How to List Education on Resume

how to list education on a resume

If you’re like most job seekers, it’s likely that you didn’t give much thought to the education section of your resume.

Many job seekers consider this section “just a list of schools and degrees.” However, the education section gives employers valuable information about your background and your fit for the role.

In this article, we’ll explain how you can use the education section more effectively, giving you an edge in the hiring game.

What Employers Are Looking For in the Resume Education Section

When employers review the education section of your resume, what they’re looking for depends on the requirements of the job.

They may scan for:

  • Your school’s name and location
  • Your degree and field of study
  • Graduation year
  • GPA (We’ll revisit this topic later in the article.)
  • Relevant coursework, achievements, or honors

If you’re a recent graduate, you may want to include a more detailed education section, since this will comprise the bulk of your relevant experience. Otherwise, you’ll focus more on your work experience. Different jobs will require varying levels of detail and varying levels of education.

For an entry level position, for instance, employers want to verify that you have a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree. For a higher level position, employers may prefer a graduate degree. Some professions require specific degrees or certifications.

Most job descriptions specify educational requirements. Review these requirements to determine whether you’re truly a good fit for the position.

Where to List Education

While the sections included on resumes are fairly standard (i.e. title, education, experience, etc.), you have some flexibility regarding the order of each section. This is particularly true when it comes to where you list education on your resume.

Typically, the placement of education depends in part on your credentials, including college degrees and professional certifications. The extent of your education and the type of position to which you’re applying are also important factors.

Listing Education at the Beginning

That said, education most commonly appears immediately after the title/heading (name, address, and contact information).

For example:

Jane Smith                                
123 Somewhere Street | Somewhere, NY 00000
555.555.5555 |

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | May 2017
Bachelor of Science, Accounting

The above example is fairly straightforward. After the accountant’s name, address, and contact information, her college, and date of graduation appear along with the type of degree (Bachelor of Science) and major.

While it’s acceptable to abbreviate the degree to B.A. or B.S., it looks more professional to spell out the full Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. (Note: Don’t add ’s after “Bachelor” when spelling out your degree.)

Pro Tip: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) used by many employers may distort a submitted resume’s format. In particular, placing dates on the left-hand side has caused some issues with ATS. To avoid this issue, format education like the example above, with dates on the right-hand side.

Benefits of Listing Education at the Beginning

New college graduates benefit the most from listing education at the beginning of the resume. This is because you want an employer to know you have a degree (and, when specified, the degree required) right from the start.

Some candidates place the resume education section last—after experience, a summary of qualifications, and any other sections deemed necessary. The problem with this is that employers receive many applicants who aren’t qualified education-wise.

Since employers often read through resumes quickly, it’s helpful to list your education at the beginning. This way, hiring managers know immediately that you meet basic education requirements.

As an added note, employers are finding that applicants frequently fabricate nonexistent degrees. This has resulted in employers making efforts to verify that applicants do indeed have a college degree. Asking candidates for a college transcript and comparing it with the listed educational background is a great way to filter out applicants.

You might be surprised by the number of job seekers whose resume contradicts their submitted transcript. Another common issue is that applicants apply to a job listing only their high school diploma, despite the fact that the job requires a college degree.

The bottom line is that you should let an employer know right away that you have the right educational background by placing it at the beginning of your resume. To ensure that you also have the right skills, upload your resume to Chegg CareerMatch and receive a list of your employable skills.

Listing Education at the End

Is it ever appropriate to list your education at the end of a resume? Absolutely. For job postings that list no education requirements, instead citing specific skill sets or experiences as crucial (e.g. two years of sale experience), education can certainly appear at the end of the resume.

When a job posting is focused on required skill sets, include a “Summary of Qualifications” after the heading. There, you can list relevant skills and experiences. Our article “The Importance of Resume Action Verbs” will show you how to enhance your list of skills.

We also recommend placing your resume education section last when applying for a part-time job or a job unrelated to your degree. If you’re seeking a part-time job in the service industry or retail sales, a degree is generally not required. For this reason, you can place your education last in such instances.

Likewise, let’s say you have the required skills for a job, but your degree isn’t one of the degrees listed under “preferred qualifications.” In this case, placing education at the end could help lessen the impact of your degree not being a perfect fit for the job. By the time employers reach your education section, they’ll already have read about all of your other excellent qualifications.

Another scenario is if you have a graduate degree and are seeking a part-time job in sales or retail to pay the bills. Similarly, perhaps you’ve been laid off or fired and are looking for fast work outside of your field.

In either case, don’t list your graduate degree. Some employers may see a graduate degree and reason that you aren’t planning to remain at the job for long. As a result, they will likely look at other applicants to avoid repeating the hiring process in a few months.

If you have additional questions on how to list education on resume, our article “Resume Samples and Templates” includes entry level job resume samples for a variety of jobs and industries.

What About Listing High School Diplomas?

If you’re a current college student or college graduate, drop any reference to your high school diploma from your resume. Resume space is limited, so conserve this extra space for information such as computer proficiencies or listing accomplishments from the jobs you’ve had.

Additionally, a hiring manager who sees that you’re in college or have graduated from college will realize you’ve finished high school or obtained a G.E.D. These are required for acceptance to college.

There is one exception to this rule: The only time a college student or graduate should include a reference to high school is if applying to a job knowing the hiring manager has a preference for graduates from that high school. For example, the hiring manager may be an alum of the high school you attended. However, this is a rare and unlikely scenario.

Once you’re officially attending a college or university, remove any mention of your high school diploma from your resume.

Listing Dates of Attendance: Graduate vs. Current Student

When listing your educational background on a resume, it’s customary to include dates regarding your time in college. Here are some tips on the best way to format this information.

First, listing the range of years you were enrolled in college (e.g. 2014-2017) is unnecessary. Instead, provide only the month and year of your graduation. If you haven’t graduated yet, list the month and year of your “anticipated” graduation.

Here’s an example:

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | May 2019 (Anticipated)
Bachelor of Science, Accounting

If you didn’t graduate from college and aren’t anticipating returning to finish your degree, list the years of your attendance along with the department you were a student in, like the following resume education example:

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | 2015-2017

Should You Include a GPA?

New graduates often list their final GPA on a resume, believing that it’s a requirement for the job. Additionally, mentioning a high GPA can give you a sense of pride. Deciding to include your GPA on a resume is understandable.

Listing your GPA or the fact that you received Dean’s List or cum laude honors won’t hurt your chances of getting an interview. However, it won’t typically give you an edge over your competition, especially if your competition has more relevant work experience. In truth, employers aren’t as swayed by high or low GPAs as many applicants believe.

If you do decide to include your GPA, here’s a way to format it:

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | May 2016
Bachelor of Science, Accounting | 3.45 GPA

How to List Certifications

Relevant certifications are another piece of information to include in the education section of your resume.

In situations where someone is looking to change fields, obtaining a certificate or certification in another field may provide enough education to support the career change. This saves the time necessary to obtain an additional college degree.

For many employers, certificates and certifications make an applicant stand out. Additionally, continuing education credits often help an individual seek leadership positions within their current company. For these reasons, pursuing (and listing) a certificate or a certification is worth considering.

Here’s a simple way to add a certificate or certification to your resume:

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | May 2016
Bachelor of Science, Accounting

Academy of Human Resource Management | New York, NY | May 2017
Certificate in Human Resource Management

Although the certificate in this example was obtained after the individual’s college degree, the college degree is usually given more weight, which is why it’s left as the first listed education credit.

If you list your education at the end of your resume, you can include your certifications in the “Summary of Qualifications” section instead.

What If You Have Little to No Experience?

When someone has little job experience, it becomes difficult to fill an entire page for a resume. The education section is a key way to occupy more of the page.

If you don’t have much job experience, adding a list of relevant coursework you’ve completed can fill and enhance your resume.

Here’s a resume education example:

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | May 2016
Bachelor of Science, Accounting

Relevant Coursework: Financial Accounting, Forensic Accounting, Management Accounting, Business Law, Accounting Information Systems & Auditing.

An additional tip for students with little experience: Use Chegg CareerMatch to discover jobs that you’re suited for–you may be surprised.

In most cases, the education section of your resume should be no more than 15-30 words. Despite being short in terms of length, the question of how to list education on resume is more important than most job-seekers realize.

Using the information we’ve provided here, you can make the most of the resume education section and leave a positive impression on potential employers.

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