Everything you need to know about including education, certifications, and courses to a resume

March 11, 2021

Even though your education might not be related to the job role you’re applying for, it’s just as significant as the work experience. It gives more credibility to your professional history, and it demonstrates you spent years mastering your knowledge.

Still, many take this section for granted and don’t give it much attention. Yet, education can set you apart from other candidates and help recruiters make the final decision.

Education in a resume represents your background, and it gives employers more material to comprehend whether you match their expectations and needs. Thus, if your degree is directly related to your desired field and you have additional credentials, it can instantly turn you into the favorite candidate.

It is why it’s essential to craft a concise yet stellar education section that will convince recruiters you have it all. And even if you don’t, you can use this category to your advantage. Here is everything you need to know about writing a resume education section.

What to include in a resume education section?

Like with every other category, remember to align this one with the job you’re applying for and the circumstances. It means that it’s not the same if you’re still a student or not. In the latter case, you don’t have to focus on education unless the job position requires it (e.g., academic field).

Degree(s) are crucial for this part of your resume. But you are allowed to go into details and mention your majors. However, you’re not obliged to write the graduation date, but it’s recommendable.

Instead, recruiters will expect to see your grade point average (GPA) if you’re fresh-out-of-college or you’re still studying and applying for an internship. Your grades will matter one to two years after graduating and if you had an exceptional GPA.

As the education section is your opportunity to shine, if you have them, include all relevant honors and recognition you gained during your university years. If you just finished college or don’t have much work experience, you can also list other related activities, such as extracurricular clubs or holding leadership roles in student organizations.

Thus, you can use this section to add other professional courses, certifications, and achievements. But if there’s a lot of material (more than the work experience), consider creating a different section only for that.

Where should you place the education section in your resume

It is recommendable that fresh graduates and students position the education section as higher as possible in a resume. They are unlikely to have enough work experience to put that section into the focus, so it’s better to highlight education.

Students find our resume builder ideal for them because it puts this section at the top of CVs or next to the experience. Using our template, you don’t have to wonder what to write first and whether you’re going in the right direction.

Nevertheless, if you’re not a student anymore and it’s been some time since you left school, perhaps you should consider moving the education section towards the bottom of a resume. In case you have advanced degrees, such as Ph.D. and masters, rank it according to their level (e.g., Ph.D., Master’s, Bachelor).

But you likely have enough work experience you can highlight instead of focusing on your university achievements. Hence, list only the most significant facts and job-related educational accomplishments and recognition.

Still, perhaps you don’t fit into any of these two. Maybe you still have a long time before finishing your studies, or you left college before getting a degree and wonder whether you should include it. Here is what you should do in those cases.

Should you include in-progress or incomplete education?

The short answer is yes! Even if you only finished one semester, if you successfully passed relevant subjects, make sure you include them.

Those that are still studying can add the finished subjects and when they expect to graduate. Although the work experience is the essential element of a resume, recruiters care about your education, especially if you’re still a young adult.

Here are the main things you should include.

You can also consider adding academic accomplishments and recognition, GPA (it’s recommendable to exclude it if it’s under 3.5), job position-related subjects and coursework, and extracurricular activity (e.g., leadership roles in student associations).

On the other side, if you didn’t complete your education, you should consider including it. Include any significant achievements and relevant coursework as they can show your passion and diligence.

Here is how you can structure your education in that case.

Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT
2012 – 2014 Completed 90 credits toward BA in Multimedia Design 

Those candidates whose highest level of education is high school can add the name of the high school, location, and graduation date. No further details are needed. It is recommendable to structure it like in the example below.

The Highschool of Arts, Newark, NJ
Graduated in 2013

Besides, you can list any relevant extracurricular activities during high school that gives your resume additional value. If you don’t have any work experience, you can also write a coursework description and classes that demonstrate you’re compatible with the job requirements. 

In case you didn’t graduate high school, here’s what you can add.

The Highschool of Arts, Newark, NJ
Attended school from 2011 – 2013

But you might still be in high school. Add your education by following the structure below.

The Highschool of Arts, Newark, NJ
Expected to graduate in 2022

To conclude, your education section should always include your degree name (e.g., BA, MA, MBA, Ph.D.) in reverse chronological order. The other crucial thing to add is your major (e.g., Media and Communications). If you’re a fresh grad, you can also include minors and concentrations as they might allow recruiters better understand your aspirations.

The next things are the university, college, or institution’s name and (expected) graduation date. Whether you will add your GPA is your choice, but if you got your degree more than ten years ago, it’s probably not relevant anymore. Also, remember, only add it if it’s above 3.5. The last thing you should include in your education section is extracurricular activities, academic achievements, and recognition.

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If you’re still wondering what about other certifications and courses and where to include them, here is what you should know.

How to include certifications on a resume

Certifications add extra credibility to your relevant experience and stand as proof of your passion, diligence, and zest for learning. They demonstrate that you’re not satisfied with only earning formal education and that you can commit yourself to other engagements too. Not every candidate will have more than their university or high school. It is why it’s a good idea to add certifications. 

Accredited associations and boards award certifications as credentials that show one has passed training for a particular role or skill. That typically means that you will have to pay a fee to participate and earn the certification after ensuring you meet qualifications. 

Thus, you will have to pass an exam or skill assessment. Certifications usually require time and dedication. It is why recruiters appreciate seeing candidates who possess more than just a degree.

Here are the situations when you should include certifications on your resume.

You can add certifications in the education section or create a different one that will also include courses. List them by first writing the certification’s title, then the name of the host organization or association, and, finally, the date and details, such as earned qualifications.

Should you add courses to your resume?

If you finished relevant online courses, include them in the education of professional development section. However, keep them short and concise because they shouldn’t be the highlight of your resume.

You might be proud of your Software Development course from Coursera, but if you’re applying for a social media manager position, it probably doesn’t make any difference. So, ensure these courses are relevant to the job role, and they can help you be better in your future work.

Thus, you can expect that recruiters might bring that up during the interview. Be ready to talk about your courses and explain how do you put those skills into practice.

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