Deciding whether or not to include your education on your resume can be difficult. It’s not as though employers won’t become aware of your education history prior to making the decision to hire you, but its presence on your resume (as well as its absence) can make or break your ability to land a job.
Here are eight questions to think about when considering whether or not to include education in your resume:
1. Do you have a degree?
If you only have a high school diploma, you can likely get by without having an education section.
Even if a high school diploma is specifically listed as a requirement for the job, this detail is almost always addressed in the actual job application or during the interview, and doesn’t need to be addressed in the limited space of a resume.
If you attended college but didn’t graduate, you can still list your education on your resume. List the name of your institution, along with a line clarifying “X years completed” or “X credit hours completed.”
If you are a current student, include your anticipated graduation date, preceded by “degree expected” or similar wording.
2. Is your resume too long?
Ideally, your resume should be limited to one page. If you find that your resume content is spilling onto a second page, and you have trimmed all the information you can, consider removing the education section.
Education is almost always addressed in the official job application, and this is where hiring managers look for the base requirements during the background check.
3. Is your resume too short?
Early in your career, your resume will look a little sparse. An employment history that doesn’t reach back very far is a clear a sign of inexperience. Depending on what you’re applying for, this can decrease your chances of being considered.
By adding an education section, you can fill up some of the gaps and flesh out your resume so it stands a better chance of being taken seriously. Perhaps you have a lot of recent and relevant coursework, or demonstrated leadership by serving as president of a club. Adding pertinent details can bolster your candidacy.
Check to see if your resume is the optimal length:
4. Is your education your strongest qualification?
You may have little or no work experience in your chosen field, but a recent and relevant degree is sometimes all you need to get your foot in the door.
If you attended an elite school, received a prestigious scholarship, or completed a thesis or dissertation, your education credentials might be especially interesting to employers.
If your education is your greatest asset, your education section should be prominently featured on your resume—you can even lead with it.
5. Is education a primary requirement?
For medical jobs, or other specialties such as law or science, a certain education level can be an absolute requirement. Don’t leave your education off your resume if you have the educational background that is required for the position, obviously.
For example, a research assistant may be expected to have a related degree, or be actively pursuing one. If education is a key requirement for the job you’re interested in, it should absolutely be listed in your resume.
6. Does your education open you up to age discrimination?
Age discrimination is a real problem workers face today, especially with so many start-ups being run by young entrepreneurs.
A candidate’s age can, even subconsciously, influence hiring managers to make judgements about their fit with the company culture or their skill set. Baby Boomers are particularly susceptible to this kind of judgment.
If hiring managers look at your resume and see that you graduated from college decades ago, they might discount your education as outdated.
Consider leaving off the years you attended, or your graduation date. This doesn’t mean you should try to hide your age, but be strategic about what information you reveal when. The less a hiring manager knows about you at beginning of the hiring process, the less likely they are to use this information against you.
The best rule of thumb here is: When in doubt, leave it out.
7. Is your degree unrelated?
Are you applying for a job as a banker, but you hold a degree in basket weaving? A situation like this could stand between you and a job, and leaving your education off your resume could actually keep the door open for you to make it to the next stage.
If you are applying for a job totally unrelated to your degree, it can give the impression that you are not very invested in the role, and would be more likely to leave the company for another opportunity. If a degree isn’t required for a given position, then listing one that doesn’t even relate isn’t necessarily going to help you.
On the flip side, some hiring managers are looking for a degree as a sign that you are capable of sticking with something, and nothing more. Earning a degree shows a certain amount of dedication and drive, which appeal to hiring managers.
8. Does your education make you overqualified?
Someone who appears overqualified for a position is seen as a flight risk. That is, a hiring manager assumes there is a good chance they will find something that better matches their experience level and jump ship after the company has invested time and money into training. Employee turnover is expensive, and something companies obviously want to avoid.
The result: Highly qualified professionals are being overlooked in lieu of applicants who meet just the minimum requirements for a job.
Not all is lost here. You still have the opportunity to impress the hiring manager during the interview and make yourself the clear choice. You just have to do what you can to get to that step, and that might mean cutting out unnecessary educational qualifications.
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