How to list education on. aresume

How to List Education on a Resume in 2021 (With Examples & Tips)

Not sure what degree to list? If you should include a GPA? It just so happens that there's a variety of ways to effectively list your eduction.

Ed Moss
Written by Ed Moss • Last updated on Apr 09, 2021

The education section of a resume may not always be the star of the document but knowing how to properly list your education can be essential for advancing into the next phase of the hiring process.

In this guide, we will cover all the ins and outs of crafting an education section for your resume. 

We'll cover the following:

  1. What to Include in an Education Section?
  2. Tips for Listing Degrees (College, High-School, GED)
  3. Listing Incomplete Education
  4. Where to Include Education on a Resume?
  5. What Employers Look for in an Education Section

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What to Include in an Education Section

As we've covered, different formats of resumes may require different information to be included within an education section.

In general, there is some basic information that should be included within the education section of a resume:

  • The name of the school — "e.g. Georgia Institute of Technology"
  • The location of the school
  • Your degree (high-school diploma, GED, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, etc.)
  • Graduation year (if applicable)
  • Major field or department of study (if applicable)
  • Minor field or department of study (if applicable and relevant)
  • GPA (If you're a student or graduates who held lower GPAs, this bit of information may be good to omit unless specifically requested by the employer)

Here's what that looks like for and university grad:

Georgia Institute of Technology • Atlanta, GA
B.S. in Computer Engineering, 2006 - 2010
GPA: 3.9/4.0

For high-school students, you can do something like the following:

Georgia Institute of Technology • Atlanta, GA
High School Diploma, Graduated in 2010
GPA: 3.9/4.0

Remember, including a GPA is optional. Only add it if it's required by the job listing or it's relatively high. If your GPA is low (under 3.5), it's better to just leave it out.

Listing Education with Limited Work Experience

In resumes that have limited or no work experience, as may be the case with college students or recent graduates, the education section may be a good opportunity to show off educational achievements instead.

Additional information that can be included in longer education sections can include:

  • Internships completed as part of a curriculum 
  • Academic awards or sponsorships
  • Relevant coursework
  • Academic assistantships with professors or other academic professionals

As covered, in documents such as CVs the education section could be fairly lengthy.

However, the education section for most resumes will be one of the shortest sections.

This is mostly because standard resumes will be used for entry-level or mid-level positions, while longer-form resumes like the CV will only come into play for more prestigious or hard to obtain positions. 

It is much more important to show either a robust work history or detail relevant and transferable skills, using your education as support rather than the main point of interest. 

Here are some quick tips for deciding what educational information to include in a resume:

1) When including professional hobbies and extra curricular activities, it is important to keep relevance in mind

Incorrect: Do not include information about sports clubs or other clubs that cannot be connected back to your qualifications for a job.
Correct: If you held leadership positions in clubs or other extra-curricular activities, this can be useful information to include to highlight non-paid leadership or management experience.

Keep your descriptions simple and concise

Incorrect: Including long-winded and wordy paragraphs explaining the relevance of a certain piece of information. If a piece of information is relevant, it should be easily explained in one, simple sentence.
Correct: Use bullet points to separate bits of information to keep your resume easy to read or skim.

Tips for Listing Degrees (College, High-School, GED)

The readability of a resume can be the defining factor of whether or not a job recruiter or potential employer moves the candidate into the next phase of the hiring process.

As such, using clear and concise wording and formatting is essential for not just the education section, but for all sections. 

Here are a few tips for different formatting options depending on the level and type of education you have completed.

1) Adding High School and GED on Resume

  • If your highest level of education is a high school diploma or a GED, this should still be included as there are many jobs that are open to high school graduates as well as college graduates.
  • Generally, this type of education section should be kept short and sweet. Listing that you have received either a diploma or a GED should be sufficient.
  • If you have recently graduated high school or received your GED, including additional high school-related achievements may be beneficial (such as leadership positions, honor roll awards, athletics, etc.)

2) Adding Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees on Resume

  • When listing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree on a resume, always include the name and location of the institution, as well as the date or expected date of graduation.
  • While the education section should still be kept short, inclusion of any collegiate level academic achievements, such as honor societies or dean’s lists, can be useful to include.
  • Don’t go too crazy including coursework of extracurricular information – stick to including the most relevant information. 

3) Adding Graduate School or Doctoral Programs on Resume

  • Graduate and doctoral students may feel inclined to always include this information; however, it is important to be wary of including too much academic information in scenarios where it may render you overqualified for the position.
  • Graduate and doctoral information is more likely to come into play for candidates seeking higher level positions at the management level. 
  • For candidates seeking jobs in academic or scientific fields, a CV-style resume and longer-form education section providing higher level of details regarding graduate or doctoral programs may be necessary.

4) Adding Certifications on Resume

  • In some cases, a candidate may not have attended college but may have completed a trade school or other program that resulted in various certifications. These certifications should be included when relevant.
  • Certifications such as CPR or First Aid can be useful to include in most resumes, although they should perhaps be saved for a separate certifications section.

5) Listing Incomplete Education on Resume

Incomplete education can be tricky to include in a way that sounds positive — as such, if you have incomplete education, be wary of your wording and avoid words such as “incomplete” or “unfinished.”

Instead try to do the following:

  • Include relevant coursework or credits earned during your duration of education before the point of departure from the institution.
  • Omit any wordy or lengthy explanations of why the education is incomplete. 

However, we've seen this be a common problem that many candidates have. Continue reading below to see how to effectively list education that is left incomplete.

Listing Incomplete Education

In some cases, a job applicant may have a partially-complete or incomplete educational credential they want to list on their resume.

Incomplete education can result from a variety of circumstances, including:

  • A person who is still in the process of earning their diploma, GED, or degree, but has not yet earned the credential or graduated.
  • A person who started a degree and completed relevant coursework, but ultimately did not finish the degree program.
  • A person who chose a different career path than what they studied for, but still has relevant coursework for the new career path.

When listing incomplete education on a resume, it is important to stay highly mindful of how you are wording your limited educational credentials — as words such as “unfinished” or “incomplete” are not ideal to include within a resume. 

Here are some quick examples on how to properly list incomplete education in the education section of a resume:

For applicants who are in the process of completing a degree, it is important to note the expected timeframe of completion.

Incorrect:
B.S. in Communications
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Not yet complete
Correct:
B.S. in Communications
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Expected graduation May 2021

For applicants who began a degree, but ultimately did not complete the degree, it is key to be mindful of how you frame the education you did receive. 

Incorrect:
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC

Why is this incorrect? Sure, this example indicates you, at some point, attended a university.

However, it provides no insight as to what relevant coursework or studies you may have completed.

Here's the correct way to describe your educational experience instead:

Correct:
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC
Completed 20 credits towards a BS in Communications

Alternatively: This could be a good opportunity to include a bulleted list of relevant coursework.

For applicants who did not complete high school, it is important to note if you either earned a GED or are in the process of earning a GED.

Incorrect:
Watauga County High School
Boone, NC
Incomplete
Correct:
General Educational Development Diploma
Earned May 2021 — OR — Expected to earn May 2021

Generally speaking, the majority of jobs will require applicants to have earned at minimum a GED certification in order to qualify.

In some cases, an applicant may lack a degree but may be certified by a trade school.

For instance, a beautician would want to include any beauty and health related certifications or licenses earned under the education section. 

Take a look at this resume example of a college student below to see how to do this.

College Student

Where to Include Education on a Resume

When it comes to placing your educational credentials on a resume, there are many considerations to make.

Resumes can serve a variety of purposes and, as a general rule of thumb, should be tailored for specific jobs

It is also important to take into consideration the level of education you have completed, as this will impact how it should be presented as well.

For instance, a job applicant seeking a position in academia would have a much heavier emphasis on education and academic-related achievements — than someone seeking a job in a corporate environment.

Ultimately, not all resumes are the same, so the placement of the education section will differ depending on the type of resume being used and the intention behind its structuring. 

Choosing the right resume format

There are several different types of resume formats to choose from, but the main ones that are used are as follows:

1) Reverse-Chronological

Emphasis is placed on the most relevant work experience, listing jobs from most recent to oldest.

Education can be placed before or after the work experience section.

However higher degrees that qualify a candidate for the position may be beneficial to mention sooner rather than later. 

2) Functional

Functional resumes place a much heavier emphasis on skillsets and areas of expertise.

This format of resume is typically used by job applicants lacking the relevant work experience or educational credentials.

In this format, the education section may lead if the applicant has educational credentials but limited work experience but should follow after the skills section if education is limited. 

3) Hybrid

Hybrid resumes combine the reverse-chronological work experience ordering with the emphasizing of skills.

This can help to supplement resumes of applicants who may have some relevant work experience but still need to beef up their resumes with a skills section.

The placement of the education section will depend on how applicable or high level the credentials are and should generally be kept brief. 

4) Curriculum Vitae (CV)

CVs are a type of long-form and multi-page resume used most commonly by applicants seeking positions in either academic or scientific fields.

In a CV, the education section will be a prominent component and should appear early in the document.

This type of education section should include all credentials, published works, projects, awards, or other academic achievements — no details should be spared. 

The below example of a Physician Assistant's resume is listing education in the bottom-right corner as it's using a reverse-chronological resume format to shine on it's work history.

Data Analyst

What Employers Look for in an Education Section

Employers can gather a variety of information about a job candidate from an education section, including:

  • A job applicant’s work ethic, reflected through GPAs or other grade-related information
  • Relevant skills or training an applicant has received through their schooling
  • Name recognition of specific universities, such as ivy leagues, that may give a candidate a leg up on the competition
  • Insight into a candidate’s interests or talents based on academic-related extracurricular activities included 

Understanding what employers are looking for in an education section included on a resume is key to understand how much or how little information to include.

What an employer is looking for will vary depending on the nature of the job being offered. 

For instance, an entry-level communications job at a corporation is likely to require a bachelor’s degree in communications or a related field.

Comparatively, a job in the welding industry may require the completion of a trade school program but not require a four-year degree. 

It is of the utmost importance when you are applying to various jobs that you read the job descriptions provided carefully, as this is where you will find the necessary information regarding what educational credentials are required of eligible candidates.

This will also help you to tailor your education section according to what credentials or qualifications you have that meet the requirements of the job. 

In general, what an employer is mostly looking for is simply that an education section exists on a resume.

The majority of employers will want candidates who have shown a commitment to their education, reflected through the inclusion of an education section.

For candidates lacking a completed education, it is still considered best practice to include some information regarding what level of education was reached before the point of incompletion, as well as the inclusion of any relevant coursework and knowledge gained from the time the candidate spent pursuing further education. 

Here is a quick rundown of a few key factors to consider for applicants who may be unsure how much information to provide in an education section for a specific employer or position:

  • The education section should prove that you have the credentials necessary to complete the job at hand.
  • Oversharing of education can be detrimental in some situations, as overqualified candidates may not be considered by employers.
  • Job descriptions will always be the best place to look for indicators regarding how much educational background information an employer is looking for.
  • Never lie or over-exaggerate — while not all employers double-check applicants’ educational histories, many still do, and dishonesty can cost you the position in the long run.
Physician Assistant

Final Thoughts

Unless you are crafting a longer-form resume, such as a CV, the education section will generally be a fairly short summary of your academic credentials and achievements.

Education sections can be longer in some cases where job applicants may have hefty academic backgrounds but limited work experience.

Ultimately, the key to making a strong education section is to include only the most relevant information.

Always avoid deceptive wording, as employers can fairly easily run academic background checks if need be. 

Check out our resume templates to get your creativity flowing and get started on your ideal resume today. 

Ed Moss is an author for Easy Resume
Ed is a co-founder of Easy Resume. His background in scaling teams at tech startups over the last decade has given him extensive experience and knowledge around how to hire top talent and build successful teams. He enjoys mentoring, coaching, and helping others reach their career goals. When he's not writing about career-related advice, he's playing with his dog, Lilo, or going on long hikes in upstate New York.
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