Are you wondering how to list your education on a resume? Filling out the education section of your resume is not always as straightforward as it might seem.
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. If you want to save time, try using a premium resume template from Envato Elements.
First, let’s start with the basics:
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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. When adding your education to your resume, you should add any recent education. This shows the hiring manager that you've got a gap because you were working on your skills.
But if your education was more than ten years ago, you don't need an education section on your resume. Also remove your education once you’ve accomplished 10 to 15 years of work experience. (Remove the education section of your resume--or at least the dates of your education--because this section can make it easier for people to discriminate against you because of your age.)
I’ll discuss all 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've got 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, list it like this:
“Western High School, Baltimore, MD
Graduated in 2023”
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 2025”
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 2020 to 2024”
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, 2020
Spring Valley High School, Columbia, SC
Attended 2020 – 2022”
If you studied a trade after high school, 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, 2023
Portage Central High School, Portage, MI
2. Undergraduate Degree
Below are different ways to list college education on your resume.
“BS in Electrical Engineering, 2023
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA”
You can also write the degree type in full instead of abbreviating it:
“Bachelor of Arts in English, 2023
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 2024
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
2021-2022: Completed 32 credits towards BA in Education”
J.P Stevens High School, 2023
Edison, New Jersey”
3. Graduate Studies
A graduate degree in your field increases 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, 2023
BS in Computer Science,
Michigan State University, 2021”
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, 2020”
MS in Political Science, 2023
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 applies to many jobs with a management role.
Incomplete Graduate Studies
The strategy here is like that used in undergraduate degrees. List the anticipated graduation date on resume, if you still have a lot of coursework to finish before graduating. Here's an unfinished degree on resume example:
“Master of Science in Economics, to be completed 2024
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA”
But if you finished everything except the dissertation, 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), 2025”
City College of New York”
Always list your undergraduate degree 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, 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, 2023-2024”
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, 2022-2023”
4. Master’s & Doctoral Studies
When adding your master’s degree, use the abbreviations or spell it out. Whichever you decide, be consistent throughout your resume. Here are some of the master’s degree abbreviations:
- A.M., M.A., MA (Master of Arts)
- M.B.A., MBA (Master of Business Administration)
- M.E., ME, Meng, M.Eng. (Master of Engineering)
- M.S., MS, M.Sc. MSc (Master of Science)
Here's a completed master’s degree example:
Dates you attended the program
College, City of College, State of College
Master of Arts in English
Here's how to show a master’s degree that hasn’t been completed:
College, City of College, State of College
Master of Arts in Psychology
Expected Graduation Date: (put date here)
Add your doctoral degree in the resume education section. Your doctoral degree is formatted similarly to other degrees. Here's an example of adding your doctoral degree to your resume:
Name of university
years in university
Here's another example of how to add a doctoral degree to your resume:
University of Chicago
Ph.D. in Education
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, 2023, Hong Kong”
Including the training location is optional, except for state-specific licensure and certifications.
If you haven’t completed the training, list it as “In progress” or write the estimated completion date.
“Oracle SBC Implementation by Oracle, Toronto, (To be completed, Sept 2024)
These templates can give your resume a better format:
- 40 Professional MS Word Resume Templates, Simple CV Design Formats 2022 (+ Video)Marc Schenker04 Aug 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. Only do this if your GPA isn’t below 3.0.
“BS in Economics, 2023
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, 2023
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. List these items after your education, if you've got less than three items to list.
If you've 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:
Sample Resumes to Highlight Your Education
Here are some sample resumes to highlight your education:
1. If You've Got Minimal Education and Experience
If you don’t have a lot of education, it’s best to focus on any professional skills you’ve learned or any certifications you've got. If you've got a lot of credentials and training, try adding a section for that. Leaving the education section off your resume is best if you only have a high school diploma.
Here are the changes made to a resume for someone who has some training and only a high school diploma. As you can see, the education section was deleted, as well as the work experience section. The skills sections were kept and showcase relevant skills to the job that's being applied to. The certifications section was kept and added the relevant certifications. Also, a profile picture was added, and a positive summary to help convince the hiring manager.
3. If You've Got a Lot of Education and No Experience
In the resume education section, include any classes you took that would be relevant to the job you're applying to.
In the example above, the courses and the thesis that were added were relevant to the job that’s being applied to. When adding your GPA, only add it if it’s 3.0 or higher. If it’s lower, don’t add it to the resume.
In the experience section, add any volunteer work and unpaid internships. Also, add any achievements that you achieved during your volunteer experience or internships. Adding achievements shows the employers what you can do. Fill out the sections for the rest of the resume while remembering what job you’re applying for.
FAQs: Answers to Common Questions About Education on Resumes
Here are some frequently asked questions about adding education to a resume:
1. 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, most of your previous qualifications—education, skills, achievements—are 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 satisfies 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.
2. What if Your Degree Isn't Related to Your Job?
I know someone who graduated with a degree in design that's now working as a life insurance agent. I also know a nursing graduate who worked in IT for years, before becoming a real estate agent. This happens more than you know. So, don’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've got a Psychology degree but want a job in marketing. If you took units in social psychology, communications, grammar, and business, those subjects show you've got 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.
3. 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 are 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.
Learn More About Resumes
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?
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Browse our professional resume templates on Envato Elements for a great resume design.
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Work on Your Resume Education Section Today!
In this article, you learned how to fill out the education section of your resume in several different circumstances. So, put those skills to use and download a premium template from Envato Elements. Also, learn more about making a great resume in our comprehensive series. There are several resume strategies to master that'll 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. It's been updated for relevancy and accuracy by Sarah Joy.