How to List Education on Your Resume

Updated: September 9, 2020

Most people don’t give a lot of thought to the education section of their resume. Many consider it 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. Some want a certain degree, field of study, or relevant coursework. Others are looking for your school name and location (are you a local candidate?) or your graduation year (do you have the minimum years of experience for the role?). Still others care about your GPA or your accolades, which we’ll explore in a bit.

If you’re a current student or recent graduate, you may want to include a more detailed education section, since you may not have sufficient professional 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, they may prefer a graduate degree. The good news is that most job descriptions specify educational requirements. You’ll want to read these prerequisites carefully to determine whether you’re truly a good fit for the role. While you’re at it, you can tailor your resume to the job description—just as you’d tailor your cover letter to be a perfect fit.


What do you include in the education section?

The non-negotiable components of your education section are the name of each school you’ve attended, the degree(s) you attained, and the school’s location.

School name and location are pretty self-explanatory. For your degree, it’s acceptable to abbreviate the degree to B.A. or B.S., but 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.) After the type of degree, list your major or area of concentration. If you have a minor, put that last.

In addition, most people (particularly current students and recent graduates) indicate the year they graduated or the year they anticipate graduating. Listing the range of years you were enrolled in college (e.g., 2014–2017) is unnecessary. Instead, provide the month and year of your graduation. For a current student, a basic education section might look like this:

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 finishing your degree, list the years of your attendance, along with the department with which you studied. For example:

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

Another important point: 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 reserve it for vital, pertinent information. Additionally, any 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.

There is one exception to this rule: The only time a college student or graduate should include a reference to high school is if they know that 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.

You can also choose to include your GPA and any related honors in your education section. Listing your GPA or the fact that you made Dean’s List certainly won’t hurt your chances of getting an interview. However, it won’t typically give you an edge over the competition either—especially if your competition has more relevant work experience than you. 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 how to format it:

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | May 2018
Bachelor of Science, Accounting | 3.45 GPA


What about certifications?

Relevant certifications and/or certificates are another piece of information you can include in the education section of your resume. And please note: certifications and certificates are indeed different. Certifications require experiential and educational components, and at the end, you have to pass an exam. Certificates require completing a specific course, and they are open to anyone.

With that out of the way, there are a number of reasons to pursue certifications and certificates. If you’re looking to change fields, obtaining a certificate in your new field may provide enough education to support the career change. For many employers, certifications make an applicant stand out. Additionally, continuing education credits can help if you’re pursuing a leadership position at your current company.

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

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | May 2018
Bachelor of Science, Accounting

Academy of Human Resource Management | New York, NY | April 2019
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 listed first. If you list your education at the end of your resume (see below), you can include your certifications or certificates in the “Summary of Qualifications” or “Resume Summary” section instead. If you have multiple certifications, you can also choose to include a separate section titled, “Certifications and Certificates.”


Where to list education

Now that you know what to include, let’s talk about where to put it. While the basic sections included on a resume are fairly standard, you have some flexibility regarding the order of each section. This is particularly true when it comes to where you list education. Typically, placement depends 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.

That said, education most commonly appears immediately after the title/heading (name, address, and contact information). This is particularly true for current students and recent graduates. Since employers often read through resumes quickly, it’s helpful to list your education at the beginning. This way, hiring managers immediately know that you meet basic education requirements.

For example:

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

West Seneca State College | West Seneca, NY | May 2018
Bachelor of Science, Accounting

A quick pro tip: The 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.

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

We also recommend placing your resume education section last when applying for a part-time job or a job unrelated to your degree. Likewise, if you have the required skills for a job, but your degree isn’t one of the degrees listed under “preferred qualifications,” 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.

If you have additional questions on how to list education on your resume, check out our many resume examples for a variety of majors, jobs, and industries.


What if you have little or no experience?

When someone has little professional experience, it can be difficult to fill an entire resume page. The education section comes in handy in this situation.

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

At this point, your education section should be in tip-top shape! In most cases, this section of your resume should be no more than 15–30 words. But as you can see, those few words have a big impact.