Show an employer you have the knowledge to get the job done.
An education section is one of the basic requirements of a great CV, but it's crucial to make sure that it's in the right place and that you have the right level of detail. In this article, we'll share a few tips and discuss the main considerations for your CV's education section to ensure that it has the right impact.
Why should I list education on my CV?
The education section enables hiring managers to assess whether or not you have the right qualifications for the job. This will carry greater or lesser weight in the recruitment process depending on how much work experience and relevant coursework you have, but it is still considered to be vital information to include.
Where should my education appear on my CV?
Where you position these qualifications depends on the recency of your education is and how relevant your work experience is to your intended next steps. If you're just leaving formal education, it's likely that your academic record will carry more weight with a recruiter or hiring manager than your professional experience, in which case you should position an education section above your career history.
If you're settled into your career and have gained skills and knowledge through your work, then Professional Experience will take precedence and Education can be positioned below it.
The exception to this rule is for those people writing a CV to change careers. If you've had a long career in retail, for example, but wish to pursue a career as an accountant, you can place Education before Professional Experience and include details of the accountancy qualifications and relevant coursework you're taking in preparation for the transition.
Include your most recent qualification first (usually the highest-level qualification) and work in reverse chronological order.
What should I include if I'm still studying?
If you're working towards a qualification, you can still list it on your CV! You just need to make it clear that it's not finished yet. For example, you can say 'In progress' or 'Due to complete in 2022'.
You'll need to include the level of the qualification, such as BSc (Hons) or MBA, as well as the name of the course, like 'International Business' or 'Sports Therapy'. You should also include the name of the educational institution awarding the qualification ‒ usually the name of your university.
Modules, projects, dissertations and theses can be listed as well, with a focus on the higher-level work and modules of particular interest or relevance. If you are a member of any clubs or societies relevant to your chosen career path, you might like to include those, as well.
As your high school education or undergraduate degree is the main selling point on your CV at this time, you should also include any lower-level qualifications you have. Level, subject and year of completion is enough detail here.
If you're still studying, your education section may look like this:
What should I include if I've recently graduated?
Recent graduates will still need to include all of the details above, as well as the completion date of the high school diploma or college degree. If you received a strong grade – a first or a 2:1 – you can include that as well. Lower-level qualifications can be omitted if they don't add anything of value.
In this case, you may list high school education or further education like this:
What should I include if I'm finishing my education after school/college?
If you have no plans to go to university and are planning to start work after finishing your formal education at school or college, you just need to include more details about the qualifications and relevant coursework you've achieved whilst there. The level of the course, the subjects and the years of completion are the bare minimum.
Also include any strong grades, defined as grade C or above for A-levels and AS-levels and grade 4 or above for GCSEs (grade C for those of us who are slightly older!).
If you held any positions of responsibility during your studies and academic career, you can include those too – maybe you were a prefect, captain of the football team or member of the student council. Once you have some work history behind you, you can omit this level of detail.
Your education section could look like this for now:
What should I include if I have professional experience?
When you have some strong work experience or professional training under your belt, you need less detail in your education section; your career will carry more weight with a recruiter at this stage. However, you should still include a top-level summary of your highest level of education.
One line stating the level of qualification and subject is enough. For university-level qualifications, include the name of the institution as well. Do include the year of completion, unless there's a risk of age discrimination. If your qualifications were O-levels or CSEs rather than GCSEs, you might want to consider leaving them off completely ‒ even without stating the year, your age is implied and ageism could affect your application.
At this stage of your career, your education section may look like this:
What should I do if I started a qualification but never completed it?
Ideally, incomplete qualifications or unfinished education should not be mentioned at all. Even though there may be perfectly valid reasons for not completing a course, when written in summary and compared against the CVs of other candidates, it's likely to look pretty weak.
If eliminating the qualification or incomplete education altogether would create a large and unmistakeable gap in your CV, you may feel the need to include it to cover the gap. In this case, try to present the incomplete qualification positively.
What should I do if my grades are poor?
If you didn't quite achieve the grades you hoped for, the solution is easy: Leave them out! A third-class degree is still a degree. For GCSEs or A-levels, list only the subjects that you passed.
How often should I update my CV's education section?
As your education is such an important part of the CV, it should be reviewed every time you update the document with a new job or ongoing education course. Make sure that you still have the right amount of detail for your experience level and that irrelevant parts are removed. You should find yourself gradually moving from a long and detailed section to a one-liner as you progress from high school or college student to seasoned professional.
In summary, your aim for the education section is to ensure that it complements your career goals by being relevant and sufficiently detailed. With this golden rule as your guide, you won't go far wrong.
Are you properly showcasing your education and other academic achievements on your CV? Find out by getting a free CV critique here.