Use your education to show that you have the knowledge to land the job.
Your education is an essential detail to include on your resume, as it indicates that you are trained in your field. Even if your formal education is not directly related to your current career path (perhaps you made a career change, for instance), it is still worthwhile to show that you succeeded in a high-level learning environment.
As with much of resume writing, the content and format of your resume Education section is fluid and will depend on where you are in your career. Still, it's important that you get it right to prove you're qualified for the job you want.
Here, we break down what to include in the Education section of a resume, and how to do it.
What to include in the Education section of a resume
1. Degree earned
When you finally graduated and received your diploma, what did it say? Bachelor of Arts (BA)? Master of Business Administration (MBA)? Whatever it was, it is the most important education detail you can put on your resume because it is the most official piece of evidence of your education.
Remember that one degree type can be applied to a variety of fields of study. For example, a Bachelor of Science degree can be earned for both physics and computer science. Therefore, in addition to the degree itself, you must include the major for which the degree was earned. This way, a hiring manager knows exactly what topics you've studied.
If you completed any minors or concentrations, you can include those too.
3. University, college, or institution
Add some context to your education by listing the university, college, or institution where you went to school. This is especially important if you attended a well-respected program for your field, because it will make you seem all the more impressive.
Whether or not you include your GPA in the Education section of a resume depends on a number of factors. If you earned your degree 20 years ago, your GPA is likely a defunct measure of your current abilities. If you earned your degree recently, however, adding your GPA can be a great move — but only if it is 3.0 or higher. You can also indicate any distinctions you earned based on your grades, such as summa cum laude, if applicable.
5. Extracurricular activities
If you were in an honors society, you can list your membership. If you were part of a fraternity or sorority, it's a tossup. While you might think this is a good inclusion because it demonstrates you were participating in service-related activities or so on, Greek rivalries can extend way past college years, and you wouldn't want to accidentally tip off your hiring manager that you belonged to a rival group.
Outside of formal education, you may also have taken the initiative to earn supplementary certifications that are relevant to your field. Highlight these in your resume Education section, especially if they are on niche or high-level topics that prove your expertise far beyond a more generalized curriculum.
How to list education on your resume when...
You possess an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or other advanced certification
An employer expects to find information about your undergraduate degree and any graduate work or additional graduate degrees you've earned, such as a master's degree, Ph.D., law degree, and so forth, on your resume. The same goes for any certifications or advanced training you've received that's relevant to your current job goals and career path, such as an RN, PMP, SSBB (Six Sigma Black Belt), etc. Include these in a designated Education and Professional Development resume section.
If you've earned an advanced degree or certification that's considered very important for your field of work, include the acronym for the credential after your name at the top of your resume in addition to including the details of your education at the bottom of your resume in an Education and Professional Development section.
You recently graduated from college
Once you graduate from college and start searching for your first entry-level position, it's assumed that you'll remove any information that refers to your high school activities and focus on your new undergrad degree.
If you're new to the workforce and your new degree is your best selling point, the Education section should appear toward the top of your resume. This is because you most likely have limited professional experience to list on your resume and your education is the core competency that you wish to highlight for an employer. After you have a few years of relevant experience under your belt, the education section gets shifted to the bottom of your resume, and your work history will get pushed farther up on the page.
You started college at one place but finished somewhere else
If you attended college at one institution — perhaps a community college — and then completed your education in another place, you only need to list the university where you completed your degree. All the employer wants to know is which college supplied you with your degree at the end of your education; they don't necessarily care or need to know how you arrived at this place. Save that resume space for more important information.
You didn't attend or finish college
If you didn't go to college and the jobs you're applying for specifically list a high school diploma or equivalent as one of the job requirements, be sure to include that accomplishment on your resume.
If you attended college but didn't graduate, you may want to list the relevant courses you took, especially if you made it to some of the higher-level classes, to demonstrate the skills you built or the disciplines you were exposed to during your coursework.
You're still pursuing a college degree (undergrad or grad program)
If you're still attending college for either your undergraduate or graduate degree, you can simply add an expected graduation year to this information. You can add a list of a few courses you've completed if (a) they're higher-level courses that are relevant to your job goals, and (b) you don't have a lot of relevant work experience to market on your resume.
You earned your degree more than 15 years ago
If you earned a degree or certification more than 15 years ago, place your Education at the bottom of your resume, and remove the graduation date. It's important to demonstrate you've earned the degree, but there's no need to draw attention to how long ago this occurred.
Doing so will allow you to focus your resume on your skills, accomplishments, and professional history. For those who have many years of professional experience, education becomes less important because you should be moving forward in your career.
Remember, there isn't one resume format that fits all job seekers. Be strategic when placing your Education information by considering where you are in your career and how it will help you land the jobs you're after.
Find out if you are showcasing your education correctly on your resume. Get a free resume review from TopResume.
This article was updated in January 2021. It contains work by Amanda Augustine and Lauren Settembrino.