Presenting Education on Your Resume

by | Sep 26, 2023 | Resume Tips

The education section probably should be one of the easiest areas to write about, but traditionally can prove to be the most difficult. The spectrum of errors can range from providing way too much information, to failing to add critical items that could help your job search. This issue of omission is particularly true early in your career, when your education will often take precedent over your work career that you are just starting.

A general rule of thumb for job seekers, is that your education section is the inverse of your experience. As you gain more experience then your education section should be examined for editing (and a reduction in content) due to it becoming less relevant in the eyes of the hiring manager.

Similarly, where you place your education section should be determined by the value of your education v. experience. Early in your career, the education section can go before the experience portion due to its higher importance. Later, as you build your work background, you will reverse this and lead with your experience (after your qualifications summary).

For some reason, education is one of the areas that job seekers are most tempted to falsify when writing a resume. Please keep in mind for companies where the degree really matters, most of these employers will run a pre-employment education background check. This review will likely cause you to be in the embarrassing situation of having to address why your resume differs from the official records. In other situations, education is “nice to have” and your strong experience can more than offset any education holes, making any fabrication unnecessary. If you do “get away” with any education enhancements, then you will also need to remember what you did for the rest of your tenure (and perhaps beyond) with this company.

Let’s start with the formal education that you have received and completed.

• You start with your highest degree. So, if you have a master’s degree, that would be listed above your undergraduate. I would recommend only listing High School if you are just starting out your work experience, seeking an entry-level position, and have not yet completed university.

• If you are actively pursuing an advanced degree, then I would note this in the education section of your resume. If you started university (or a masters) and have not finished but you are not currently pursuing, then I would leave off. If you keep it on your resume, then you will need to be prepared to explain why you are currently not finishing and/or why you dropped out. Spending time defending this decision could be better spent selling the qualifications that you do possess.

• If you attended multiple universities, I would consider just listing the one that you graduated from. By listing them all, you place yourself in the position of explaining why you transferred rather than selling yourself.

• Your dates of completion are generally not relevant unless you are a very recent graduate (within the last few years). This is especially true as time moves forward, because the addition of a graduation date can further age you in the eyes of a hiring manager.

• Your education section should be very simply done. The name of the university, your major, and (if relevant) perhaps your minor (if you have one). Your GPA (Grade Point Average) can be added if it is sufficiently high enough (such as at/above 3.50/4.00) but should be deleted when you have enough work experience to fill this space. If you achieved high honors level, this can also be noted during the early stages of your career.

Education does not have to be formally obtained via a degreed program. There are other educational related items that can be noted on your resume.

• If you have obtained relevant occupational certification(s), then this should be noted on your resume. Please make sure to accurately note the level obtained and who was the certifying body. This is an area where the date can be relevant if it was achieved in the relatively recent timeframe (within the last five years).

• It may be relevant to note external courses that you have taken to further enhance your skill set. This is especially true in areas such as information technology, where successfully completing courses on certain software or programs can be highly advantageous.

• I tend to recommend refraining from internal development courses you have completed. The exception being if you have received them while working for a major employer who is known for its training.

As this week’s column shows, even just a subsection of your resume like the education portion can require a lot of thought and strategy. This portion of your resume is critical for recent grads entering the workforce, as it may be the highlight of the document. For experienced employees, it is still important to review this section to ensure you have included any relevant certifications or external courses you have completed since your last resume completion.

As always, the best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at: Joe Stein

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