The purpose of the education section of a CV is to demonstrate the level of education a candidate has completed, degrees they obtained, specific areas studied, as well as any special honors and awards earned. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate to the employer your specific areas of knowledge and expertise, in a way that demonstrates that you have the appropriate know-how and prerequisites to complete the job at hand.
Remember that the principle objective of your CV is to convince the recruiter that you are not only qualified for the job position that you are applying for, but that you are worth interviewing. It is important to keep this in mind when writing any part of your CV, including the education section. Just as you must tailor your executive summary and work experience sections, it is wise that you also customize your academic background to the job role requirements and company expectations. After having read the job listing description, consider, what parts of your educational experiences would be helpful in persuading the employer that you are an ideal candidate to get the job done?
Several factors come into play when when writing an education section. For instance, is there a difference between what current students, recent graduates, and seasoned professionals should include in the education section on their cv? Where should this section be positioned within the CV - before or after the work experience section? Is there anything that job seekers shouldn’t include? What is the correct structure and format for composing the education section?
The following guide will help you compose the education section of your CV with the most relevant information in order to inform the hiring manager of your academic interests, expertise, and qualifications.
What to include in your education section?
In general, the most basic information that must be included in the education section are your degree(s), name of the educational institution where you earned said degree, and the year of graduation or completion. However, even more important than these first three necessary components of your academic history is in fact what you studied. A common misconception is that the institute, college, or university is actually more important than the area of study or expertise. On the contrary, by emphasizing what you studied, especially in the case that it directly aligns with the job that you are applying to, you will successfully demonstrate your competency and mastery for the career field. In this case, consider the use of a larger text size, uppercase lettering, and/or bold font for your majors/minors, a.k.a field(s) of study, in order to make this aspect of your educational experience stand out. Of course, if you went to an especially prestigious university you will want to make sure to highlight this part of your academic background as well.
In terms of articulating your grades and classifications, it is commonly suggested that you don’t include a GPA unless it is 3.5 or higher (out of 4). If you are applying to jobs outside of the U.S., make sure to also write what the top possible score is when incorporating your GPA, as not all countries use the same grading system. i.g.: 3.8 / 4 GPA. In fact, many countries do not use a GPA at all, so another option instead of including your GPA could be to include that you graduated with honors, high honors, or highest honors as this is more internationally understood and accepted. Depending on the career field, it is not necessary to include your GPA on your CV. Specific instances in which you may be required to list your GPA include when applying to grad school, law school, or med school. In any case, it is always best to stick to what the job application requires or suggests.
In general, it is recommended that you remove your GPA after a few years in the workforce. 2-5 years after having graduated, it is no longer advisable to include your GPA. At this point in your career, hiring managers aren’t as interested in your in academic scores. Rather, they will be searching for more recent achievements and accomplishments in your work experiences.
In addition, it is wise to include any awards or honors you received throughout your educational history. For instance, if you earned any Latin honors such as cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude. However, if you are applying for a job internationally, again it is important to keep in mind that these classifications may be different depending on the country. You may list other awards such as Dean’s List or any specific department awards. If you are a professional with several years in the workforce, it is not necessarily pertinent that you include awards and honors, if you are short on CV space. In this case, consider using an online CV in addition to your traditional paper CV so that you can expand upon these special distinctions.
In terms of extracurricular activities, we suggest that you don’t list clubs or other organizations that you participated in during your school years unless it is relevant to the job position that you are applying for, or if you are a current student or recent graduate and you do not have a lot of work experience. It is not especially helpful to your application and can take up valuable space on your CV. Instead, we recommend that you use a section specifically dedicated to your out of office interests if you wish to demonstrate other abilities, achievements, or leadership roles held outside of your career field.
Last but not least, it must be stated that if you have completed your education at a technical/professional institute, community college, or university, it is no longer necessary to include your high school within your education section. In fact, in this case, it is recommended that you do not include any information from your high school experience on your CV. Instead, use this space for something more recent and relevant to your career and application.
Education vs. work experience placement
The ideal format depends on your current standing in the workforce. The best CV layout for your application has a lot to do with where you are in your career, especially when it comes to whether to put your education or work history first. In the end, the decision of how to order these sections depends on whether you are a current student, recent graduate, or if you are actively employed.
In the case that you are a current student or recent graduate, it is most likely that you will not have as much work experience in general, but also more specifically in your desired career field. Thus, it is best to put your education section first, clearly demonstrating that you are a current student or recent graduate, and highlighting the majors/minors that you completed which directly align with the job that you are applying to, as well as any special honors and awards earned.
On the other hand, if you are a seasoned professional or have worked a few years in the career field that you are applying for, it is best to show your relevant professional experience by putting your work experience section first, in addition to your achievements earned fulfilling each job role.
In general, if you are not a current student or recent graduate, it is best to put your work experience section before your education. Even if you have been working several years in a different area of work and you are deciding to change career paths, recruiters and hiring managers are typically more interested in your work experience than what you studied back in university. Of course, in this case we advise emphasizing your transferable skills - those abilities or knowledge bases that you used in your previous jobs that are necessary for the job position at hand.
Tips for writing your educational experiences
- Take into account that a cv from a current student or recent graduate is going to look different from that of a job seeker who has spent a few years in the workforce.
- When short on space for your 1-page paper CV, use an online CV in order to expand upon awards and honors earned during your educational years.
- If you have graduated from a technical/professional institute, community college, or university don’t include high school information within your education section.
- Especially for seasoned professionals, we suggest that you use an out of office or interests section on your CV, instead of listing clubs, organizations, or other extra curricular activities within your education section.
- Unless you are currently studying or are a recent graduate, place the work experience section before your education section.
Education section format
You can use the following formats to help structure the education section of your CV. Remember you can always modify these templates according to your circumstances as well as the job that you are applying to.
Education Format 1
College Name | (Year of Graduation)
Degree, Major and Minor
Education Format 2
Degree in Major(s) | College Name | Year of Graduation
- Latin Honors & GPA
Education Format 3
Year of Graduation | Graduate in Area of Study at University Name
Education section examples
Education Example 1
UCLA | (2010)
B.A. in Business Economics
Education Example 2
Bachelor of Arts in French | Lake Forest College | 2016
- Summa Cum Laude (3.9 / 4 GPA)
- Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society
- Mary Coles Prize in French Literature
Education Example 3
2000 | AAS in Nursing at Mesa Community College
If you still need a little more help formatting your education section on your CV, you can always try using an online CV builder which offers helpful tips, examples, as well as structured templates for completing your best CV.
Cvonline.me is an online cv-building platform that empowers talented job hunters to rev-up their career by presenting themselves in the best possible way. The company helps candidates create standout CVs that catch the eye of employers and boost the applicant's chances of getting interviews.