The Education Section

Your education, while not always a primary focus of the resume, is an important section to include. Many positions require a certain level of education. If a degree is not required, continuing education can work to your advantage. Similarly, noting ongoing professional development, which can be included in an education section, can also show that you are willing to continue learning in your area of expertise.

Placement

For many, education will be listed toward the end of the resume. However, in certain circumstances, a more prominent education placement can be helpful. For new graduates, education is often listed first, with related projects, coursework, internships, etc. highlighted. This can be particularly important for those with little or unrelated work experience.

Education may also play a more prominent role for those who have been working outside their primary area of study and want to return, or those who returned to school after following a career. Your goals and the target position will help determine the best location for your educational information, as well as how much information to include.

Degrees

List degrees in reverse chronological order, presenting the most recent degree first. Generally, include the name of the school and location. If you received your degree in the past ten years or so, you may want to include the year. If the degree is more “dated,” it can be useful to leave off the year to avoid unintentional age discrimination. Similarly, some fields tend to change rapidly (such as technology), so listing a dated computer engineering degree could potentially be viewed negatively. Use your best judgment. At a minimum, include the school name, city and state (or related information if an international degree), and the degree earned.

Generally, scanning systems are set-up to show degrees either by the full name (Bachelor of Science) or by abbreviation (BS). However you choose to present the degree, aim for consistency if you have more than one, and show the information correctly. Follow the type of degree with your major area of study. Additional information can be included if it helps show specialty expertise or will help show that you are more qualified in a particular area, such as a minor area of study that shows additional, beneficial expertise for the target position. Depending on your degree and career field, it may be helpful to note your highest level of education in your header (after your name on the first page of the resume), using the abbreviations, such as Jane Doe, CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist). Take care when doing this, however, using the approach for those situations where your degree clearly works to your advantage. There are many MBAs out there, for example; in this instance, what you achieved on the job will hold more weight.

Correct methods for showing degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Science/Arts/Etc. (B.S., B.A., etc.)
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master of Science/Arts/Etc. (M.S., M.A., M.B.A., etc.)
  • Master’s degree
  • Associate of Arts
  • Associate’s degree
  • Incorrect ways of showing degrees include:
  • Bachelors of Science/Art/Etc.
  • Bachelor’s of Science/Art/Etc.
  • Master’s of Science/Art/Etc.
  • Masters of Business Administration
  • Associate’s of Art/Science/Etc.

If your degree is from an accredited university, you do not need to note if it is an online school. For those with degrees from international schools, if you have obtained the equivalent accreditation information, that can be included to show that your degree is officially recognized. For those who are fresh out of high school, a high school diploma can be included. Generally, however, high school education is left off.

For new graduates, listing specific, related coursework can be beneficial, as it helps to show areas of expertise where experience may be lacking. Similarly, many programs and classes involve in-depth class or capstone projects, research, etc. Again, this type of information can be listed in the education section, similarly to how it would be presented in the professional experience section. Provide a brief overview of the scope of the project, and list quantifiable or other specific outcomes. For those projects that have a “real world” basis, if the project was put into use, that can be included, showing direct applications and that the project was verified by outside parties, all of which can work to your advantage.

Special types of study opportunities can also be included, such as a semester abroad, at sea, or related exchange programs. Similarly, scholarships and related awards can also be included, particularly for those who have little or no related work experience.

Because internships are typically school-related, these can be included in the education section, as can educational-related work study programs. Show this information just as you would a “regular” job, with a brief overview of your areas of responsibility (without using “responsible for”), followed by a bullet list or similar presentation to show the outcomes of your efforts. If you were selected for a highly-competitive program, make note of that as well.

Non-Degree Information

Many people have continuing education or other related types of studies that did not lead to a degree, but demonstrate specific areas of knowledge. These can often be presented in much the same way as a degree, noting the program, certification, etc., and the company, institution, or organization that provided the training. Professional development can be included as its own section, or it can be a subsection under the larger educational heading, particularly if there is degree and professional development information to be included. Again, show the information consistently, and present it in a manner that works best for your particular situation. Career changers who have completed important training may want to note this upfront, for example, with less relevant, older education placed near the end of the resume. As with all things resume related, place the most important, relevant information near the beginning of the resume where it is most likely to be noticed.

Similarly, certain types of certifications warrant a prominent placing, such as those required for the job, technical fields, medical training, etc. If a specific type of degree or certification is a requirement, ensure that the reader sees that upon a quick scan of the resume. Again, this information can be placed separately from degree information if needed. For example, resumes for technical fields often include a section devoted to areas of expertise, such as operating systems, software, and certifications. Similarly, those in finance may highlight specific accounting programming, database, and certification information.

Format the education section as you do all other sections; list the most important information first, noting the points that are your best selling points and that are most relevant to the job posting. If needed, some creativity can be used to present your educational background in a way that best showcases your expertise.