think? Is it a good idea to put your advanced degree on your resume even if it is irrelevant? If so, under what circumstances?