Including your education on your resume can emphasize your credibility and expertise in your industry. If you’re not sure how to list education on your resume, let us walk you through it.
The importance of education on a resume
It’s easy to overlook your education when you’re focused on describing your work experience and achievements. You might think it’s obvious, or even moot, especially if you graduated over two decades ago. However, including your education not only proves you had the dedication to complete a degree (or certification) and are a subject-matter expert, it also gives a recruiter greater context of your strong suits and areas of knowledge.
The problem for jobseekers, especially recent graduates, is trying to figure out where and how to list their education on their resume. How much detail should you include, and how do you know what’s relevant?
We’ve got your back. First, let’s look at the different types of education you can list on your resume. Then, we’ll go into how to list your education on your resume, the factors to consider, and go over some examples. And if you’re still not sure if it looks quite right, one of our expert writers can help you out with a free resume critique.
How to list different types of education on your resume
When we talk about education, many of our thoughts jump to formal higher education, such as university degrees and the prestigious titles that come with them.
If you’ve completed a degree of any level, you’ll want to make sure you include it. However, don’t limit yourself to just the years you spent studying and sitting in a classroom. There are many ways to receive an education, and it’s paramount that you don’t shortchange your other experiences.
Formal education typically results in a degree, diploma, certificate, or any combination of the three. Even if you are applying to a field that is completely outside your traditional education, you should include it on each version of your resume. Multi-year degrees show that you are capable of completing long-term goals. Seemingly irrelevant educational experiences can also show recruiters that you have a unique skill, which ca give you a boost when up against similar candidates.
However, if your education directly fits your industry, it may be a smart idea to include relevant coursework or specialized training you completed. For example, if you’re applying to a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leadership position and you took a summer intensive class on best DEI practices, this shows that you have close experience with the subject.
While you can include these training sessions and coursework within your education section, (we’ll talk more about formatting later) any online courses and certifications earned outside your academic institution should go in a different section. This also goes for workshops, seminars, and conferences–though you need to consider whether these need to be included at all.
If you attend regular industry events that are relatively similar, you may end up wasting valuable page space trying to list every one. Save this area for particularly unique and influential events, especially ones that marked a significant impact in your career progression.
It can be a complicated to figure out which educational experiences you should include in each section. Don’t be afraid to reach out for a free resume critique if you need assistance.
Where to put Education on your resume
After you determine what educational experiences to include on your resume, you need to list them in the best place for both ATS and recruiter scanning.
New graduates should put their education at the top (before your professional experience.) This is because it’s more relevant to your current job search than your previous work experience. A recruiter is much more interested in your college degree than the tables you waited to put yourself through it. Jobseekers changing industries may consider listing their education first as well, if it is more in line with the career they’re looking for than their previous positions.
If neither of these situations apply to you, put your education last. Just like your work experience, the formatting should be reverse chronological, with your most recent educational achievement first.
Bonus LEG tip: If you earned a title with your degree (such as MBA, Ph.D., or PMP), you should put the initials in the heading your resume, directly after your name. This ensures recruiters don’t skip over the fact that you’re highly educated and knowledgeable in your field. You can add this to your name on LinkedIn as well.
How to list your education on your resume
Now that you know where your education goes, it’s time to properly list and format it. Make sure you include the full name and location of the school, the full (capitalized) name degree you earned, and the year you earned it.
If you completed your degree more than five to 10 years ago, you don’t have to include it on your resume. Some older applicants encounter ageism when they add their graduation year, and you shouldn’t be unfairly thrown out just because a recruiter makes an assumption based on when you graduated.
However, even if your academic degrees are older or irrelevant to your current career goals, you should always include them on a resume. Many employers don’t care what you studied or even when, they just want to check the box that there’s a verifiable degree. Always check the job description to see what level of education they are looking for.
New graduates, especially honors students, are understandably proud of their GPA. You can include it on your resume, but only if it’s above 3.5. If you’ve worked in your field for three or more years, you should only include it if its very notable, like a 4.0. You can also include awards or scholarships, though these may be better suited for a separate “Awards” section if you have several high-ranking achievements.
Just like every other section of your resume, the education section should be tailored to the job description. For new graduates or career changers with limited field experience, you can add relevant courses to act as keywords.
Additionally, you might consider adding other impactful experiences and project from your educational career, such as study abroad or international educational experiences. If you conducted research or completed a thesis that supports your expertise in the industry you’re applying to, you can quickly summarize it in this section. This is especially helpful for new graduates and career changers, as this will help fill in the gaps of your practical experience.
Relevant courses, projects, or extracurricular activities can be emphasized both on your resume and in your cover letter to show a recruiter you have a vested interest in that area of work. But career changers should keep in mind that professional experience should always take precedent over education experience. If you’ve been using skills you learned in your college courses throughout your career, there’s no need to clog up your resume by listing each completed class. Instead, weave these in throughout the document, in your summary, skills, and previous positions.
How to list limited or incomplete education on your resume
Gaps in your education history can bring extra complications to the process. If you didn’t complete the degree, you can still include it to show you’re familiar with the subject. Don’t try to fool the recruiter, though–the employer may check, and that’s both embarrassing and damaging to your credibility. Instead, phrase the experience clearly by noting the number of hours you completed toward the degree, and be sure to follow the same formatting guidelines as above.
If you’re continuing your education, you can list both the amount of hours you’ve completed and the expected year of completion. This will help show how much progress you’ve made toward your degree and how soon you’ll be certified.
Effectively communicating your educational experience on paper is no easy feat, but it can’t be overlooked when crafting your resume. It’s important for all jobseekers to include, no matter where you are in your career path.
Not only does it show that you are committed to an industry or subject, it proves you can complete long-term goals, are qualified, and are prepared to apply your hard-earned knowledge to each position you apply for. But be smart about it, and stay honest. It’s always best to be clear and concise, as you can go deeper into it later on your cover letter and LinkedIn.
If your educational experience is less formal than traditional academic institutions, you may consider putting it under a certifications and licenses section instead. You can also include relevant awards, coursework, and projects to emphasize your skill and experience in the area.
Remember, your education is valuable, and potential employers want to hear about it!
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