Many job seekers put their resume writing energy into creating the bulk of their resume: the experience and skill sections. As a result, the education section becomes a bit of an afterthought. But with applicant tracking systems parsing resumes and analyzing for job description requirements, more attention (and better formatting) should be paid. We’re here to set the record straight about how to format your resume education section.
What to Include in the Education Section of a Resume
First things first. What should be included in your resume education section? Here are the basics:
- Name of Institution
- School Location
- Years Attended
From there, you can add academic honors, scholarships, and other achievements if applicable. You can also include coursework, but should only if it’s absolutely pertinent to the job for which you’re applying. If you do include coursework, use the titles of each course as a description instead of the course numbers.
If coursework doesn’t feel like the right fit, consider including relevant projects or groups that you really excelled in. For example, a senior thesis, an initiative to change a school policy, or an impressive on-campus group you headed up. Anything that exemplifies your passions and relates to the job is worth considering.
Adding in extra details like coursework and projects is best for job seekers who have recently graduated or have minimal work experience. We’ll talk more about how to format projects and coursework later.
A cover letter is also a great place to expand upon your relevant coursework.
As for naming your education section heading? Jobscan sampled a collection of resumes and found that 35% used unconventional titles for their education heading name. These can cause parsing errors in ATS, which lead to unnecessary disqualifications. A simple heading of “Education” is the best option. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and ATS will know exactly how to parse it.
Jobscan analyzes your resume against the job description to ensure that your education section matches the requirements among other checks for job titles, hard skills, measurable results, and other ATS and recruiter best practices.
Should You Include Your GPA on a Resume?
Good question. Only list your GPA if it is over a 3.5 and if you’re a recent graduate.
For example, if you’ve been out of college for 5 or more years, even though your GPA was a 3.9, you’ve gained a lot of experience over the last 5 years that will serve your resume better than your GPA.
What if you are a recent graduate but your GPA is below a 3.5? Skip the GPA and use the space to talk about an impressive senior thesis project instead.
Of course, there are a few select fields where GPA should always be included, like, for example, jobs in academia, medicine, and engineering. If you’re not sure, don’t sweat it. Most often, the job posting will request a GPA if one is expected.
Resume Education Section Format
Many ATS parse the information from an applicant’s resume into a digital applicant profile. If your education is formatted incorrectly there’s a very good chance that information will be parsed incorrectly or left out altogether.
Typically, the degree is listed before the school, but if you went to an impressive, Ivy League university, leading with the name of the school can’t hurt.
Remember, a solid education section will include the name of the school, the degree earned (or major/minor), location of the school and the date of graduation. For example:
Bachelor of Arts: Theater, Shakespearean, 2016
Columbia College, Chicago, IL
Master’s of Business Administration, 2014
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
You can add societies, activities or relevant coursework if it makes sense to the job for which you’re applying. This information can be included at the bottom of your education section, like this:
Bachelor’s Degree, Elementary Education and Teaching, 2013
Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
Societies: Delta Delta Delta, Habitat for Humanity, Student Support Group
If you are still completing your degree, you can list your “expected graduation date,” but be clear that you haven’t yet graduated. Like the above examples, you don’t need to list the start date (though you can if you prefer). For example:
Bachelor of Science: Civil Engineering
Washington University, St. Louis, MO.
Expected Graduation Date 2019
If you went to college but didn’t graduate, it’s still acceptable to include your college education if it’s relevant for the job requirements– just list the number of credits obtained. For example:
University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
English Composition, 65 Credit Hours Obtained
Where Does the Education Section Go?
Where among your resume sections you choose to put your education depends on where you are in your career. For instance, if you’re a recent graduate with little to no experience, your education section is your best asset and should be put at the top of your resume (above Work Experience).
On the other hand, if you have some professional experience, you should let that be the focus, opting to place your education section below Work Experience.
If you’ve recently gone back to school, you may want to put your education section at the very top. For example, veterans who went to school after transitioning out of the military are advised to put their education above their experience on a military-to-civilian resume.
However, if you’ve returned to school in preparation for a career change but are still looking to work in your current field, keep highlighting your past experience.
Organizing Multiple Degrees on a Resume
When organizing the different schools you attended, list them in reverse chronological order. In other words, the highest degree earned should be at the top. For example, your master’s degree should be listed above your bachelor’s degree.
Have you attended college? If so, you don’t need to list your high school degree. Your high school information should only be included if you are still attending high school or college. If you’ve graduated from college, the higher degree can take the place of your high school degree on your resume.
Resume Education Section Examples
Bachelor of Applied Sciences (B.A.Sc.), International Business, 2013
Illinois State University, Bloomington, IL
Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business, 2010-2014
Bachelor of Arts, Accounting/Finance
Miami University, Coral Gables, FL
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Social Psychology, 2013
Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), Magna Cum Laude, 2015
Butler University, Indianapolis, IN
Bachelor of Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2009
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
University of Cattolica, Milan, Italy
Bachelor’s Degree, Marketing and Finance, 2011
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Bachelor’s Degree, Hospitality Tourism Management, 2012
Activities: Intercollegiate Quidditch Association
Fordham University, Bronx, NY
BS, Business Administration, Finance, 2007-2011
A version of this article was originally published on Nov. 24, 2014 by Trista Winnie. It was rewritten on July 26, 2018.