As a student or recent graduate with little or no employment experience, your education will be your strongest added value compared to other applicants.
In this article, we will describe how you can showcase your education section in the best possible way and what to include in it to impress hiring managers.
If you need a full guide to writing a winning CV, check out our article listing the steps to writing a professional CV, section by section.
What should you include in your CV or resume education section?
The education section on your CV should include the titles of the programmes you completed, the academic institutions you attended, and the location and dates at which you completed these curricula.
How much content do you need in your CV or resume education section?
It is beneficial for your CV to add more content to your education section if you have less than 6 months of relevant work experience and if your education is relevant to the job you're applying for. This rule is not set in stone: this largely depends on how much you have actually done during these 6 months of work experience.
For example, allocate less content to your education section if you completed an internship for which you are able to list a good amount of relevant achievements (3 to 4 bullet points). If you feel these will bring more value to your CV than courses completed during university, work experience takes priority.
On the other hand, if you feel you don't have enough relevant content for your work experience section, make sure you showcase projects and courses completed during your studies.
Should your education on your resume be listed before professional experience?
Your CV or resume education section should be listed before your employment experience section if you feel it constitutes your profile's main selling point and added value.
An analogy that might help you: if you're running a vegetable stand, you'll want to put your most beautiful vegetables at the front of the stand. Your CV is the same: as the hiring manager might not read through your entire CV (recruiters take 7 seconds to read CVs on average!), you want to catch their attention and show your profile's relevance as early and as fast as possible.
As most hiring managers will read your CV from top to bottom, that means putting your education section on top if you have more relevant achievements and projects to offer there. On the other hand, if you've achieved a lot during your work experience - however short it may be - and you feel this has more value than your academic achievements and coursework, put the work experience section on top!
Should I include high school education on my CV?
If you're applying for your very first job or internship and don't have any employment experience, include your high school and specialisation in your CV's education section. On the other hand, if you already have work experience and have already completed a Bachelor's degree and Master's degree, it is not necessary to list your high school education in your CV.
This space can best be used to share more content about your work experience, academic achievements, or extracurricular activities.
5 Steps to writing a killer education section
Make sure you include your education in reverse chronological order. When you list your education on your CV or resume, make sure you only include content that is relevant to the job.
1. Start with the programme name
Start by listing the full name of the programme you are completing or have completed. As Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) might be looking for specific keywords in your education section, make sure to include both the full name of your programme and acronyms.
Here are concrete examples:
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Master of Laws (LLM)
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
2. Add the name of your establishment
Whether you list your high school, university, business school, or any other establishment offering academic programmes, make sure to include their full names too. This is especially important if you're attending renowned academic institutions such as Harvard University, London Business School, or Rotterdam Erasmus University, to cite obvious ones. One of the many reasons why you should put effort into showcasing education on a resume!
Again, if your academic institution is also known as an acronym or has a nickname, make sure to include the full name of the establishment you're attending. This will ensure Applicant Tracking Systems will identify key terms that might be sought by employers.
Here are concrete examples:
New York University (NYU)
University of Amsterdam (UvA)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
3. Add the dates during which you completed your education
This is pretty straightforward: make sure to add the starting date and end date of your academic programme. If for some reason it has taken you 8 years to complete a Bachelor's degree, for example, try not to make that too obvious as it might not play in your favour (however good your reasons are!)
In that case, just stick to your graduation date.
4. Add the location where you completed your education
The location where you completed or are completing your academic programme is also of great importance, make sure you don't forget to include it!
If you've had the privilege to study abroad or participate in an exchange programme, including an international location in your CV or resume education section is a great way to differentiate yourself from other candidates. It demonstrates you're adventurous and have experimented with adapting to a different environment and interacting with international crowds. As many companies have international teams, seeing you've studied abroad might constitute an extra selling point for your profile.
If you haven't studied abroad and stayed in your home country, for example, include the location anyway! This could signal stability and it also means you stick around. In the end, you don't control how recruiters perceive international experience and studying in your home country is also something to be very proud of.
5. Add content relevant to the job
Use bullet points
Using bullet points is the best way to list education-related achievements, projects, and coursework. This will make your entire education section more easily scannable by both the recruiter and the Applicant Tracking System.
To make each bullet point as impactful and rich as possible, use the "XYZ" structure.
Achieved X, using/collaborating with Y, resulting in Z.
By adopting this sentence structure, you will give the hiring manager the maximum possible information he or she needs to know by using a single bullet point and thus saving space for more content!
List your main achievements
As advised for the employment experience section in your CV or resume, avoid describing your coursework and academic programmes and focus rather on what you have achieved during these programmes.
In addition, start each bullet point with a power verb in the past tense (e.g.: Completed, analysed, coded, performed).
Here are concrete examples:
Collaborated with 3 fellow students to develop a language learning platform, as a part of an academic project aiming to help immigrant children learn Dutch vocabulary from home
When to list relevant coursework
If you've completed specific courses that are directly relevant to the job you're applying for, make sure to include them.
For example, if you're applying for a Junior Marketing position and are completing a Master's in Marketing Management, you'll probably be completing courses similar to these:
Marketing Data & Analytics
Retail and Omnichannel Marketing
Marketing Research Methods
If the description of the job you're aiming for hints at seeking knowledge in these areas, these courses definitely deserve their place in your CV education section, especially if you have no or little professional experience in marketing.
When to list grades and special recognitions
If you received special recognitions (e.g.: cum laude, magna cum laude) from your academic institution you definitely want to include them in your CV education section.
As for your grades, only include them if they are excellent:
GPA > 3,8/4, 18/20, 9/10 depending on educational grading systems
Put as much effort into crafting a high-quality education section as you do for every other section on your CV or resume. Higher education plays an important role in signalling knowledge and expertise to companies and recruiters.
This holds especially true if what you are studying is in close relation to the job or industry you are aiming for.