The Education Section of a resume has many purposes. It shows the highest level you completed, if you’re a recently graduated student, additional honors or awards, and perhaps a solid GPA. Regardless, many people must handle this section differently to market themselves effectively.
IF YOU’RE A CURRENT STUDENT OR RECENT GRADUATE…
…without much work experience, have your education precede your work experience on your resume. Currently, your education is your more marketable offering, as opposed to professional histories. Students and recent graduates should provide any of their school information that can help replace a lack of experience. A competitive GPA may attract an employer seeking an intern or new employee (but note the use on GPA for non-students or graduates below.) There may be networking opportunities if you seek work through an alumni association or student center as well, depending on what your schools career advisory department has to offer. Any clubs, activities, or committees where you had a role of leadership or assisted in new developments could work here as well, just as long as those groups do not show your political or religious preferences. If the hiring manager doesn’t hold a similar world view, advertising this information may hurt your chances of obtaining employment.
IF YOU’RE DEGREE ISN’T COMPLETED YET BUT WILL BE…
…in the next couple years, you can note the “Degree Awarded” date as a projection.
University of Maine
Projected Graduation Date: May 2015
IF YOU FINISHED YOUR DEGREE YEARS AGO…
…place this information near the bottom, or on page two of a resume, so it doesn’t waste the valuable space your professional experience will utilize. The typical standard is to not provide any dates in education unless they were within the last five to ten years.
University of Massachusetts
Bachelor of Arts Degree – Business
As far as GPAs go, unless it was something outstanding such as a 3.8 or higher, I would leave it off. This is a cause of contention among other resume writers, but my thought is this: what is the purpose of showing your GPA? To show the employer you did well in school? Employers typically focus more on your professional accomplishments, as they are more relevant to their needs. GPA’s just show, at the very worst, that you may still crave grade-based approval- which is not helpful in the world of work.
These days I don’t believe it matters so much where you went to school, as long as you attended some of that schooling in person. Online colleges are a lot more cost effective these days if you work and complete your degree during your off hours. However, if you’re a current student without any work history, attending school solely online, you will have to join some type of group or volunteer organization to show an ability to work as part of a team. Essentially, you want your resume to show how you have interacted with coworkers, and hopefully, what positive results came from that interaction.
IF YOU LACK A FOUR YEAR DEGREE…
…but are only missing a few credits, you can label your education as a “Bachelors Candidate.” Example below.
University of Rhode Island
Bachelor of Science Candidate – Psychology
Another option would be to state what your major was, but without listing dates or Degrees Awarded.
University of Connecticut
Major – Spanish
Concentration – Communcation and Language
IF YOU LACK A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA OR G.E.D…
… one option may be to only list the name of the high school you attended without dates, and list your area of focus. Such as:
John Smith High School
Concentration: Fine Arts
Another option I tend to use more and usually prefer, is foregoing the education section altogether. Instead, list the relevant industry or management trainings, whether they were work sponsored or not. Instead of “Education,” this section can be labeled “Professional Development” or “Industry Training and Education” or any title that fits the courses detailed in the section.
Management training courses sponsored through the American Management Association
The goal is to gain a job interview while minimizing any red flags. If you’re a current student or recent graduate, you need to market your education to minimize the lack of experience. If you have professional experience, there are various strategies to minimize any potential red flags if there is a degree requirement in the position. When a specific degree isn’t a direct job requirement, showcasing achievements and quantifying duties can help get your foot in the door to an interview.