Above the Fold (maybe) – Education

Where to place your degree on your resume and how much information you need to share about it gets many answers from many different resume writers. There are some general guidelines that most people are aware of, but some of the finer nuances of the placement and details about the degree is not known and sometimes the lack of this knowledge can hurt your chance for getting a job interview or offer. Traditionally the Education section follows your work history, but there are exceptions. So let’s look at the 3 major options and the many variations you need to consider.

1 – Recent graduate with little or no work experience.

Your degree is your biggest selling point. You’re a new graduate, so make sure you lead with this information as the very first item after the Objective statement (if you’re using one). For undergraduates you should show any GPA above about 3.4 (just 2 digits):

EDUCATION

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Little City College, Little City, June 2009

— Specialty in finance; Dean’s List; GPA 3.8

2 – Recent degree for an experienced worker

As proud as you are about getting that new degree (whether an undergraduate or a even a doctorate), the information should go at the end of your resume immediately after your work experience. We don’t list the GPAs of graduate degrees, so you also drop the GPA of your undergraduate and the months the degrees were earned.  Remember, this is a “plus” to your work experience, so those smaller details aren’t as important as for those seeking their first job:

EDUCATION

Master of Science (MS) in Information Technology, Large City University, Large City, 2009

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Little City College, Little City, 2005

3 – Career Changer in mid or late career

So you’ve been working in retail, but now want to be a rocket scientist. With little or no experience in that field, but a recent degree relevant to your new target career, this needs to be up-top. You probably want a Summary Statement or strong Objective Line  that indicates your desire to switch careers and/or industries.  Then put your degree info directly in front of your work history:

EDUCATION

Doctor of Aerospace Engineering (PhD), Major City University, Major City, 2009

Master of Science (MS) in Information Technology, Large City University, Large City, 2003

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Little City College, Little City, 2000

Here are some miscellaneous rules:

— If your degree is over 20 years old, consider dropping the year you graduated:

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Little City College, Little City

— If you were granted an honorary degree, make it clear…that’s very different from an earned degree:

Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology, Major City University, Major City, granted 2009

— If your degree is from another country, list the equivalent degree type below it:

Bachelor of Engineering (BE), Foreign City College, Foreign City, Other Country, June 2001

(Equivalent to Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) in This Country)

— If your degree (e.g. BA in Art Appreciation) isn’t relevant to your career pursuit, just list the degree type:

Bachelor of Arts (BA), Little City College, Little City, June 2001

— If you attended college, didn’t get a degree, and are no longer enrolled, indicate the dates attended:

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Little City College, Little City, attended 2001-2003

— If enrolled and currently attending college, but not yet graduated, indicate planned graduation date:

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Little City College, Little City, expected graduation June 2010

— If you’ve completed the coursework on an advanced degree and are still working on your dissertation or thesis, this needs to be indicated:

Doctor of Education (Ph.D. Candidate), Major City University, Major City, courses completed June 2009

A noted exception to this resume advice is if you are a college professor or are pursuing other higher-education work (researcher, etc.) and not looking to be employed in the corporate world, you will probably be writing a CV (Curriculum Vitæ), so this advice is not for you.

Bottom Line: A recent graduate with little work experience or a career changer with a new degree will have the Education section Above the Fold. Everyone else will have the Education section after the Work Experience section. List your degrees top-down with the highest level degree first. Don’t mislead or lie…the news is full of people that exaggerated their degrees to get hired and then later got fired (and sometimes sued).

. . . .

See the Index of all my Job Hunter articles on my Backlog tab.

5 Responses to Above the Fold (maybe) – Education

  1. mrl8nite says:

    I was recently asked if the 20-year rule (see above) for listing the date on the degree was a firm rule. No, it’s not. The assumption being made is that once you have over 15-20 years of work experience, what you learned from your degree is less relevant than what you’ve experienced in your career. Still, it’s important to list the degrees (it’s a real big “check mark” thing for recruiters).

    A variation on the rule I use it simple…we try to keep the number of years of work experience on the resume to around 8-12 years (a little longer is probably OK as long as it’s relevant experience). So if your degree was more than a couple of years prior to the earliest job you list on your resume, then drop the degree date. But if it was earned within or close to the years of experience shown on your resume, list the date.

  2. mrl8nite says:

    Another question came up recently. What about listing your Associate degree? Sure. You include it in your list of degrees chronologically like the article suggests.

    The only real difference is that the Associate degree is usually dropped off the resume once you add a graduate degree. So if you have Associate and a Bachelor degrees, they both get listed. If you’ve earned a Master degree, then you just list the Bachelor and Master degrees.

  3. mrl8nite says:

    During a recent lecture on resumes, I was asked about which school name to use on the resume when the school changes names. There’s really 2 basic approaches:

    – If the name has only slightly changed (Bigtown College is now Bigtown University), go ahead and use the current name. The current name is easily found, it is the school’s new official name, and when the recruiters call to check on your credentials at the school, they will not have any issues finding your information.

    – If the name has dramatically changed (such as when Beaver College became Arcadia University), then putting a line beneath the college name that says something like “(formerly known as Beaver College”) or “(currently known as Arcadia University)” is fine…just keep it brief.

    The goals are to prevent confusion for the interviewer, to make sure they can locate the school to check your credentials, and that the information on the resume shows you in the best possible light while being accurate. Oh…if your degree was from a long time ago when the school had the old name, then I’d definitely list the new name, as this keeps you from looking ancient!

  4. heatherthrapp says:

    I am working on my resume and had some questions regarding education:

    I took a semester of general education courses in 2006. Then, life got in the way and I stopped taking classes for a while. I started attending college again this year (Jan. 2012). My spring of 2006 and spring of 2012 semester were taken at a community college, strictly to get my gen ed out of the way. In one of my comp. courses this spring, my instructor indicated that I HAD to list it as Jan 2006 – Jan 2012. But, this isn’t accurate, as I was not actually in college for six years for general education courses. Should I just leave the dates off?

    Since I only went to the college for general education courses, what do I put for degree type?

    Also, during my Spring 2006 Semester, I was on Dean’s list, and during Spring 2012 Semester I was on Presidents list. Do I indicate this on my resume?

    Finally, I am now attending a four year college and am in an upper division honors program, should I indicate this fact on my resume?

    • mrl8nite says:

      First, whatever a college professor has you do for a grade is designed to educate — not to be misconstrued as an absolute or a requirement for how you deal with life. (And yes, in case you wonder, I teach college.) Second, remember this is a marketing document, so it should sell your most current skills and talents. You have a license to be creative but not misleading. So here are my suggestions and answers:

      – List the Current Degree you are pursuing, the School you are attending and provide an estimate on when you might graduate. For example:
      Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Boston School of Science, July 2014 (estimate)

      This way you don’t need to list your multi-year and broken “progression” through school, which is really a distraction rather than a benefit.

      – And yes, you can list an award, but just one of your recent awards (e.g., Spring 2012), no more. The other awards are things that you might bring up in an interview if they are appropriate, but keep your resume crisp and uncluttered. See the examples in the article above for dealing with awards and for degrees in progress.

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