A few years ago, I recommended a colleague for a position at an organization where I was a member of the advisory board. My contact at the organization also was acquainted with my colleague because she was once a student in their program. My co-worker and I expected her to be interviewed because the program director knew me, and was acquainted with her, but she did not get a call.

I asked the program director what happened. She told me that my colleague had no education on the resume. The job required at least a high school diploma. My co-worker has a high school diploma and credits at community college, but this information was not on her resume. Consequently, she was not selected for interview even though the hiring manager knew her.

The lesson I learned from this episode was that it is crucial to reflect a job candidate’s education on the resume. Employers will not assume that you have a high school diploma or college degree because “everyone that works in this business has a diploma or degree,” or “everyone” has a high school diploma.

Your Level of Formal Education is Important

You are likely to earn more if you learn more. Department of Labor statistics show that people with more education earn more, and that the unemployment rate among people with more education is lower. Economic research I read some years ago states that people with more education have higher lifetime earnings.

This means it is important to show your level of education on your resume because it may well determine whether you will be considered for the job, and how much you will earn.

The Year you Received Your Degree or Diploma may not be Important.

The year you earned your diploma or degree is not as important as whether or not you have the degree. It may be to your advantage for you to include the year if you received your degree or diploma within the last five to seven years. If you finished school in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s, it is not to your benefit to list the year. You may reveal age—something employers do not need to know.

The only information I list in an education entry is the degree, field of study, school, and its location. I don’t include the high school diploma if the job candidate has a college degree, or a significant amount of college coursework—say 60 or more college credits. The vast majority of job candidates with college degrees or significant college coursework have a high school diploma, so it is not necessary to include it. An education section might read something like:


M.B.A., Information Systems, New York University, New York, NY

B.A., Economics, New York University, New York, NY

Many professional resume writers prefer to spell out the full official name of the degree, such as Bachelor of Arts. Either format is acceptable, in my view, since terms such as “BA” are commonly recognized abbreviations.

Often, job candidates are surprised that I do not recommend including a lot of detail about honors, specific courses, and other information. Employers, for the most part, are concerned only that we have the degree, and what school can verify that we have the degree. They will request transcripts with details later in the hiring process, so gather transcripts and diplomas for later use.

Do not “dumb down” the resume. It will usually benefit you to list your degrees and diplomas.

Professional Licenses, Certificates, and Certifications Could be Crucial in Your Industry.

Many of us have specific licenses, certifications, or certificates that are either required by law, or under industry standards, for our jobs. I normally list these certifications in a separate section above the education section. Another way to list certifications and licenses is to put them in the same section as education, then call the section “Education and Certificates,” but this can create inconsistencies on the resume. Inconsistencies could occur because certain industry certifications or government licenses only have value if we include dates of issue to show they are current. We do not include the dates of our college degrees or high school diplomas, though. For example, we might write something like this for a supervisory truck driver:


CDL, NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, Albany, NY (2013)


B.S., Transportation Planning, School, City, ST

It is not necessary to list specific license numbers and exact dates. Employers will request this information later in the hiring process.

Concluding Comments

We typically place education, certification, and licenses near the bottom of the resume, but this does not reduce the importance of this information. Employers will not consider you, regardless of how much experience you have, if you do not meet minimum industry or legal requirements for your job. Always list your education on your resume!

Next Steps

Nearly every job requires a certain level of computer skills now, in addition to education. We’ll discuss the computer skills entry next week.

About Frank Grossman

Frank Grossman has extensive experience as a career advisor, resume writer, and workforce development specialist in New York City and Philadelphia. He has helped thousands of candidates create resumes that make them shine. You may contact Frank at Frank@resumesthatshine.com or view his Website at www.resumesthatshine.com for additional information.

Leave a Reply