Resume building isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. The proper way to list your education and academic achievements varies depending on your career and target industry. The education section for a graduate school student will be vastly different from a project manager with ten years of experience. Throughout this guide, you’ll see a number of different ways to build the education section on your resume and feature the most compelling aspects of your academic background.
What to Include in Your Education Section
You should always include your most recent degree first, followed by the university’s name. If you’ve obtained multiple degrees, you’ll want to feature them in reverse chronological order. Generally, you should include your major, graduation dates, and the location of the university. However, there is some nuance to consider here, as it’s important to alter your approach depending on the stage of your career.
If you have decades of industry experience, including your graduation dates may run the risk of age bias amongst hiring managers. This won’t always be the case, but because you won’t fully understand a company’s work culture until you’ve worked on their team, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of including graduation dates. For example, if you’re highlighting accomplishments from jobs earlier in your career that are truly impressive, omitting a graduation date won’t do much to hide your age. Sometimes the right approach is to simply let your achievements speak for themselves rather than obscuring your timeline.
If you’re a recent graduate or student, you’ll want to include as many relevant academic achievements as possible to flesh out your resume. Your GPA, academic awards, coursework, and academic associations are important to highlight. In the example below, the candidate is pursuing a graduate degree in psychology. In addition to showcasing their high GPA and awards, they also demonstrate their involvement in the school community by mentioning their membership in various academic associations.
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY, Philadelphia, PA, September 2017 – May 2021
- Vice President, Temple Student Psychology Association, 2019-2021
- Member, Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society, 2017-2021
- Dean’s List 2017-2021
- Magna Cum Laude
In the next example, you’ll see a candidate who has completed multiple degrees in the medical field. You’ll notice that while the degrees are listed appropriately in reverse chronological order, they don’t include academic awards or their GPA. At this stage in the candidate’s career, that information is no longer relevant, as the hiring manager will be impressed simply by seeing the degrees themselves.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, Ann Arbor, MI September 2011 – May 2018
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, Ann Arbor, MI September 2009 – September 2011
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, Ann Arbor, MI September 2005 – May 2009
Where to Place Your Education Section
Where to place your education section will also be determined based on your level of experience and career goals. A recent graduate with no relevant experience will want to place this at the top of their document, while a seasoned professional will put this section towards the bottom. If you’re an entry-level professional who recently completed an impressive internship, you may want to consider featuring that experience above your degree. As a general rule, hands-on industry experience should always take priority over the education section.
How to List an Unfinished Degree
If you haven’t finished your degree, you can still list this experience on your resume. Having some college is certainly better than none in the eyes of hiring managers. In this situation, you’d want to list the dates you attended the university and the number of credits you completed. If you’re in the process of attempting to finish your degree online, you can list your expected graduation date. An unfinished degree should always be placed towards the bottom of the resume, as you always want to put your best foot forward when making a first impression on the hiring manager.
UNIVERSITY OF SEATTLE, Seattle, WA September 2017 – May 2019
- Completed 45 Credits in Information Technology
Should You Include Your GED or High School Diploma?
If you’ve completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, you don’t need to mention your high school diploma or GED on your resume. If you’ve obtained years of industry experience without a college degree, you may want to consider leaving this off entirely. However, if you lack relevant work experience and a college degree, it’s important to include this information on your resume, especially if it’s listed as a requirement on the job posting. Sometimes college degrees aren’t needed for a particular field, but you will be expected to have at least completed your GED for most job opportunities.
MIAMI NORTHWESTERN SENIOR HIGH, Miami, FL September 2015 – June 2019
How to List Coursework and Academic Projects
Although you can list your coursework and academic projects in your education section, you may consider creating a separate section to feature these details. Listing an academic project without any context is unlikely to make a lasting impression on the reader, but creating bullet points that provide insights into your academic experience and industry knowledge might help you land your first job. In a similar vein, creating a separate section for your coursework will give you the space to explore your academic accomplishments in more detail.
September 2019 – May 2020
- Programmed a bug tracking system to detect and resolve minor issues for software applications automatically