The education section on your resume may be one of the shortest if you are a mid-career professional, yet it could carry the most punch per line. That is because the majority of jobs in the US economy require education beyond high school, and employers look for college grads in their searches. According to a Georgetown University study, 65% of jobs in the United States require post-secondary education.
Many job seekers I speak with have some level of post-secondary education, so the challenge is to present it well on their resume. Some of the issues I discuss with job seekers include:
- Correctly citing the title of the degree,
- Listing the school name accurately.
- Choosing whether to emphasize the degree or the school,
- Specifying the college major,
- Including the year of graduation,
- Providing lists of classes,
- Highlighting academic honors.
- Excluding the education section in certain cases, and
- Electing to place information about your education near the top or bottom of the resume.
The education section of a resume ordinarily includes formal education such as schooling in degree-granting colleges and universities. Technical training and industry certifications are often placed under separate headings.
List your degree correctly.
It is important to correctly list your degree on the resume. Often, in casual conversation, we say we hold a bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree. A colleague pointed out to me that, when we graduate, we “become a bachelor” or “become a master” so it is incorrect to write that we hold the “Master’s of Business Administration” degree, for example.
Some job seekers refer to their undergraduate degree as a Bachelor of Arts, or BA, even though it is, for example, the Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Chances are, you will be asked to present your transcript or diploma during onboarding, so check your documents in advance and get it right.
Check your school name.
Colleges often merge, rename divisions, or expand from colleges to universities. The school’s current name is often more recognizable to employers. It is the school name they will search their database for if they like hiring people that attended the school. This is the name I recommend entering on resumes in most cases. For example, a client graduated from Stockton University in New Jersey. The school was Stockton College when he attended, but we referred to the school as Stockton University on his resume.
Choose whether to emphasize the degree or the school.
A related question I get frequently is whether to emphasize the school or the degree. Most of the time, I recommend putting the emphasis on the degree, using bold type, because HR may consider your degree when they set your compensation.
You do not always have to list your major subject.
Many job seekers, I’ve found, work in fields that bear little or no relationship to their college major. You may choose to omit your major or area of concentration from your college or advanced degree entry if the subject is not relevant to your career.
For example, a client that works as an engineer also has a law degree. I suggested including the degree since he may receive more compensation because he holds an advanced degree. We omitted his area of concentration—bankruptcy law—because it is not relevant to his work as an engineer.
Do not always list years of graduation.
Another issue related to education that I discuss frequently with job seekers is whether and how to show years of attendance or graduation dates. I do not recommend including the year you started and completed school on the resume. Some job seekers are justifiably proud that they doggedly pursued their undergraduate degree for 10 years while working and raising a family. Employers, though, could read this as being lazy.
Another approach is to list only the year you graduated. This is fine if you graduated within the last 10 years, but it is not to your advantage if you graduated school 40 years ago, and are only showing your jobs since the start of the 21st Century or later on the resume. So, in most cases, I recommend you do not include your graduation date.
Avoid including long lists of classes.
Normally, I do not recommend including an extensive course list on your resume. The specific course work does not matter if you are working in a field that is different from the field you studied, or if many people in your field take the same classes. Exceptions could include classes that are relevant to the job, but not ordinarily part of your college major.
We sometimes do recommend including specific classes or programs when they are relevant to your goal. A client I worked with wanted to emphasize that he is bilingual. He spent his junior year of college in Barcelona, Spain, so his study abroad was relevant.
Include certain honors if you have received them.
The only thing most employers care about is whether or not job candidates with several years of experience have a degree. They are most interested in how you have performed in your career since college.
This is frustrating because many of us are proud of the high grades and recognition we received in school. As a result, I usually recommend only including honors such as cum laude or magna cum laude. These are Latin words for “with distinction” and “with most distinction.” Do not use initial upper-case letters.
Include academic honors sparingly, especially if you are not a recent graduate.
Suppose you have no degree, or no college education.
Frequently, I speak with job seekers who are attending college or graduate school while they are working. Usually, I suggest listing the degree with an expected graduation date. I recommend doing this only if you are currently registered or “matriculated” at the school so a potential employer would be able to verify that you are a student. Otherwise, I suggest listing the number of credits completed that will appear on your transcript when you provide it to the employer.
Occasionally, I speak with job seekers that did not attend college at all, or who have very few credits. It may make sense to omit the education section from your resume entirely if you are a successful entrepreneur, senior professional, or executive. Otherwise, list your high school diploma.
Place education where it benefits you most.
Another frequent discussion revolves around whether the education section belongs near the top or bottom of the resume. The answer depends on its importance to your job search. A recent graduate applying for a job related to their college major may want to position education immediately under the summary. Most experienced professionals should place their education under their work experience because their experience will carry the most weight in the application process.
Take a look at my examples to see how I have incorporated education into resumes.
Create your brief education entry.
Typically, I keep the education entry brief for professionals and executives with work experience. The entry looks like this:
Master of Business Administration, Finance, Rowan University,
Glassboro, NJ, 2018
Bachelor of Science, Business Management, Stockton University
Galloway, NJ, 2013
These brief entries give prospective employers the information they need to decide whether you have the basic educational credential for the job.
Let’s talk about how we can present your education and other benefits to employers. Click here to arrange a conversation. You are also welcome to post your questions and comments below.