People Assume You Have a Four-Year Degree but You Don’t? Ask Madeleine

November 18, 2023 Madeleine Homan Blanchard

Dear Madeleine,

I recently started a new job. I am super interested and engaged. I think I am doing well and my manager seems thrilled. People here think I’m much older than I am, and everyone assumes I have a bachelor’s degree. Only the HR recruiting person knows that all I have is a two-year associate degree—and it’s possible she didn’t notice because she didn’t say anything about it. The requirements on the job posting listed a BA or BS.

I am fine with this. I plan to go back and complete a four-year degree as soon as I can afford it. I live in terror of debt.

My questions are:

  1. How concerned do I need to be about others finding out?
  2. Should I tell people?



Dear Worried,

Short answers:

  1. Not at all concerned. Stop worrying. Worrying is focusing on a future over which you have no control, and it just produces needless anxiety.
  2. No.

Long answers:

This is absolutely nobody’s business except the hiring manager’s—and if she isn’t concerned, you shouldn’t be. If she simply missed it, it isn’t your responsibility to draw attention to it. Some might disagree with me on that, but I am just being pragmatic. If you weren’t equipped to do the job they gave you, it might change things—but that isn’t the case.

There is no reason for you to tell anyone; that’s just asking for gossip and drama, which you don’t need. I guess if someone asks you point blank (and really, why would they?) you can say what you studied. Just “I studied computer science,” or American history, or whatever it was.

Everyone has an opinion about this topic. Many have a chip on their shoulder because they slogged it out and accrued debilitating student debt to get their degree and now think everyone else should suffer. Attitudes about the value of a college degree are changing rapidly. Ultimately, opinions are simply that. They don’t need to mean anything to you.

I worked with a client who lied about her education on her resume and lived in perpetual fear of being found out. It was debilitating for her. She ended up going back to school and finishing her undergrad degree and went on to get a master’s degree. You didn’t lie and you have plenty of time, so relax.

Kudos to you for being careful about debt. I am finding it to be a chief cause of stress for people, and I encourage you to avoid it if you possibly can. That especially applies to credit card debt. Boy, does that burn my toast. Keep up your very wise vigilance!

The only other thing I might add is this: don’t wait too long to complete your bachelor’s degree if it is important to you. It is much easier to do before kids and a mortgage. Of course, if you aren’t planning on either of those, you have nothing but time.

I hope this sets your mind at ease.

Love, Madeleine

About Madeleine

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

About the Author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a Master Certified Coach and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. She is coauthor of Blanchard’s Coaching Essentials training program, and several books including Leverage Your Best, Ditch the Rest, Coaching in Organizations, and Coaching for Leadership.

Follow on Twitter More Content by Madeleine Homan Blanchard
Previous Resource
3 Questions to Ask If You’re Serious about Innovation
3 Questions to Ask If You’re Serious about Innovation

Innovation expert Britney Cole suggests three questions to help you develop a more creative and innovative ...

Next Resource
Don’t Hesitate to Innovate!
Don’t Hesitate to Innovate!

Take a look at the work you’re doing today. What products, processes, or systems might benefit from a fresh...