How to List Education on a Resume
Your education is an important section on a resume that many employers look at to learn about your background and credentials. Sometimes, your education might be specifically relevant to your ability to perform the job position (a medical degree, for example), while other times it simply shows employers that you have the drive and persistence necessary to pursue higher education.
This article will cover whether or not you should include your education details, and if so, what information you should include and where to place it on your resume.
Should You Include Your Education on Your Resume?
In essentially all cases, it’s a good idea to include your education details on your resume. Even if your education is non-traditional, incomplete, or in-progress, it can still give potential employers an idea of your background and your ability to perform the job.
What Do Employers Want to See in Your Education Section?
The higher the job is in the company, the more education the hiring manager wants to see. For example, an executive position may require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree earned, while an entry-level position may only require a high school diploma or proof you’ve taken a few relevant courses.
When listing your education on your resume, use the reverse chronological resume format, and always be honest. Don’t exaggerate your studies or college education, and double check the information before submitting. If an employer runs a background check and the information doesn’t match what’s on your resume, it’s an immediate red flag.
What Information Goes in Your Education Section?
The amount and type of information that goes in your education section varies based on what type of education you have, how relevant it is to the position you are applying for, how much work experience you have, and so forth. However, here are the main details that you will likely want to include if you have a completed college degree or if you have attended college:
- Your degree, major, or area of specialty (specify if you are a double major)
- Your minor, if it’s relevant or useful to the position you are applying for
- The name and location of your school (use the school you graduated from if you attended multiple schools)
- Dates that you attended (or expected graduation date if you still attend)
- Academic achievements, honors, relevant coursework, accolades, study abroad and other achievements
In your educational entry, if you have finished college, you don’t need to include your high school information on your resume. However, if you are in high school or college, you can include the name and location of your high school, years attended/expected graduation date. Include your GPA on a resume if it’s above 3.5, and any honors or awards that you earned (such as graduating magna cum laude or summa cum laude).
There is additional information you can include if you feel it’s relevant, but it’s not required on a resume. If you need to cut information out of your resume, don’t add these things unless you’re confident they will make a difference.
- A thesis or dissertation completed as part of a graduate school experience that is relevant to the job.
- Extracurricular activities where you developed skills needed for the different jobs you apply for.
- Merit-based grants and scholarships if they are relevant to the job.
- Academic awards such as the Dean’s list.
Should Your Education Come Before Experience?
Every resume is unique. Ask yourself: what is your most relevant accomplishment to the job you want? Education and work experience may switch spots on your resume depending on how relevant they are to the job you’re applying for.
There are a few times when you should put education before experience, such as:
- If you recently graduated from college and lack relevant work experience.
- If you’ve recently gone back to school for a degree relevant to the job.
- If you’re studying to obtain a higher education degree to move up in your industry.
- If you’re changing industries and obtaining a degree to do so.
If you apply for a job in academia or the education field, you’ll need a curriculum vitae (CV) rather than a resume.
Education doesn’t need to be specific on your cover letter or job objective, rather expound on it in its own section in your resume.
How to List Completed Education
When listing college degrees, start with your highest degree and then add other degrees in reverse chronological order after that. There are several different ways to write degrees - if you have a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts you can write it in the following ways:
- Bachelor of Arts, Fine Arts
- BA, Fine Arts
- B.A. in Fine Arts
All are acceptable, but you may wish to mirror the format that the employer uses in the job description to help your resume pass applicant tracking system (ATS) scans. Just be sure to use the same format for all of the entries in all education listed.
Here’s an example of how a typical college degree might be listed on a resume:
2011-2015, BA in Fine Arts, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
If you want to add extra education information and you have enough room on your resume, feel free. However, if you have more than five years of professional work experience, you will likely want to focus on that experience rather than your educational details.
If you graduated from an honors program, were valedictorian or salutatorian, or earned Latin honors, you can also list these succinctly in your education section:
2010-2014 Honors BA in Fine Arts, Valedictorian, Magna Cum Laude, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
If you want to go into more detail, consider adding bullet points to briefly highlight other accomplishments. You can also include scholarships, campus/national/international honor society memberships, business fraternity memberships, honor roll, dean’s list, and so forth. Or, if you really want to draw attention to these details, you may wish to create a separate honors and awards section on your resume.
Additionally, if you have or are working towards a PhD or other advanced degree and have relevant publications that you wish to call attention to, you can list them under your degree or create a separate publication section.
If you were homeschooled or otherwise had a non-traditional education as a high school student, explain this on your resume and include any equivalencies you can to traditional school milestones (high school diploma, etc.) to help clarify your educational achievements for someone who might not be familiar with the non-traditional route.
How to List In-Progress Education
If you are still in college currently, provide your expected degree, the school location and graduation date, like so:
2020-present BA in Fine Arts candidate, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Expected graduation June 2024
You may wish to provide additional details in this case, such as honors, relevant coursework, your GPA, and so forth. Follow the same format for in-progress high school education.
How to List Study Abroad Information
If you completed one of many study abroad programs and you have room on your resume, use this example to list information correctly:
September 2022 - December 2022 Study Abroad Program in Paris, France, Université PSL (Paris Sciences & Lettres)
Next, include a short bullet list of what you accomplished during your study abroad experience. Some examples include but are not limited to:
- Earned an A average with high marks for engagement and participation
- Completed intense coursework in French culture, literature and language
- Resided with a host family to gain further understanding of French traditions and customs and improve language skills
If your education section is running long, you can cut out the bullet points and just list your experience. This section is particularly important if the job requires you to travel or be well-versed in other languages and cultures, and you feel it sets you apart from other job seekers.
How to List High School Education or Incomplete Education
If you completed some high school, simply list the school name and location with the years that you did attend. If you later completed a GED or graduated high school, include that information as well:
GED High School Equivalency Diploma
Seattle Adult Learning Center, Washington, 2010
Seattle Public High School, Seattle, WA
Attended from 2005-2007
Or, if you started college but then decided it wasn’t a good fit for you, you can still highlight the credits that you did earn and include your high school information as well, like so:
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Completed 60 credits towards BA in Fine Arts
Seattle Public High School, Seattle, WA
Graduated in 2010
Even though you did not complete your college degree, you paid for and earned those credits, and you can and should feel proud about claiming them.
How to List Additional Certifications Relevant to the Job
Formal education is not all you can use to sell yourself. Include any additional certifications, trade school or professional development courses you completed that make you better than the other candidates, such as:
- National Board Certification of Teachers (for a teaching position)
- Digital Literacy certification
- CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification
- BLS (basic life support) certification
- ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification
Include any continuing education courses relevant to the job you’re pursuing. If most applicants have similar education backgrounds to yours, these extra certifications may give you the edge you need.
Where To Place Your Education Section
If you are a high school student, a college student or a recent graduate, you can list your education information before your work experience on your resume. Place it at the top, just under your resume header and resume objective. Even if you have a couple of years of professional experience but your education is more impressive, you can place it at the top.
However, if you have more than five years of work experience, list that above your education details. At that point in your career, a potential employer will likely find your professional experience much more relevant.
Additional Tips for Education on a Resume
Here are a few tips to improve your resume’s education section:
- If you haven’t graduated, always include your anticipated graduation date.
- Keep your education section concise and to the point.
- Use action verbs when describing educational background and accomplishments.
As always, edit your resume before sending it in. You can never proofread too much, and it helps to have someone you trust read over it before you send it in.
Your resume should be no more than one page, but you do want the page to look full and complete. So, if your resume is looking a bit sparse or blank, consider including sections like hobbies and interests, languages, skills, and so forth to catch the recruiter’s attention.
Frequently Asked Questions About Education on a Resume
What Does Level of Education Mean?
Level of education refers to the highest education level you finished. This could be a high school diploma, associate’s degree, undergraduate degree, doctoral degree or graduate degree. You may even have multiple degrees, so include the education most relevant to the job descriptions.
What if You’re Still in High School?
If you’re still in high school but applying for a job, put your highest level of education as currently in school with your anticipated graduation date. Including unfinished school on a resume is perfectly acceptable.
Does It Matter What School You Attended?
In some situations, employers may value a degree from a prestigious university. This happens in competitive fields where even entry-level jobs have extensive requirements. If you attended a school that is known for the program you graduated in, make sure to not only highlight the name of the university in your education section, but in your resume statement or objective as well.
Your educational background is often an important detail that potential employers will pay attention to. Include any incomplete, in-progress, or completed higher education degrees, and add your high school information if that is the highest level of education you achieved or if you are still currently in high school or college. Include honors, awards, and accolades to flesh out your education section. However, if you have more than five years of professional work experience or work history, focus more heavily on that over your educational background.
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