If you’re looking for clear-cut advice on writing your resume’s education section, you probably won’t find it by perusing the many resume samples out there. The education section on these samples can take many different shapes and sizes, and be placed anywhere — right below the contact header, the bottom of the final page, or over in a side column, for example.
This variation might be unhelpful, but it reflects that a resume’s sections are very flexible. They take whatever form is necessary to support the resume’s purpose of getting you interviews for jobs you want. These sections keep a strict focus on details that are relevant to your job search.
As for your education section, the only criteria for including any given degree (or detail about a degree) is that it speaks to your goals — if it doesn’t, you can leave it out. This “relevance rule” is why one job seeker might have an education section that fills up most of the first page, while another might have no education section at all. Keep this in mind as you review the below tips, and you’ll have the best shot at drafting an education section that boosts your overall resume.
When listing your degree titles, you can refer to them by their full name, acronym, or both, as in Bachelor of Science (BS). You can also use the shorter, possessive phrase bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, for example), but note Bachelor’s of Science is incorrect. Whichever form you choose, just be consistent if listing multiple degrees in your education section.
If you’re still completing the degree in question, put the word Candidate in front of the title, as in Candidate: Bachelor of Science (BS). And if you never completed the degree and aren’t still pursuing it, use the phrase “Coursework toward” instead.
Master’s degrees and doctorates
Job seekers with advanced degrees in their target field are at a clear advantage — if you have one, list it first. However, in certain rare cases you may actually want to omit your master’s or doctorate if the subject you studied has no relevance to your goal, and/or it would effectively overqualify you for the job at hand.
Bachelor’s and associate degrees
Chances are if you have one or more of these degrees, it would be good to include them on your resume. A bachelor’s or associate degree is still a core requirement for many positions, regardless of what you majored in. But if you never went to college, take heart: Gone are the days when a diploma was your only ticket to the working world. Employers are increasingly open to applicants who have charted their own path to training and proficiency in their field.
High school is the degree you’re most likely to have, and least likely to include on your resume. For the many people seeking work who have at least some college-level education, it’s not necessary to mention high school. The same goes for people who didn’t go to college and graduated high school a long time ago. It’s better to use that space on your resume for details about your relevant work experience.
Do include high school if you graduated recently, and/or it’s a requirement for the jobs you’re going after. Finally, if you’re still in high school and applying to colleges, you’ll find some schools ask for a resume — in this case, your high school experience might be the key feature of your document.
Read about building a resume for college applications for more information.
If you earned a degree overseas, it may not go by any of the official titles above. But you can still use the term equivalent to clarify for hiring managers the level of education you received, as in Bachelor of Science equivalent.
Standard Degree Details
Typically this should go right after your degree title, separated by a dash, as in Bachelor of Science (BS) – Chemistry. However, note that for bachelor’s degrees you don’t need to specify your major if it holds no relevance to your target job.
Usually you place this right after the degree or major, as in Bachelor of Science (BS) – Chemistry, Temple University. If you earned multiple degrees from the same school, though, put the school name first, once, and then enter your degrees as an indented list below:
Bachelor of Science (BS) – Chemistry
Conversely, if you attended multiple schools through the course of completing one degree, put the degree title first and enter the school names as an indented list below:
Bachelor of Science (BS) – Chemistry
University of Pennsylvania
The location portion is not too tricky. You can add the school’s location in the common “City, ST” form: “Bachelor of Science (BS) – Chemistry, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.” The only thing to keep in mind is if your school’s name already gives its location (like the University of California, Berkeley), you don’t have to repeat it since the resulting phrase “University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA” is akin to “Department of Redundancy Department.”
Adding your graduation date is strictly optional. For the purposes of your resume, the degree is more relevant than when you earned it, so you don’t need to give the date. And the year you finished your bachelor’s may be used to guess your age and put you at risk of age discrimination, so it’s usually best to leave it out. The exceptions are if (a) you graduated recently and your degree is key to your overall application, or (b) the graduation date helps you account for what otherwise scans as a gap in your work history.
If you’re still completing the degree in question, you can provide the date you expect to graduate, like this:
Candidate: Bachelor of Science (BS) – Chemistry, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA | expected Dec 2022
Additional Degree Details
A good rule of thumb: The more recently you completed a relevant degree, the more you can feel free to flesh it out with additional details. If you’re a new college grad with no related work experience, your education details might make up the bulk of your resume. But if you’re an executive who graduated 25 years ago, your schooling might be little more than a line or two at the bottom of your resume. It just comes down to striking the right balance of details about your education versus your relevant work experience.
These may include a high GPA, cum laude honors, class rank, or dean’s list. Consider giving these a prominent spot right below your degree title.
Listing relevant courses is an underappreciated way to get more mileage out of your education section, especially if your work experience is limited. If the names of these courses are somehow unclear or unwieldy, just refer to them by the general topics they covered, under the heading “Coursework on” or “Course topics included.”
Dissertation or other major papers
Feel free to include the names of any papers you’ve written if they help further draw out the relevance of your degree toward your job search.
Clubs and athletics
Consider giving details on your non-academic activities if they clearly overlap with your goal. For example, include it if you’ve written for the college newspaper and are pursuing a career in journalism. Clubs and athletics can also be useful as far as showcasing any soft skills you gained, such as leadership and collaboration on a college sports team.
Pulling It Together
Once you’re done organizing your education section, you’ll need to choose where to place it on your resume. There’s no formal rule to follow. Just order your resume sections by their importance to your goal. For example, if your education is the most important part of your overall application, place it first, above any work experience. But if your education is less important, place it farther down the page and give higher billing to your work experience or other credentials.
In all cases, prioritize your most relevant information and you’ll come up with the best possible education section and overall structure for your resume.
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