Resumes: Describing Your Education

Writing the Education section of your resume is one of those times when it's important to keep in mind the qualifications that other candidates will be bringing to the table. It's great if your degree (or expected degree) matches exactly what's on the job description, but remember that that's going to be the case for most other serious applicants to the position. So how can you stand out?

One phrase I like to add to my Education section is "Coursework included…" Alternatively, you could phrase it as "Skills gained included…" or "Learned to…" This is a tip I picked up from Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich. He has a unique degree that many people don't understand at first glance, so explaining what topics it covered is helpful. However, I find this tip potentially valuable for anyone to flesh out their Education section.

Look over the job description and pick out a few skills you need that you honed during your educational program. In particular, think about skills that the typical candidate won't have much experience with or that aren't evident from the name of your degree. For example, my master's degree is in "Communication" but my program had a strong focus on equipping us to do communication research, so when applying for jobs in evaluation and assessment I made sure to note that my coursework included quantitative and qualitative research methods, survey design, and statistics.

Think about whether your college, university, or trade school could benefit from added information as well. If you attended a school that most people have never heard of, consider whether there are any aspects of it that might indicate the high value of your education. For example, maybe the university itself is not well known, but the business or engineering school where you earned your degree has one of the top programs in the countries. Or maybe your college requires every student to complete a certain number of hours of on-the-job training. Don't write something for the sake of writing something, but if there's something that could add value, include a sentence underneath the school name.

I don't like including graduation years (except for expected graduation for a degree in progress), but not everyone will agree with me on this. I think the hiring manager's focus should be on your skills, not trying to figure out how old you are (and judging you on that). That said, some online applications will require you to include this information anyway, so it may be a moot point.

See this previous post for more on the basics of writing a resume.