Workwrite Resumes

Your Resume: Keep your education section from sabotaging your job search

The main thing to know about the education section of your resume is how to keep it from hurting your chances of landing an interview.

The main thing to know about the education section of your resume is how to keep it from hurting your chances of landing an interview.

The main thing to know about your education section is how to prevent it from hurting your chances of landing an interview.

Unless your college experience was less than three years ago, the education section of your resume will follow the experience section, and it is going to be short and sweet. Training and certifications may be a longer story.

For recent grads with little work experience, place the education section immediately after the summary on your resume.


On a resume, the education section means formal education. The main ingredients are the degree you obtained, the field in which you obtained it, the name of your college or university, and the city and state in which the school or campus is located. If your degree was obtained online, you may omit the city and state.

Here is the format I like to use because it is in the order of importance to the recruiter or hiring authority:

Bachelor of Arts (BA), English, Concentration in Writing, Jamestown College, Jamestown, ND.

If you graduated from Harvard, another prestigious school, or a school that holds a lot of sway in your industry, put the name of the institution first.

I like to spell out and then abbreviate the degree because you never know which one the applicant tracking system is programmed to searching for.

Notice I did not include the date of my college graduation. Now, the hiring authority can find the date on my LinkedIn profile if I have included it there. (Hint: LinkedIn requests the dates, but you don’t have to fill them in.) The reason I don’t include the date on a resume is that HR professionals don’t like information that indicates your age.

Do not list your high school diploma if you have a college degree. If high school is the highest level of education you achieved, put that information in the same format as the college information above.

Training and professional development

Training goes under a separate heading, or you may include it under a subheading in the education section, your choice. This may include additional college courses you’ve completed, professional training, business courses, conference courses, continuing education units, and industry-required training. However, if any of these courses resulted in a certification, save them for the certification section.

List each course like this:

Course name, institution or organization offering course, City, State (omit if online), Month Year.


Any course for which you have received a certification belongs under a separate heading. Do not include certifications under any other heading, or some applicant tracking systems will not “see” them.

Use this format:

Certification name, course name if different from the name of the certification, institution or organization offering certification, City, State (omit if online), Month Year.


Education is a section that keeps some people awake at night. “I don’t have a degree,” they tell me, even when they have 25 years of experience and are now a Vice President.

Yes, it is true that some companies will look no further than the education section for a reason to throw out your application. Consider them a bullet dodged. You don’t want to work for them anyway.

Many other companies understand that there was a time when degrees were optional and experience was valued more highly. They often state in their job postings that they will consider “equivalent experience” in lieu of a degree. Even if it isn’t stated, apply anyway. If I’ve written your resume, we’ve made a strong case for your value to the organization, whether or not you walked across a stage for a piece of paper.

The education section gets people into trouble for another reason — that is where the most common resume lies happen. Some executives without degrees list them on their resumes anyway. When they are caught, they lose their job, often very publicly. Don’t do it. Regaining integrity takes far longer than searching for another job.

Next week, we’ll cover the optional sections of your resume.


If writing your resume has been holding up your job search, now is the time to schedule some time to talk with me about your career plans.


Image courtesy digitalart via freedigitalphotos.

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