Many job seekers want to know how to best show their educational background to recruiters and hiring managers. Because of that, I wrote this post about the resume education section.
As you scan the post, you will notice it’s long and comprehensive. Thus, you can read all of it or skip to the part that interests you most. You will see examples and links to sample resumes throughout the post.
I have covered the following topics:
- A high-level description of your education section’s content.
- 10 tips for listing your education.
- Examples of how to show your degrees.
- How to share academic achievements.
- How to share your thesis and dissertation topics.
- The approach to take if you didn’t graduate.
- Education-related topics to omit.
- How to share non-degreed education.
- Where to present professional licenses.
- Where to present language skills.
- How to place your education section on your resume.
- Headings to use for your education section.
- How to arrange information about your educational background.
Using the list above as a guide, please read on.
1. Resume Education Section Content
First, you’ll need to think about the educational background you want to show in your resume. These are the most common categories:
- Degrees (associate, undergraduate, graduate).
- Academic honors.
Beyond your formal education, you can also group the following categories with education to save space:
- Language skills.
2. 10 Tips for Listing Education on Your Resume
With content in mind, here are ten tips for showing your educational background that apply for all degrees:
- Abbreviate common degrees to their initials (BA, not Bachelor of Arts).
- Lead with the type of degree (BA, MS, PhD, etc.).
- Omit periods when listing degrees (MBA, not M.B.A.).
- Show the subject after the degree (BS, Physics).
- Use ampersands (BA, English & Speech; not BA, English and Speech).
- List university names after degrees and subjects.
- List a school within a university first, then show the university.
- Verify school, college, and university names online.
- Show locations if people won’t know your university.
- Show your graduation date if your experience section goes back that far.
Note to Item 1 above: If you’re relying heavily on applicant tracking systems (don’t), spell out your degree AND abbreviate it if you’re worried about the quality of the parser that drives the system. Thanks to Carol Adams and Jon Shields for raising and addressing this issue.
3. How to Show Degrees & Fellowships on Your Resume
Next, to help you visualize the tips shared above, here are examples of how you might list your degrees on your resume:
PhD, Astrophysics, City University of New York
BS, Physics, Rutgers University
PhD, Geography, University of British Columbia (Fulbright Scholar)
MS, Public Policy, University of Oregon
BA, English, Lewis & Clark College
PharmD, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL, 2013
BS, Biology (with honors), Utrecht University, Rotterdam, NL, 2005
JD, Stanford Law School, Stanford University, 1993
BA, Political Science, Morehouse College, 1990
MS, Organization Development, Graziadio Business School, Pepperdine University, 2002
BA, Accounting, Ohio State University, 1986
Master of Software Engineering, Dehli University, 1996
BA, Political Science, Dehli University, 1992
MBA/MPA, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 2019
BA, French, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, 2010
BS, Finance (Minor: Information Systems), New York University, 1989
AA, Health Sciences, GPA: 3.4, College of the Desert, Palm Desert, CA
4. How to Show Academic Achievement on Your Resume
After you have the basics of your degrees down, you might want to add honors you’ve earned. Honors include:
- Cum laude.
- Magna cum laude.
- Summa cum laude.
- Phi Beta Kappa.
Share your honors on your resume, but keep them simple. I prefer to write “with honors” rather than going into detail.
Also, don’t mention dean’s list honors. Readers want to see your big achievements, not that you had a good quarter or semester.
In addition, list your GPA if you’re a student or a new grad and it’s higher than 3.0. If not, leave it out.
5. How to Show Your Thesis or Dissertation on Your Resume
As an aside, I often get asked, “Should I include the title of my thesis on my resume?” Do so if your research was on point to your job search. If not, save space.
6. How to Show Your Education on Your Resume If You Didn’t Graduate
While everything above helps people with degrees, what if you didn’t finish a degree? You can still list that education on your resume. (If you didn’t go to college, see the section on training and coursework below.)
Graduate Coursework, Leadership & Change Management, American University, 1994 to 1996
MBA Courses, Loyola University, Chicago, IL
General Studies, University of Georgia, 2005 to 2006
7. School Information to Leave Off Your Resume
Another aside, if you’re looking for a professional-level job, omit:
- High school information (always).
- Extracurricular activities (after you’ve been out of school one or two years).
Recruiters want to see that you’ve moved on to adulting, not that you’re stuck in your high school or college years.
If you want to connect with alums, do so via your cover letters.
8a. How to Show Certificates on Your Resume
Moving on from degrees, over the last several years, certificate programs have emerged as a credible way to learn new subject matter. When they’re relevant to your job search, they belong on your resume.
Certificate, Database Architecture, University of California Irvine
Certificate, Machine Learning, Stanford University/Coursera, 2021
Certificate, Role of Non-Executive Director, Institute of Directors, London, UK, 2017
8b. Relevant Coursework, Training & Certifications
In addition to certificate programs, many people complete other studies to help their careers. If the knowledge is on point to your job search, include it on your resume. If not, don’t list it.
Financial Modeling, Investment Banking Institute
Improv Level A & B, The Second City
Extensive Leadership & Business Process Training, 1994 to 2004
There’s one type of training you should almost always include on your resume — leadership development programs. They help your readers understand that your company has invested in you as a “high potential” and that you have learned the basics of leadership science.
Executive Management Program, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
Global Top Executive Program, Unilever, 2013 to 2014
Leading with Impact, Harvard Business School
Some training results in certification on proprietary intellectual property. If the IP is relevant to your job search, include it on your resume. If not, don’t list it.
Also, if the certification has a well-known acronym, include it in parentheses. It could be a keyword recruiters want to see.
Certified Practitioner, MBTI Steps I & II, Myers & Briggs Foundation
Project Management Professional (PMP), Project Management Institute
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Human Resource Certification Institute, 2019
You can save space on your resume by grouping professional licenses with your education. Some certifications and licenses also work at the top of your resume.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA), State of Florida, 2007
FINRA License Holder — Series 7, 24 & 63
Real Estate Broker, License Number 493999, Washington State
You can show a license in process like this:
CPA Candidate, completed FAR & AUD sections
You can also save space on your resume by grouping your language skills with your education.
Bilingual, English & Spanish
Fluent English & Italian
Fluent English, French & Hebrew
11. Where to Locate the Education Section of Your Resume
Your education section will usually follow the professional experience section of your resume. You can lead with it if you’re a student or recent graduate.
Also, you might feature another element of your background before your education if it’s more on point to your job search (board memberships, patents, awards, etc.). You can see an example here.
12. Resume Education Section Headings
Your resume’s education section heading might look like this:
- Certification & Education.
- Education, Licenses & Certifications.
- Education & Languages.
You can see an example of how Option 2 looks on a resume here.
13. How to Order Information in Your Resume’s Education Section
Now that you know what to put in it, where to place it, and what to call it, how should you order your education on your resume?
- Prioritize degrees over non-degreed education.
- Show degrees in reverse chronological order.
- Follow degrees with other education in reverse chronological order.
MBA, Rice University, 2003
MA, Engineering, University of Vermont, 1990
BA, Geology, University of Colorado Boulder, 1987
Licensed Professional Engineer (PE), State of Texas
Executive Leadership Program, Exxon Mobil, 2010
Fluent English & Arabic
Break those rules when you want to show your most relevant educational background first.
Data Science Certificate, Northwestern University, 2019
BA, Marketing, University of Texas at Austin, 2013
What Do Recruiters Want to Know About Your Education
Throughout this post, I’ve said to include information in your resume’s education section if it’s “on point” or “relevant” to your job search. Recruiters want to know:
- If you have a degree(s).
- About other on-point education.
- Not much else.
Questions About How to Present Your Educational Background
Finally, do you have a question about how to show your educational background on your resume? I encourage you to ask it in the comments section below.
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© 2019 – 2021, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, and Business News Daily.
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