Dear Sam: I can’t decide if I should return to school to complete my 4-year degree in Business Administration. I had to leave school in my early 20s and now, as an accountant in my mid 40s, I am concerned my upward trajectory will be hindered by the lack of a degree. It would take me about 2 years to finish a Bachelor’s degree program and I just don’t know whether it would be worth it. Any insight based on what you see in the job market? – Jim

Dear Jim: If I had to pinpoint one area in my client base where I see the fewest degrees it would be accounting. I can’t tell you how many controllers and CFOs I have worked with who haven’t spent one day in college. Now, having said that, of course, a degree can “check the box” to a requirement, but as a mid-career professional I imagine you have already demonstrated your knowledge beyond that of a general business program! If you would have mentioned perhaps going back to school and seeking a very specialized degree—such as forensicaccounting—I would see more of an upside to that, but research and trends are now suggesting targeted degrees and certifications are becoming preferred over general degrees. If the lack of a degree isn’t hurting your career thus far—as you mentioned you are concerned it may down the road—perhaps take steps to secure a position that would allow for tuition reimbursement, letting you finish your degree in the evening while not impacting your disposable income. All the best as you navigate the balance required for work and school if you decide to take that route.

Dear Sam: I am a self-taught artist and feel the lack of a degree is preventing me from getting a good job. I know as much as a college graduate about art and design, but don’t know how to communicate that. Also, what do I list in the education section? – S.G.

Dear S.G.: I can feel the frustration in your words, and while there is little you can do when a degree is a staunch requirement for a position, there is a lot you can do on your resume to ensure you are the candidate that stands out regardless of your academic background.

First, I hope your resume looks fantastic, meaning you designed something eye catching to showcase your talents. Your resume should be a representation of your creative talents, showcasing your work—coupled with great content—to minimize the impact of the potential disqualifier. From taking a look at your websites, I can see you are talented in many forms of design; maybe this could be your selling point. If you develop a resume that presents your vast design talents, highlights your professional and freelance engagements, and also presents a little of your personality, your experience is sure to jump off of the page! Be a tad conservative in the overall design of your resume, just to ensure you don’t offend anyone who doesn’t share a right-brained style of thinking, but showcase your talents through an amazing aesthetic and possibly a snapshot portfolio.

In regard to your question of what to include in the education section, change this section to a “Strengths & Style” section and use it to note all of the programs and techniques you have taught yourself. Don’t include anything about not having a degree; it is entirely likely the reader may not realize a degree is missing when presented with a great-looking, well-written resume. By following this strategy, you will only present reasons to bring you in for an interview, not reasons to disqualify you from going further in the process. I wish you great success.