The education summary is the section on your resume where you list your degrees and relevant academic accomplishments.
It can be either the least or the most important part of your resume. It all depends on your degree and where you’re in your career.
The education summary can be the easiest section on your resume to write. Still, once you dive into the nitty-gritty of writing it, there's a good chance that you'll encounter many unforeseen difficulties.
This guide will explain:
- What is the resume education section?
- Why include an education section on your resume?
- Where should you position in?
- How to write your education section?
- ...as a high school graduate?
- ...as a student?
- ...as a dropout?
- ...as a fresh graduate?
- ...as an experienced professional?
- ...when you're changing careers?
Too long, don't want to read? Here's a video guide.
Why include an education section on a resume?
There’s a good chance that every resume you’ve ever seen had an education section. But why? (Does anybody ever stop to think about why we do what we do? Anyway… 🤔)
- Employers expect to see it. This is as good a reason as any, if not better than most. After all, if you want to get hired, you need to meet your future employer’s expectations. Not including an education section on your resume can raise many suspicions about your background or even your character.
- Your job requires a specific degree. You cannot become a medical doctor without a medical degree, for example. The same goes for being a lawyer and many other professions. But you already know that.
- Your education background can help you stand out. This is especially true if you’re a fresh graduate or a student. Sure, adding a prestigious degree to your name can increase your chances, but that’s not all. Try to inflate your education section by mentioning your GPA, scholarships, awards, being on student committees, etc. Anything to help your future boss see your potential.
Where to place your education section?
Either before or after your work experience section. It depends on your resume format and where you are in your career.
As with the rest of your resume, the rule of thumb is: always put the most important information first.
Are you a student or fresh graduate? Then remember: your education is still one of your biggest strengths. Naturally, you should play to your strengths and put your education section in a place where recruiters can immediately see it.
Place it near to the top of your resume; just below your resume objective/profile section.
Are you an experienced professional? Then you can place your education section anywhere on the page (as long as you remember to include it).
Just remember: you should always put the most important information first. At this point in your life, your education isn’t nearly as important as it used to be. Because of that, it should probably find its place near the bottom of your resume.
How to write your resume education section?
The education section is among the easiest to write. In most cases, you should be fine if you follow these basic steps:
- First include the name of your school and its location. In most cases, you should list the name of your school first. In this way, you can also draw the hiring manager’s attention away from the fact that your degree has nothing to do with your desired role (if that’s the case). Finally, list only the institution that awarded you a degree.
- Specify your degree and field of study. You can either spell out the full title, e.g. “Master of Arts”, or use the initials “MA”. If you have more than one degree, list your most recent degree first. Also, list your minors or concentrations after your major.
- Don’t forget the dates. Include the year you when began your studies and the year you graduated. But you don’t have to include any specific dates if you seek to avoid discrimination based on your age.
You can use the following template to write your education section. Naturally, don’t forget to only include information that pertains to the job you want.
Education Section Template
Name of Your School, Location — Dates of duration or year of graduation
Degree, field of study
- Relevant coursework or student activities
- Study abroad
- Extracurricular activities
- Grade point average (if it’s above 3)
- Academic honors
- The topic of your final thesis together with the outcome (if it’s related to the job)
How to list your high school education on a resume?
If you never went to college, your resume’s education section is going to be pretty straightforward. All you have to do is list the name of your high school, its location and the dates. There’s no reason to complicate it any further.
That is, unless you’re less than three years out of high school. Then you can add anything that shows off your skills and achievements.
- Add achievements. Include awards, extracurricular activities, honors, clubs and organizations you joined during high school.
- Stay relevant. Only include information that pertains to a specific job opening. Keep an open mind and remember that transferable skills can make a huge difference too.
Feel free to include details about any projects or clubs you joined while at school. Focus on including specific examples to demonstrate your motivation and initiative.
Did you write for high school newspapers and published 16 articles? Then it deserves a mention in your education section!
The bottom line is simple: Look for anything that helps you show your enthusiasm and work ethic.
Think of clubs, organizations, extracurricular activities or even volunteer work. All of these can count as a major achievements if you don’t have any other experiences yet.
How to write a resume education section if you're a student?
As a student, you should place your education section at the beginning of your resume. Whether you already have some experience or not, employers will be interested to know that you’re still a student.
Include information about your extracurricular activities, relevant coursework or studying abroad.
Is your final thesis related to the job you’re pursuing? Then you should mention it! Explain how it pertains to the job opening.
Internships. Paid or unpaid, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that you can show you’re motivated and willing to work.
If you haven’t done any internships yet, it’s high time you applied. In most cases you don’t need any previous experience to get one and it can help you acquire many valuable skills. Moreover, it’s something that will distinguish you from your peers once you start looking for a job after graduation.
Finally, if you’ve already got your first degree, you can leave your high school degree out.
How to write an education section if you never graduated (dropout)?
If you’re a college dropout, or if you’re taking aleave of absence, this part is for you.
You should always include even unfinished education on your resume. Employment gaps always make hiring managers a bit suspicious.
Just because you don’t have a degree yet, it doesn’t mean you can’t put it on your resume. All you have to do is emphasize that you’re still working towards attaining it.
The same holds true if you don’t plan on ever finishing your studies. After all, you put some effort into them. Even more importantly, you paid the tuition.
How to write an education section if you're a fresh graduate?
If you’re a fresh graduate, you probably don’t have much work experience to put on a resume yet. That’s normal.
On the other hand, what you do have is your degree. Or perhaps even two degrees. What’s more, in the past couple of years you’ve learned and achieved more things than you probably realize. Don’t make your education section only about the degree. Use this space to present your most notable academic accomplishments.
Consider including the following:
- Academic awards: e.g. AP scholar, Duke of Edinburgh award, National Merit Award, President’s Award, school subject-based awards, etc.
- Scholarships: e.g. athletic scholarships, scholarships for women, creative scholarships, etc.
- Academic conferences and symposia: Don’t forget to mention the scope and name of the paper you presented at a conference.
- Relevant student societies: e.g. debating societies or programming clubs. If you were on the committee of any kind of student society, include that too.
- Dean’s list.
- GPA: Only include if it was higher than 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. If your overall GPA was lower than that, mention your major GPA. Alternatively, mention your summa cum laudeor magna cum laude.But if it wasn’t great, you can simply leave it out. And if you are out of school for a couple years, you should take your GPA out of your resume no matter what.
- Academic publications: This may not apply to you but if you have a PhD (or working towards it), you’re expected to include at least one publication.
If you’re a recent graduate, the education section should dominate your resume. Make it more elaborate than others and put it near the top, right above your work experience section.
However, if you have acquired solid work experience already, you can place your education section after it.
Few last tips:
- The rule of relevancy. This applies to every other part of your resume: Always highlight the most relevant qualifications first. When in doubt, list them chronologically from the most recent to the least recent one.
- Dates are optional. If you don’t want to disclose your age, you should know that you don’t really have to include any dates in your education section. But keep in mind that recruiters might sometimes view it with suspicion.
- Coursework, theses, and awards. Since you should always tailor your resume to each job application, only list the accomplishments relevant for a given position.
How to write an education section if you’re an experienced professional?
Once you become an experienced professional, your education section takes a back seat to your professional experience.
Your interviews will revolve about your work experience and professional achievements rather than your academic career.
Which means that you can get away with simply listing your degrees in reverse-chronological order — and leave it at that.
You can remove more specific details about your education such as GPA, extracurricular activities or related coursework. Or even the attendance dates.
How to write an education section if you’re changing careers?
True, your education is important. But it’s not as big of a selling point as your skills or professional experience. Because of that, you should probably put your skills and experience first. It’s okay if you position your education section near the end of your resume.
If you feel like your education isn’t related to the job you’re applying to at all, write the name of the institution first. By doing so, you can first draw attention to the fact that you attended a prestigious university. It is only then that recruiters notice your somewhat unrelated degree.
But you need to impress the hiring manager with your education section anyway. Besides listing key information such as name of the institution, degree and dates, you should also consider including related accomplishments.
Think of any coursework related to your new career, student clubs and organizations where you gained transferable skills. You can also mention academic awards, even those that aren’t related to your new job. They can help you impress the hiring manager.
Pablo’s Two Cents: How to make your education section stand out?
- Consider adding subsections. If you have a lot of information to include in the education section, consider dividing it into subsections. You can divide it into Basic information (schools and degrees), Awards and Honours, Certifications, School Organizations or Volunteer Work.
- Keep ATS in mind. ATS normally uses school rankings to assess candidates. If you’re still at school and have your university email address, use it to associate yourself with the school’s reputation. Make sure to include the full name of the school together with its abbreviation, e.g. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
- Get certificates. If your academic background is not something you can be really proud of, get an online certificate from one of the top universities like Harvard or Yale. Then you’ll be able to use the school’s name to your advantage.
- Tell the truth. It’s very easy for hiring managers to confirm whether your education is true or not. Also be honest about your grades. If you’re not happy with your GPA, instead of making it up, rather leave it completely out of your resume.