How to List Education on Your Resume

By Laura DeCarlo

Education doesn’t include only degrees you have earned. The education section on your resume should also include degrees you are currently pursuing and certificates required to perform your job. Sometimes the section is further expanded to cover certifications, licenses, and continuing education courses. In such cases, you can name the section

  • Education and Training

  • Education and Certifications

  • Training and Certification (no advanced degrees)

  • Education and Licensure

The rule of thumb is that if you have only one or two in each category, group them together.

Detailing your degree

Your Core resume lists everything in priority order from most relevant to least relevant, which allows you to pick and choose what to include for your OnTarget resumes.

The best order for the content is based on what matters most to the prospective employer. With most degrees, for example, the degree itself matters more than the school from which it was earned. So this listing might look like

Degree in Specialty – University Name, City, ST – honors attained

If you are currently pursuing a degree or certificate, you can list it like this

Currently pursuing Degree in Specialty – University Name, City, ST

You also could — and should — bold the degree so it stands out.

It’s not a good idea to include the year of graduation (or completion) because it can either make you look too green or too dated. An employer will ask you for this information in an interview if it’s needed.

Here are further tips for effectively highlighting your education:

  • New graduates shouldn’t list courses taken in their education section.

  • Do not list the high school you attended or accomplishments in high school.

  • Note continuing education, including seminars related to your work.

  • If you fall short of the mark on the job’s educational requirements, try to compensate by expanding with continuing education. Give the list a name, such as Professional Development Highlights, and list every impressive course, seminar, workshop, and conference that you’ve attended.

Sometimes an advanced degree can do more harm than help. This can be the case with doctorates and even master’s degrees, especially if you are changing companies, industries, or careers. Apply this test to determine whether the degree is worth listing:

  • Is it a similar level or type of degree as a requirement list for the job? If yes, then list it. If no, go on to the next question.

  • Do the people I report to typically have this level of degree? If no, then do not list it.

If the job doesn’t request it or require it and your potential bosses don’t have that level of education, chances are strong that including your advanced degree could be a killer. The prospective employer may see you as too expensive or assume you won’t be challenged enough to stay; or he may even be intimidated by your advanced credentials. Use caution in deciding whether to list your advanced degree in this type of situation.

Featuring your certifications

List on your resume the relevant certifications you hold in your field; they add luster to your qualifications and help you stand out from the competition. Include your certifications either as a subsection of education or make it a stand-alone section if you have many relevant certifications.

Certification as a job search tool is gaining renewed respect because of the following points:

  • Certification is useful for resume triage by HR screeners who may not know the particulars of a given certification but nevertheless count it as a marker of extra knowledge and place resumes of cert holders in the coveted “interview” pile.

  • Certification is valued by outsourcing firms because the credentials add credibility to project proposals. Employees with certs in outsourced departments are thought to be (but not proven to be) more likely to keep their jobs than those without the credentials.

  • Certification is viewed as continuing education that indicates a job seeker has stayed up-to-date in a fast-moving field such as information technology.

  • Certification for new college graduates shows they offer more than school-taught skills and are willing to make an extra effort to excel.

Certifications can be such a big, relevant deal to your job target that they may even be listed in your summary section. When you do this, still list them in the education section so you can add the granting entity and any particulars.

Listing your licenses

If you’re in a field or function that requires a license to do your work — such as legal, certified accounting, engineering, teaching, real estate, or medicine — show your license prominently on your resume.

Licenses can be a subsection of education or you can use a heading of “Professional Licensing” (if only one license) or “Professional Licenses” (for more than one license).

Just as with certifications, holding a license can be so important to the position you’re applying for that you may need to list it in your summary section. When you do this, list it in the education section as well so you can add the granting entity and any particulars.

What’s first — education or experience?

The general rule in resume writing is to lead with your most qualifying factor.

With certain exceptions (such as when you are using a CV for positions in science, medicine, or higher education), lead off with experience when you’ve been in the workforce for at least one year. When you’re loaded with experience but low on credentials, list your education at the end — and perhaps even omit details that over- or under-qualify you.