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Let's be real, we hear a lot of people say "you're not always going to work in the same field as what you studied, so it doesn't matter what your degree says". Although there's some truth to that, having a comprehensive education section in a CV is still important as it helps employers to check the applicant's qualifications. For some specific fields, you will be required to have a certain background education in order to qualify for the position.
On the other hand, for fresh graduates or students who are still pursuing their degrees, the education part on their CVs holds the most weight when they are looking for an internship or a job since they might not have extensive work experience yet.
Think of it this way, the top third parts of your CV, such as personal information and professional summary, are reserved for the most important and relevant information regardless of what you want to do with your CV.
There are two common places for listing education on a CV, after the CV summary or after the work experience. Depending on several factors, one is more suitable than the other. Now let's go over each of them and their merits.
In the case where you have little to no professional work experience, your educational background becomes the most important selling point. Additionally, if you are choosing a path in academia (applying for a teaching position or going back to school and pursuing a master's or a doctoral degree), your CV’s education details (including awards/honors) become the priority.
Two other scenarios where listing education on a CV after the profile summary comes in handy are when you want to switch to a career that is more relevant to your degree or when you just received your postgraduate degree to a higher-level job position.
Or, perhaps you wanted to try something new and decided to work in a completely unrelated industry to your studies but then realized your passion still lies where you acquired your diploma. (It happens, we understand.)
In these cases, highlighting your freshly achieved MSc., MBA, or Ph.D. first, might be more beneficial.
When you are switching jobs within the same industry, your education history might not be as relevant because you already possess practical skills in that field and it becomes your top-selling quality.
Therefore, you should highlight your work history by putting it before listing your education on your CV.
For instance, you have worked in marketing but now you would like to be in sales. In this case, the academic qualification in your CV is outweighed by your employment history because of the shared skills these two roles have.
Now that you know what your CV is for and where you need to place your academic qualifications in your CV, now, let's talk about the content. There are some essential components that you absolutely need to include and some optional ones to complete your CV’s education details.
These are the items that you must have when listing your education on a CV:
You should always write down your school/university/college name in the education history CV.
Simply include the city and country where the institution is located.
State which degree/certification you received. It can be a high school diploma or a bachelor's, a master's, or a doctorate degree. Make sure to be specific, for instance, Bachelor of Administration, or Master of Science, etc.
It's critical to specify your focus field when listing education on your CV if you have obtained a higher education degree, especially when you apply for a job that is related to your field of study. Recruiters can, thus, learn about your expertise.
Be thorough and don't leave out your enrollment and graduation dates. No need to be too specific; mentioning the month and the year will suffice.
The optional elements for the education section in a CV are:
The debate whether you should mention your GPA in your CV education section goes on. The rule of thumb is as long as the institution you are applying to is asking for the GPA, then you should put it on your CV education details.
If the recruiter doesn't request it, you can consider writing it only if your GPA is above 3.5. Opt to write other information that makes your CV stand out if you feel your GPA is not impressive. After a few years out of school and gaining other experiences, the GPA can be left out of your CV education details.
If you're switching fields of study or applying for a job and have taken courses related to your desired program/job, it is definitely a plus to include relevant courses. Even if you're not trying to change tracks, mentioning a couple of courses on your academic qualification in your CV won't hurt.
Relevant projects range from school projects to any personal projects that support your academic and/or industrial skills in the past or present. Having this information on your CV education section shows that you are capable of implementing theories and knowledge.
When your skills and achievements are acknowledged--especially when there are certificates to back them up – there is no reason for you not to include them in your CV education details, right?
These could be any organizations or clubs that you joined outside of the school or university. If there were events where you contributed, don't hesitate to record and rewrite them and specify the impact you made in the education section in your CV.
This is where it gets exciting, we'll show you how to properly list out a degree description on a CV under 3 different situations.
Nanyang Technological University | Singapore
Bachelor of Social Science
2010 - 2014
Nanyang Technological University | Singapore
Bachelor of Social Science
2010 - 2014
The University of Texas | Dallas, Texas, USA
Degree: Master of Science
2015 - 2017
California Institute of Technology | California, USA
Degree: Bachelor of Science
2011 - 2015
It's not unusual for students in their senior years of college to venture out and look for an internship or part-time job in the hope of securing a full-time position right after graduation or merely gaining experience. In order to land those highly sought-after internships, having a well-written description of education in your CV is a must.
Some students who know that they will pursue a higher degree after finishing the final year will also be asked to submit their CVs. If you fall under either of these circumstances, you might not finish your degree yet but are still required to list your educational history on your CV.
Here's how you can show it off on your CV education details:
Example of education in progress on a CV:
National Taiwan University | Taipei, Taiwan
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry candidate (expected graduation in 2023)
2019 - present
If you were enrolled in an institution but didn't finish, you can write down any completed courses in your CV education section instead. To enhance the education section in your CV, list any professional certifications you acquired, especially those relevant to the job. For example, online courses platforms offer many courses with certifications. Knowing that you have developed your skills outside formal education is also valuable to employers.
💡 Pro Tip: To list incomplete degrees on the education part of your CV, highlight how many credits you did complete and specify the courses you finished.
Unfinished educational background on a CV – sample:
University of Leeds | Leeds, England
2017 - 2019
If a high school diploma is your highest degree yet, chances are you can put more of your extracurricular and non-academic activities to better highlight your ability or skills.
Therefore, the academic qualification in your CV could look like this:
St. Joseph Christian School | New York, USA
High School Diploma
2008 - 2012
If you're homeschooled and possess a GED (General Education Diploma), you can mention it in the following way when listing your education in your CV:
General Education Diploma | 2020
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A few more tips and tricks to make sure that the education section on your CV sparks:
Don't be discouraged if you didn't finish high school. Practical skills are as important as a diploma. Thus, do list relevant courses and projects that align with your job or career.
This is especially important if you have not finished your degree yet. The employer would wish to know when you would be graduating in order to gauge your commitment level to the job.
This is because they at least show that you have learned some related knowledge. Make sure to include them, especially if they are relevant to the position you are applying for.
GPAs lower than 3.5 might come off negatively. If your GPA is lower than 3.5, it’s best to not include them at all and choose to include other details instead.
This is only applicable if you have multiple degrees. In most cases, listing 1 degree in the education section of your CV should be considered enough.
All in all, if you want to avoid making errors in your CV education section, take a look at some of our CV templates and samples. Good luck!
--- Originally written by Teresa Edria ---