PhD haunted by Third class degree


Hi everyone!

I needed advice from people with experience in academia and in industry as my third class degree still haunts me even if I am almost ready to graduate with a PhD.

I am a former Biomedical Sciences graduate and due to past mental health issues that i was too proud to admit at the time, I ended up with a third as I was underperforming in exams which counted 80% towards the final grade. My assignment grades as well as both my research project and literature based critical study were classified as 2:1. Unfortunately module assignments are not being mentioned in the transcript so all you can see apart from the two dissertation grades is a disaster..

I was lucky to have a supervisor who provided excellent recommendations throughout the years so I managed to get an MSc in a medical field with merit and later on an MA in a related joint field (social and medical sciences) with merit. I got accepted into a PhD with scholarship and I am close to graduating with some publications and teaching experience on my back. Even though I worked hard to get away from the third class honours classification and it did not bother employers in England, I still feel uncomfortable with it because in my country the classification is one of the main questions being discussed in interviews. Mental health issues are stigmatised here and I cannot say that I have obviously screwed up. I have fully recovered from my depression and anxiety yet I made some bad choices back then and I am honestly being haunted by that classification for many years now.

I would appreciate your advice. Is there anything I can do? I considered contacting the university to see whether I could potentially retake some modules but after doing some research I found out that this is impossible.

How can I talk about this to potential employers?

Please don't tell me to get over this as I obviously need some advice and that is the reason I am posting here.

Thank you : )



I honestly don't think you need worry. The PhD is a higher level degree than the undergraduate one and so shows your capability more. I think most people looking at your CV would know that intuitively, even if they don't know the details of your undergraduate degree and why you didn't do as well as you might have at the time.

Hope this helps


Firstly, you gained two Masters which will trump your 3rd. You have then added a PhD which trumps the lot.

Secondly, the mental health thing should not be mentioned at all. It's a massive stigma everywhere and you're going to face a lifetime of justification and predjudice if you mention it.
You should make something up such as getting the 3rd because it took you a little while longer to work out how to study properly or whatever and that you've now demonstrably fixed those issues with your further qualifications.


I don't think you'd be asked about it. It would seem like a weird question! I think I'd say there were some personal circumstances at the time. That could mean anything and there is no need to divulge.

Avatar for rewt

I agree with Tudor_Queen and pm133, two masters and a PhD will supersede any degree. If you don't want to talk about the third you don't have to put it on your CV. Just leave the grade of your CV and let them assume. It is similar to how no-one asks about secondary school grades after a stage, your undergrad degree doesn't matter as much after a PhD. So I would just avoid telling employers about the third.

Also, I don't think you can change your degree result without resitting the entire degree. You could possibly get a reference from your supervisor saying that they thought the results was unfair and attach it to your CV as a supporting document.


Thank you so much everyone! This means a lot. I feel so guilty for not knowing better back then. My issue is that when I apply to certain institutions the HR team needs the certificates. Whenever I see my certificate I feel so ashamed


You certainly don't want to be feeling ashamed. It's all part of your life's journey and without hiccups there is no experience gained and no life lived. Anyone who judges you as a person because of a degree classification is an idiot and not worth worrying about.

I still don't see why you need to send them anything other than your Masters and PhD certificates and then let them ask you for the other one.


Quote From rewt:
It is similar to how no-one asks about secondary school grades after a stage

I would agree with this but funnily enough I had an interview for a small company many years ago. My CV had my degree and my Highers results from school. I also had quite a few years of experience. The owner of the company interviewed me and said "Erm I noticed your GCSE results are not on your CV". I laughed out loud and then realised he was serious about wanting to know what they were. No other company ever asked about anything to do with my degree or my schooling. It was all about what experience I had.

Employers can be weird sometimes during interviews. One of them tossed a Yellow Pages at me, turned sideways and opened up and starting reading a magazine in the middle of asking me a question once.

So glad I don't have to tolerate this sort of thing anymore. I should write a book....... :-D


@pm133 LOL! What was the question? Did you have to let your fingers do the walking and locate a business under a certain letter of the alphabet?

@rewt - yes chances are they won't even ask. It is sort of irrelevant and superseded by the other degrees. That reminds me - once someone asked me if I had a first degree (I was volunteering on a research project between my undergrad and masters) and I had never heard it referred to that before and thought they were asking if I had obtained a first!

Good luck que sera sera and I like your name btw - maybe that can be your mantra going into interviews :)


He asked me "how would you write some software to store all the information in this phone book?" He tossed the book in the air, I believe it reached a height of 3 feet above the table before crashing down loudly in front of me. I particularly remember the way he said "in your own time" and relaxed in his chair, feet on desk and theatrically thumbed through the magazine.

The whole interview was a nightmare. I couldn't answer any of his questions and after 20 minutes he interrupted me in mid sentence saying "Yeeeeeeees, I THINK we should stop at this point, we're clearly not getting anywhere". I will never forget his last words as he showed me out of the door. He said "Hang on. Here, have a copy of our newsletter". I said no thanks.
I've never been more embarassed professionally in my whole life.

Honestly, I just wouldn't tolerate being treated like that now and would terminate the interview but I was young at the time. I'm glad I went through it because it's a great story. The funniest things to look back on are always those where you have been made to look daft. Also, from that day onwards I learnt to interview the interviewer. That was a massive change. There's nothing more liberating than terminating an interview early because you've realised the job or the environment doesn't fit what you are looking for.

Anyway, I wasn't joking about that book. I have already started writing it. Just got to get round to finishing it. It's full of little stories like that one :-D


That was an amazing story !! As for the interviewing the interviewer, that sounds so good !'

Avatar for rewt

WOAW. That is a great interview story!


Oh, that interview sounds like luxury (said as one of the business men in the famous Four Yorkshiremen Monty Python sketch)...

A few years back, when I was training as a hospital pharmacist, I was on clinical rotations and had to observe patients receiving ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy) at a Psychiatric hospital.

I arrived early morning, smartly dressed and was sitting in the waiting room reading some related literature. In storms this angry giant wearing scruffy jeans and an old shirt. He looked like one of the Hairy Bikers. I'm 6ft but was sitting, and he looks down at me giving me the dirtiest, angriest look (can't figure out why, other than he thinks I'm a med/pharm student). I then found out he was the consultant in charge of the procedure for the patients that morning!

A bit later I get sent into the operating theatre to meet this consultant and the anaesthetist and male nurse. I step forwards to shake the aforementioned consultants hand and he gets irritated that he already has a coffee cup in his right hand. He steps back and looks at me head to toe and says in a cockney accent "that's a bit fuckin' formal" - reminiscent of a scene from one of those British gangster heist movies. I was gobsmacked, and automatically replied "Not really, handhakes are a convention during introductions in this kind of setting". I then observed the procedures and patients and kept reading related parts of the BNF (British-National Formulary) aka the "Pharmacist's Bible".

The whole thing was surreal enough as it was without his behaviour - the procedure is that they anaesthetise the patients using milk of amnesia (Propofol - a white fluid anaesthetic that was inappropriately prescribed to Michael Jackson), attach electrodes to half or both sides of the patients brain and delivery controlled shocks to precipitate an epileptic fit. They had old fashioned analogue voltmeters and ammeters (with a moving needle). All we needed to set the scene was some lightning bolts, a rumble of thunder, and this psychiatrist weirdo to let out an evil laugh.


At the end, he rushed over to the medicine cabinet and said "Alright Pharmacy boy....let's test your knowledge". He pulled out some Dantrolene and asked me "wots this for then" as he threw me a BNF across the room to look it up from. I already knew the answer. It's a medicine most pharmacists won't have much contact with, other than perhaps looking up the dosage, as it's used in surgical emergencies. I replied "Dantrolene. Used to treat malignant hyperthermia, and is contra-indicated for patients receiving calcium channel blockers". He replied, "OK, very good". Afterwards we had some normal and somewhat politer academic discussion about the proposed mechanisms of ECT and particularly about it increasing neurotransmitter receptor up-regulation.

I learned a few days later when he didn't turn up to the ward round that he had a motorbike accident, and despite our hostile encounter, hoped he wasn't seriously hurt.

Not to mention at the time, at the hospital I was training in, I had a tutor who worked in Medicines Information and answered the phone like hyacinth bucket from the British TV series "Keeping up appearances": "Helloow....Medicines InforrrrmaaaaAAAYYYYshiiiooon". Oh dear, it was Egotistical characters like this, and the repetitious aspect of a good portion of the job, that led me to escape the profession and pursue my doctorate for which I got an offer shortly after this event.


Hahaha! What great stories!!!