In most resumes the Education section follows your Qualifications. Your education can be a compelling part of your qualifications. Having a specific degree or a certificate might be a prerequisite for the position you are seeking. In that case, mentioning it is a no-brainer. Even if you did not complete a degree or certificate program, but have substantial hours of study in the field, your education section can help sell you.
Unless there is a compelling reason not to, education usually belongs up front. It serves to unfurl your background as you lead up to your professional history. Another reason is that in occupations where academic credentials are important, this information is usually expected to be near the beginning, and its absence could be misconstrued as hiding or burying something.
If you did not complete high school, yet have completed a few basic classes at a community or technical college, list those and ditch the high school information.
Specialized training and continuing education classes can also trump the lack of a formal degree. Workshops, seminars, and in-house company training sessions reflect professional and personal development.
Sometimes, overwhelming experience and a long career will enable the writer to completely eliminate the education section, particularly if the person lacks the standard education that most peers possess.
As with each entry in the resume, the education piece must be easy to read. Look at sample resumes to see various ways to effectively show education.
how to beSt DiSPlaY Your eDuCation
The following section reveals the best way to present your education. Highlight or place a mark by the scenario that best matches your background.
High School Graduate, No College
Diploma -Roosevelt High School, Chicago, Illinois (1999)
Some College, No Degree
As previously stated, if you have attended college, there is rarely a reason to include your high school.
Business Studies – University of Nevada – Las Vegas, 136 credits (2000–2003)
The above example demonstrates that the writer completed the lion’s share of graduation credits. Specifying the major indicates focus. If you did not declare a formal major but have a substantial cluster of credits in one or more study areas, go ahead and present one or both as your major; choose whichever one is more valuable in selling you.
Certificate from a Technical School
Certificate -Welding Technology, Davis Technical School (2006)
Certificate -Computer Programming, Lake Washington Technical College (2001)
No Degree, Attended Several Colleges
Some people acquire credits at several schools. It is not necessary to list every school attended, but do include all of your credits.
Business Studies – Cheboit Junior College, Castlerock Community College, Riverside Community College, 98 credits.
The person in the above example actually attended three other colleges, which are not mentioned because they only yielded a few credits. The total number of credits from all six schools is included, but as they were earned over an extended period such as ten years, the range of dates is best left out.
No Degree, Two Colleges Attended
Theater Studies – Northeastern Illinois University, 70 credits (2001–2003) English Studies – University of Illinois, Circle Campus, 30 credits (1999)
No Degree, Minimal College
Total Quality Management, Dreyfuss & Assoc., 24 hours (2008) Implementing Just in Time, Bob Huston & Assoc., 40 hours (2007) The Problem Employee, Dreyfuss & Assoc., 8 hours (2006)
Principles of Management, University of Texas, 5 credits (2004)
Motivating Employees, Dreyfuss & Assoc., 16 hours (2002)
Introduction to Marketing, University of Texas, 5 credits (2001)
This individual has been attending professional development seminars and college classes for years. The combination of the two in a single section demonstrates an ongoing commitment to learning and growth.
Degree, One or More Colleges Attended
The most important college to list is the one from which you graduated. If you received a two-year degree from a community college, but then graduated from a four-year college, the associate degree is not included unless it adds something valuable. This might include a specific field of study or a geographic connection. The only date required is the year of graduation from the school that gave you your diploma.
B.S. – Physics, Rhode Island University (2006)
Will Soon Graduate
If you will graduate in just a few months you might show education like this:
B.A. – Political Science, University of Arizona (June 2009)
In the above example the assumption is that the resume has been written in the fall or winter 2008, and you are scheduled to graduate in June 2009.
If you expect to graduate in the coming year but don’t know which quarter, you might express it this way:
B.A. Program – Chemistry, University of Toronto (expected 2009)
Bachelor’s Degree Plus Graduate Studies, But No Graduate Degree
Graduate Studies – Public Administration, University of Georgia (2001–2002)
B.A. – Political Science, University of Georgia (1998)
If your thesis is impressive or relevant, present it. A more elaborate description of the thesis can be very effective. It could be described right after the thesis title, or an entire section could be devoted to it called Thesis.
M.A. – Counseling, UCLA (1974)
B.A. – Psychology, Oregon State University (1970)
Ph.D. – Industrial Psychology, Stanford University (1977)
M.A. – Psychology, Northwestern University (1973)
B.A. – Sociology, Northern Illinois University (1971)
Ph.D. – Physics, University of Washington (1995) Thesis: Interlinear Regression Analysis of Wave Length Dichotomy
M.S. – Physics, University of Washington (1989)
B.S.– Physics, University of Manitoba (1985)
In addition to listing the title of your thesis, it may be useful to provide a brief description. This is especially true if you think that even people in your own field may not fully understand what the title of your thesis means. Even if they will likely understand the terms, they won’t fully appreciate the value of your thesis or research without a short description.
Ph.D. – Physics, University of Nebraska (2002) Major: Theoretical Solid State Physics and Mathematical Physics Thesis: Analytical Solutions for Flux Phase Analysis
Research obtained the first analytical solutions for the flux phase,
which was derived from high-temperature superconductivity models. Proved assertions from early numerical calculations.
M.S. – Physics, University of Nebraska (1999)
B.S. – Physics, University of Science and Technology of China (1997)
You can also create a Projects section, which would incorporate a description of your thesis as well as other projects you’ve worked on where you can usually devote more space to the description than you could in the above example.
All But Dissertation
If you have completed all requirements for a graduate degree except for the dissertation or thesis, the education entry might read:
Doctoral Program, Physics, Iowa State University, completed all but dissertation (2005)
Doctoral Program, Physics, Iowa State University, completed all coursework (2005)
tiPS For Strengthening Your eDuCation SeCtion
The following tips will help you put the finishing touches on your education section.
Listing Major and Minor
You may want to list both your major and minor if you believe the minor will help to sell you. In the case below, the person wanted to become a labor relations negotiator and felt the economics minor strengthened her credentials.
B.A. – Major: Industrial Relations. Minor: Economics. Syracuse University (1998)
Degrees and Abbreviations
B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees are common and readily recognizable. Others are less so. Degrees such as B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts), M.P.S. (Master of Professional Studies), and A.T.A. (Associate of Technical Arts) are usually better spelled out.
When to Use GPA (Grade Point Average)
Generally GPA is listed only if it is over 3.2. It is usually dropped from your resume after you’ve been out of school long enough to have established an employment track record. It’s interesting to note that most follow-up studies have revealed little correlation between a high college GPA and success on the job. If your overall GPA was unimpressive, but your GPA in your major was above 3.5, you might want to list it this way:
B.A. – Geography, 3.7 in major, University of Oregon (2006)
When to List Honors
If you graduated with honors or with a title such as Cum Laude or Summa Cum Laude, you could include it like this:
- – Cum Laude, History, Brigham Young University (2005)
- – with honors, English Literature, George Washington University (2004)
Location of School
The city and state in which your college is located are usually not included in your resume. This is particularly true if your college is well known in the region in which you are conducting your job search. If you think employers might be curious, however, include the city and state:
b.a. – Business, Griffith College, Austin, Texas (1989)
Order of Schools
Normally schools are listed in reverse chronological order, beginning with your most recent school. Typically this would also mean that your highest-level degree would appear first.
Whether to List Major
People should usually include their majors, even if that major did not directly prepare them for the field they are now in. There are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies who graduated with degrees in history or literature. Again, if you have a compelling reason for excluding the major, go ahead. We suggest keeping your major in, but if you feel strongly about removing it, it might look like this:
b.S. – University of Calgary (1992)
Don’t Claim Education or Degrees You Don’t Have
Confirming an applicant’s education is one of the easiest parts of the resume to check and any misrepresentations will sooner or later come back to bite you.
Including Coursework Can Add Impact
Adding coursework, especially for newbies and career changers, can be particularly useful in documenting subject knowledge. Degrees and programs differ from school to school and it is often beneficial to reassure the reader that you have studied the requisite material. List the courses in order of their importance to your stated objective. If you create groups of courses (math, statistics, and physics for example), list courses in order of importance in each category.
b.a. – Journalism/Advertising, University of Hawaii -3.39 GPA (2006) Specialized Coursework: Advertising Copywriting, Public Relations Writing, Media Planning, Media Representation, Production Graphics, Advertising Layout and Design, Media Aesthetics, Principles of Design, Principles of Color