For many applicants, the education section is the easiest part to write on their resume. They just list their alma mater’s name, degree, and graduation date. Simple.
It’s not always that simple though. For instance, what do you write if you switched school three times before completing your bachelors? How do you list your college education if you’re still completing your thesis? What if you dropped out of an MBA?
This tutorial answers those questions, and everything else related to listing education on a resume.
First, let’s start with the basics:
Writing the Education Section of a Resume (5 Key Tips)
Here are the common guidelines to follow when listing education on a resume:
- Always include the following information: the degree you received, your major, the name of your school, its location, and your graduation year.
- Start with your highest educational attainment.
- List all other degrees in reverse-chronological order.
- Delete high-school education if you already graduated from college.
- Remove your graduation date if you earned it more than five years ago.
Of course, these guidelines don’t apply to all situations. I’ll discuss all of these in more detail in the succeeding sections:
Where to Put Education on Your Resume
If You're In High School
List your education at the top one third of your resume, just below your skills summary. Let your education do the heavy lifting for now, even if you already have a bit of work experience.
If You're In College Or Just Graduated
At this stage, you probably have more credentials related to your target job as a student, than as a working professional.
So if you haven’t had a job, project, or volunteer work related to the position you’re applying for, put education before work experience on your resume.
You might argue that it’s better to list the odd and part-time jobs you did first. Maybe you think these job entries show that you’re employable and at least know what it’s like to work for a living.
Perhaps some hiring managers might consider that fact.
But what if they don’t read past your job title as “Waitress,” “Cashier,” or “Barista”? All the qualities and achievements you list below the job title will be ignored, too. Even if those skills are related to the job at hand.
For now, list education before your work experience first. Just consider it your first step in convincing employers that you have the qualifications they need.
If You're Already a Working Professional
At this stage, employers pay less attention to the GPA and college coursework of experienced applicants than they do with fresh graduates. Because of this, a seasoned professional’s education is either listed after their work history or at the bottom of the resume, just after the skills section.
How to Format Education on a Resume (With Examples)
1. High School
Below are different resume education examples, depending on where you are in your high school education.
Examples for High School
If high school is your highest level of education, you should list it like this:
“Western High School, Baltimore, MD
Graduated in 2008”
But if you’re still at school, just change the second line so it looks like this:
“Western High School, Baltimore, MD
Expected to graduate in 2018”
If you didn’t finish high school:
List the name of your school and its location, followed by the years you attended.
“Edmonson-Westside High School, Baltimore, MD
Attended school from 2006 to 2009”
If You Completed a GED
Some people who didn’t finish their high school education took a General Education Development (GED) test instead.
If that’s you, list the institution where you took your GED test followed by your high school information.
“GED High School Equivalency Diploma
Richland One Adult Education Center, 2012
Spring Valley High School, Columbia, SC
Attended 2008 – 2010”
If you studied a trade after high school, you can list it on top of your high school education as long as it’s related to your target job.
Here's an example:
“Dorsey School, Madison Heights, MI
HVAC Technician, 2008
Portage Central High School, Portage, MI
2. Undergraduate Degree
Below are different ways to list college education on your resume.
“BS in Electrical Engineering, 2010
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA”
You can also write the degree type in full instead of abbreviating it:
“Bachelor of Arts in English, 2012
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA”
Still at School
If you’re still at school, just put “in progress” beside the course you’re taking.
“BS in Mathematics in Progress
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA”
You can also write “Expected in” followed by the estimate date of your graduation.
“BS in Economics, Expected in 2015
New York University”
Not everyone who attends college completes it, for whatever reason. There’s no shame in that, so don’t let your education go to waste by excluding it on your resume.
List your school’s name, followed by your start and end dates, so it’s clear you’re no longer enrolled. Then write how many credits you earned towards your chosen degree. Put your high school education below it.
“Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
2008-2009: Completed 32 credits towards BA in Education”
J.P Stevens High School, 2007
Edison, New Jersey”
3. Graduate Studies
A graduate degree in your field will increase your credibility as an applicant. That’s why it should be listed on top of your undergraduate degree.
The example below is impressive for an applicant in the IT sector.
“MS in Computer Science, 2017
BS in Computer Science,
Michigan State University, 2010”
You can still list an advanced degree not related to your line of work, but it might be better to list it below your undergraduate degree if it’s not related to your current role.
For example, if you work in the IT sector, a master’s degree in political science isn’t relevant except perhaps for the skills you learn while researching for your thesis. To make this information worth including in your resume, highlight any coursework that may be applicable to your job.
“BS in Computer Science,
Michigan State University, 2010”
MS in Political Science, 2016
Coursework: Models and Methods, Security Studies”
This tip isn’t applicable to everyone, as it all depends on your career plan. For example, a master’s in business administration is applicable to many jobs with a management role.
Incomplete Graduate Studies
The strategy here is similar to that used in undergraduate degrees. List the anticipated completion date, if you still have a lot of coursework to finish before graduating.
“Master of Science in Economics, to be completed 2016
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA”
But if you finished everything except the dissertation, you can write “all but dissertation,” which is sometimes abbreviated as “ABD” below your graduate program. Be warned, though, there are mixed opinions about this.
“MS in Biology
All but dissertation (ABD), 2014”
City College of New York”
Your undergraduate degree should always be listed below your graduate studies.
Discontinued Graduate Study
You can still list a master’s or doctoral degree on your resume, even if you didn’t finish it or ended up dropping out from the program entirely.
To avoid confusion, you can list this in a separate section called “Research Work” or “Professional Development” instead of listing it together with your other education credentials.
Write the number of units completed in the subject, the name of the institution, and the dates you attended.
“15 credits in Applied Mathematics
University of Maryland, 2008-2009”
This example shows how you could list a MS in Applied Mathematics & Statistics, and Scientific Computation, if you only did part of the coursework (i.e. Applied Mathematics)
You can also list it in this format, so it’s all in one line and it downplays the low number of units finished and the incomplete degree.
“Post-graduate coursework in Applied Mathematics, University of Maryland, USA, 2008-2009”
Some applicants may not have the formal education required for the job. But they made up for it through certifications, courses, seminars, and training events. Professional training and ongoing education can be listed in the education section of a resume, or under a separate section for “Professional Development.”
Format to Follow:
“Name of Training, Training Provider or Certification Body, Date Obtained, Location”
Here's an example:
“Oracle SBC Troubleshooting Certification, Pearson Vue Testing Center, 2015, Hong Kong”
Including the training location is optional, except for state-specific licensure and certifications.
If you haven’t completed the training, you can list it as “In progress” or write the estimated completion date.
“Oracle SBC Implementation by Oracle, Toronto, (To be completed, Sept 2017)
These templates can give your resume a better format, or browse through more professional resume designs on GraphicRiver:
- 40 Pro MS Word Resume Templates, Simple CV Design Formats for 2022 (+ Video)Marc Schenker13 Jan 2022
What Else to Put on Your Resume if You Don't Have Work Experience
Fresh graduates with no work experience sometimes have trouble filling out a one-page resume. It doesn’t have to be this way if you get creative in how you present your qualifications. No big fonts necessary.
Below is some good information you can add to beef up your resume:
List the GPA for coursework related to the job you’re applying for. You should only do this if your GPA isn’t below 3.0.
“BS in Economics, 2017
Ohio University, Cleveland, OH
You can also list the subjects or units relevant to the job you’re applying for. Not sure which subjects are relevant? Compile job ads for five similar positions in your field, and then list the most common skills or educational requirements listed. Compare this keyword list with your college transcript to find the relevant coursework.
Here’s an example for a fresh graduate applying for an entry-level job as a Clinical Specialist
“BS in Biomedical Engineering, 2015
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Relevant coursework: Quantitative Experimentation and Design, Systems Physiology, Biomedical Systems Analysis, Biostatistics”
Check out this guide to get more information on how to use keywords in your resume:
List honors, scholarships, and awards you received while studying. You can list these items after your education, if you have less than three items to list.
If you have received more than three distinctions, it’s better to list them in a separate section called “Honors and Awards.”
Include the name of the institution that granted the award, and the date it was awarded to you. Here's an example format to follow:
What if You Went Back to School to Get a New Degree?
Are you changing careers? If you got a new degree because you want to pursue another type of work, then it’s vital that you include your new degree on your resume. Put it on top of your previous college degree.
When you switch roles, most of your previous work experience will be considered irrelevant. Let’s say you want to switch from nursing to selling life insurance or IT to managing a restaurant. In those cases, the majority of your previous qualifications—education, skills, achievements—will be inapplicable.
That’s where your new degree comes in. You’re like a fresh graduate in your new field, but a tad better. Your formal education will satisfy the job requirements of most employers, and your transferrable skills will boost your qualifications a bit more, so you’re not seen as a total newbie.
What if Your Degree Is Not Related to Your Job?
I know someone who graduated with a degree in design that is now working as a life insurance agent, and I know a nursing graduate who worked in IT for years, before becoming a real estate agent. This happens more than you know, so you shouldn’t let this stop you from chasing after your dream job.
Below are two ways to downplay the lack of formal education in your target job:
- List the relevant coursework in your degree. Let’s say you have a Psychology degree, but want a job in marketing. If you took units in social psychology, communications, grammar, and business, those subjects show you have the knowledge required for the job.
- List professional courses or ongoing training you took to compensate for your lack of formal schooling on the subject.
What if You Attended Multiple Schools to Finish One Degree?
Only list the school where you graduated or finished your degree. Educational institutions require transferring students to submit their transcript, along with a detailed list of the subjects they completed with their previous school.
Your school records will be consolidated where you graduate, so that’s what you should list on your resume. If you put the wrong school, you may get a negative result from an employer’s pre-employment background check.
One Part of the Big Picture
Having a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job, not anymore. Still, a college education is one of the job requirements for high-paying work. So you should learn how to list your education on a resume in a way that paints you as a skilled and knowledgeable professional, not just a student who only did the minimum work to pass.
Now that you're done listing your education on a resume, why not improve the other parts of your resume too?
- How to Effectively List Professional Skills on Your ResumeCharley Mendoza11 Sep 2020
- How to Best Use Resume Action Words (+117 Powerful Verbs)Charley Mendoza08 Sep 2020
Also, learn more about making a great resume in our comprehensive series. There are a number of resume strategies to master that will help you land the job you want.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published on August 17th, 2017. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.