Each week, TopResume’s career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, answers user questions on Quora like the one below. We’ll be republishing those answers here. A certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), Amanda has been helping professionals improve their careers for over 10 years. Have a question for Amanda? Submit it here.
Q: How do I list education on my resume?
Should I keep old diplomas on my resume? What if I didn’t complete a degree?
When it comes to including the detail of your education on your resume (assuming we’re talking about a standard professional resume for the United States job market and not a federal resume, U.S. academic CV, or an international curriculum vitae), the diplomas you provide will depend upon your education history, your current level of experience, and your current job goals.
Below I’ve listed a few different scenarios and how I recommend treating your resume’s education section.
You possess an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or other advanced certification:
Typically, an employer expects to find information about your undergraduate degree and any graduate work or additional graduate degrees you’ve earned, such as a master’s degree, PhD, law degree, and so forth, on your resume.
The same goes for any certifications or advanced training you’ve received that’s relevant to your current job goals and career path, such as an RN, PMP, SSBB (Six Sigma Black Belt) … you get the idea.
If you’ve earned an advanced degree or certification that’s considered very important for your field of work, include the acronym for the credential after your name at the top of your resume in addition to including the details of your education at the bottom of your resume in an Education and Professional Development section.
You recently graduated from college:
Once you graduate from college and start searching for your first entry-level position, it’s assumed that you’ll remove any information that refers to your high school activities and focus on your new undergrad degree.
If you’re new to the workforce and your new degree is your best selling point, the education section will appear towards the top of your resume. After you have a few years of relevant experience under your belt, the education section gets shifted to the bottom of your resume, and your work history will get pushed farther up on the page.
You started college at one place, but finished somewhere else:
If you attended college at one institution — perhaps a community college — and then completed your education at another place, you only need to list the university where you completed your degree. All the employer wants to know is which college supplied you with your degree at the end of your education; they don’t necessarily care or need to know how you arrived at this place. Save that resume space for more important information.
You didn’t attend or finish college:
If you didn’t go to college, and the jobs you’re applying for specifically list a high school diploma or equivalent as one of the job requirements, be sure to include your high school diploma on your resume.
If you attended college but didn’t graduate, you may want to list the relevant courses you took, especially if you made it to some of the higher-level classes, to demonstrate the skills you built or the disciplines you were exposed to during your coursework.
You’re still pursuing a college degree (undergrad or grad program):
If you’re still attending college for your undergraduate or graduate degree, you can simply add an expected graduation year to this information. I only recommend adding a list of a few courses you’ve completed if (a) they’re higher-level courses — i.e. beyond the basic 101 classes — that are relevant to your job goals, and (b) you don’t have a lot of relevant work experience to market on your resume.
You earned your degree more than 15 years ago.
If you earned a degree or certification more than 15 years ago, list the degree on your resume, but remove the graduation date. It’s important to demonstrate you’ve earned the degree, but there’s no need to draw attention to how long ago this occurred.