Check it out, recent graduates! Placement of a resume’s education section can pose a real dilemma. Here’s our guide for how to list education on a resume.

By: Chris Villanueva, CPRW | Founder at Let’s Eat, Grandma


Look at you! You worked hard in college and you should be proud – getting such a high GPA with all those impressive extracurriculars from your top-tier school wasn’t easy.

But you’ve probably let one person squelch your joy – a future employer. Are they going to care about your education at all, or just gloss it over compared to your work experiences?

The Dilemma

If you’re a recent graduate, chances are you’ve had a hard time deciding where to showcase your education on a resume. Should your education section be at the top or bottom? Which shows you off more?

Most of you have left your education at the top of your resume since you’ve first begun creating your resumes. If you’re in the job market (or almost done with college), however, it’s time to look back on your professional history and decide whether or not it still belongs there.

Typically, if you are well into your professional career, you should leave your education at the bottom. But what if you’re not very far into your career —  or what if you’ve decided to make a career change ?

Take this simple two-part test to determine where your education section should land in your resume:

How to list education on a resume: 2 Easy Steps™️ (not really)

1. Which is more relevant: your education or your most recent work experiences?

A photo of a young man in business attire contemplating a difficult decision in front of his laptop (perhaps thinking how to list his education on his resume?)
How to list education on a resume: a question that puzzles every graduating professional.

If your education section is less relevant to the job than your recent work experience(s), you should certainly list it below your experience section. I would apply this to most graduates who have already had their 1st job and are looking to find another, higher position aligned with their major.

Perhaps, though, you’ve worked a job (maybe multiple jobs) for the last few years that has nothing to do with what you studied in school, and now you want to apply for jobs that are related to your major. In this case, you should move your education back to the top of your resume.

What if the opposite is true – your area of study is completely unrelated to the job you’re now applying for? Then, this is a key indicator that you should list education at the bottom.

2. Are you 3 or more years out of college?

However, if you’re 3 or more years out of college, list education at the bottom. This is a great rule of thumb to follow if you can’t decide whether your professional or education experiences are more relevant.

Susan Whitcomb, leading resume expert and author of Resume Magic, writes that if you have 3+ years of professional experience under your belt, it’s time to move that experience up in your resume. Again, this is just another way of determining relevance; your last job is far more recent than your education, therefore it’s probably more relevant at this stage.

Let’s try these two principles in a ~real world example~, shall we?

Say you’re applying to work in investment banking. You studied psychology at your university, but along the way, you had a complete change of heart and landed a spot at Deloitte after you graduated. You’ve spent the last couple years at Deloitte and are now applying for some smaller firms outside your company.

First off, congratulations on making such a difficult switch! Now, what I’d recommend is to leave your major out of your resume entirely and to list your education section at the bottom — so Deloitte is one of the first things that banking recruiters will see (and perhaps ask you about in an interview).

Who are you to say?

Why do I know these are the best principles for how to list your education on a resume? Not only do resume writers all over the country implement them, but also, they’re just plain logical! Put yourself in your employer’s shoes for a second.

Imagine you are a recruiter, and you have an hour to read over fifty resumes. You don’t have time to give each resume a thorough look-through.

Most recruiters need to make snap judgments about your qualifications within seconds, and naturally, they will do so at the very top of your resume. This is why it’s important to ensure that the top of your resume is most relevant when polishing it.

We know, that sounds like a lot of pressure for such a simple decision! But that’s why we’re here to help.

Sign up for a free phone consultation now on our homepage, and get connected to a professional resume writer who will coach you on how to perfectly optimize your education (and everything else) on your resume.

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