How to List Your Education on a Resume [Updated for 2021]

The education section on your resume is more important than you think. Here’s how to structure it, including advice for current students and recent grads.

8 months ago   •   9 min read

By Resume Worded Editorial Team
Table of contents

The education section is an easily overlooked part of any resume — which doesn’t mean it should be an afterthought. If you’re a current student or recent graduate, or if you’re applying to jobs that require a specific degree, you’ll know you need to put some thought into it, but the same is true even if you’ve been in the workforce for a while. Here are some of our best tips for how to structure it, including how to make the most impact without letting it take over more space than it needs.

How to write an education section

Here's a quick guide on how to write a resume education section:

  1. List the name of the school. This should go at the top, similar to how you'd list an employer in your work experience section.
  2. Include the name of your degree.
  3. List your graduation date. This is optional, especially if you graduated more than 10 years ago.
  4. List any major awards, including magna cum laude or dean's list.
  5. If you're a current student or recent graduate, you can consider including extra details like GPA or relevant coursework (see below for more details).

Resume education section template

Here's an example of a brief education section, suitable for experienced hires.

Short resume education section for those with significant work experience

Use this template to copy this format:

EDUCATION
Name of college or university, location
Date of graduation
Degree, major, and minor

This is a longer example you can use if you're a current student or recent graduate.

Expanded resume education section for current students and recent graduates, including coursework and awards

Here's the expanded template:

EDUCATION
Name of college or university, location
Date of graduation
Degree, major, and minor
Awards and GPA (if above 3.5)
Relevant coursework

What to include in your education section

The university or college and degree

This one's a no-brainer. If nothing else, you must include the name of your degree and where you obtained it.

Major and minor

You should pretty much always list your major, unless you completed your degree in a completely unrelated field. Listing your minor is a good idea if it's in any way relevant to the job you're now applying for.

Awards and honors

Any major awards or honors should go in your resume education section. These include cum laude or magna cum laude, dean's list, and fellowships.

Read more: How to put Dean's List on your resume

GPA

Your GPA is very optional — only include it if you're a current student or recent graduate and it's above 3.5. In all other cases, leave it off.

Study abroad

If you’re a current student, it’s fine to list study abroad on your resume. You can list the experience under the host school, making sure to note that it was a study abroad program.

Example: Listing study abroad in your resume's education section
Example: Listing study abroad in your resume's education section

Read more: How to include study abroad on your resume

Coursework

If you're an experienced hire, skip this step. If you have real work experience, including coursework will look strangely out of touch.

If you're a current student and don't have a lot of relevant work experience, relevant coursework can help demonstrate key skills and get you past Applicant Tracking Systems. You can list a handful of subjects on one line underneath your degree and major.

Other certifications

Other certifications and qualifications can go on your resume, but be critical about what you list. Just because you have a qualification, doesn’t mean you need to list it — your resume should only include things that are relevant and that strengthen you as a candidate. This could include certificates, licences, technical qualifications, and other types of continuing education — as long as they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for. You also don’t need to list every conference or seminar you’ve ever attended. Keep it limited to substantial qualifications that help you stand out.

Read more: How to list certifications on a resume

Student activities

You can include student activities a subsection of your resume education section (if they only take up a line or two) or in a separate section (if you want to include key accomplishments).

Include student activities in their own section to highlight relevant accomplishments

Educational projects

Projects can also be listed in their own section if you choose to elaborate on your accomplishments — if you're a current student or recent graduate, this is a great way to highlight relevant skills. If you'd rather keep it brief, include a 'Projects' subheading in your education section and list them there instead.

Include university projects in your resume education section or in a separate projects section

Read more: How to list projects on your resume

Unfinished degrees

It's fine to list an unfinished degree on your resume. Do list an unfinished degree if it's relevant to the job you're applying for, demonstrates key skills, or explains a long career gap. Don't list an unfinished degree if it's much older or  in a different industry than the one you now work in — only include it if it strengthens your candidacy.

Read more: Listing an unfinished degree on your resume

Tips for structuring your education section

Keep it short if you graduated a while ago

In most cases, your education section only needs to be a line or two underneath your work experience. The longer you’ve been in the workforce, the shorter it should be. Your education section should list what school you attended and what degree(s) you obtained. If you graduated some time ago (e.g. 8+ years), you can leave off your graduation date from your resume.

An example education section you can include on your resume
An example education section you can include on your resume

Use the reverse chronological order

If you have multiple degrees, list them in reverse chronological order with the most recent first.

Use the reverse chronological ordering for your Education section on your resume
Use the reverse chronological ordering for your Education section on your resume

If you’re a recent graduate

As a recent graduate, it’s better to leave your graduation date on your resume. If you don’t have a lot of work experience, a recent graduation date makes it obvious why.

Unlike more experienced hires, recent graduates can use your education section to highlight your achievements. This includes awards, student initiatives, study abroad programs, language proficiency, key leadership skills, and any major accomplishments.

An example education section that highlights key achievements during university
An example education section that highlights key achievements during university

Remember that your resume is about presenting you as a strong applicant for a position rather than about adding as much information as possible. Normal resume rules apply — if it strengthens your candidacy, leave it in. If it takes the spotlight off more impressive work experience, take it off.

If you’re a current student

If you’re still studying, your education section can be a lot bigger, since you’re unlikely to have a lot of relevant work experience. You should include any major accomplishments, including awards and involvement in extracurricular activities, but only list your GPA if it’s particularly impressive (above 3.5). Any part-time work experience or internships can go in the work history section of your resume.

If you know when you’ll be graduating, go ahead and list the expected date.

Students should prioritize their education section on their resumes, since it's the most recent
Students should prioritize their education section on their resumes, since it's the most recent

Generally, you shouldn’t include your high school information once you’re in college, as it’s no longer relevant. If you do, keep it strictly to one line.

Include internships and student placements

Internships — paid or unpaid — are generally a better fit for your work experience section, since they take place in a professional work environment. List these the same way as paid work experience, including the name of the employer, the dates of the internship, and a few key accomplishments in bullet points.

List internships in the work experience section of your resume

You can include student placements if they were a) significant, b) recent, and c) relevant. In other words, a six-month hospital placement belongs on your resume if you're a recent nursing graduate, but a two-week observation probably doesn't.

If you transferred schools

If you started and finished your degree at different institutions — including transferring between four-year schools or from a community college — it's fine to just list the name of the school you graduated from. If you're a recent graduate and have achievements on your resume from your previous institution (like involvement in student organizations), you can consider listing both schools for clarification.

Should you lead with work experience or education on your resume?

The convention is for your education section to be after your work experience, but there are some situations where that doesn’t apply.

Recent or current students can lead with your education section

If you’re a current student and don’t have a lot of work experience, it’s fine to lead with your education section. It’s the most recent (and likely most relevant) experience you have. Leading with your education also prevents anyone who’s skimming over your resume from assuming that you’re simply inexperienced or unemployed, when the reality is that you’re in full-time education. It’s also okay to include your degree if you haven’t officially graduated yet — simply list it as “expected May 2021” (or whatever date applies).

The same applies if you’re a recent graduate. If your education is still the most relevant or most impressive experience you have, list it first.

Career changers can start their resumes with an education section, if it's relevant

The last exception is career changers. If you’ve gone back to school as part of the career change process, you can list your education first. A new qualification is more relevant than your experience in a different industry. It also provides important context for your application, as a resume that solely focuses on your past experience in a different sector might otherwise be confusing to a hiring manager.

Otherwise, your work experience should come before your education section

If the situations above don’t apply to you, and you don’t have another good reason to list your education first, stick to the standard convention as lead with your work experience. Employers primarily want to know about your work history and achievements, so unless your education is very recent, you’re better of focusing on your professional accomplishments.

Other things to consider when writing your Education section

Always include an education section, even if it's very short

Don’t lead with your education section (unless you’re one of the exceptions mentioned above), but don’t leave it off entirely, either. This is particularly important if your education is relevant to the role you’re applying for, or if you have a degree that’s required for the position.

If a degree may make you look overqualified, you can leave it off

The only time you should consider not listing a qualification is if it isn’t relevant and it could make you appear overqualified — for example, if you have PhD in mathematics and are applying for jobs as an entry-level salesperson.

If you have postgraduate qualifications, list all your degrees, not just the most recent. You may think your bachelor’s degree in art history doesn’t matter if you have a master’s in engineering and are applying for jobs as an engineer, but it’ll look weird if you leave it off altogether.

Don't include your high school education

Your education section shouldn’t include high school, unless you’re a high school student. If you are, you can list extracurriculars and other achievements, but those should be taken off as soon as you have something more relevant to replace them with.

You can leave off your graduation date from your education section

It’s totally fine to leave the graduation date off your resume, unless you’re a recent graduate. Once you’ve been out of school for a few years, it’s common practice to omit the date (and a good idea for those who want to avoid any potential age discrimination).

What does and doesn’t belong in the education section?

Everything on your resume should have a single purpose: Demonstrating that you’re a good fit for the position you’re applying to. This means:

  • Tailor your resume. Add or remove experiences and qualifications from your experience section as necessary to fit each specific role.
  • If you don't have much work experience: Expand your education section when you don’t have a lot of work experience, or if the experience you do have isn’t particularly relevant. On the other side, if your work experience is extensive or impressive on its own, anything else you add risks taking focus away from the parts you want to highlight.
  • If you’re a career changer, fresh qualifications can help bridge the gap between your old industry and the new role you want.

Don’t waste space with irrelevant information. It’s better to keep your resume brief — even if it’s under one page — than to pad it out with fluff.

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