Learn how to write the education section on your CV
An education section is one of the basic requirements of a great CV, but it's crucial to ensure 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 to ensure your education has the right impact when listing it on your CV.
Why is it important to list education on your CV?
The education section enables hiring managers to assess whether you have the right academic 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. However, it's still considered to be vital information to include.
How to write an education section on a CV
Here are the basics of how to list education on your CV:
What to include in your CV education section
There are a few fundamentals the recruiter will expect to see in the education section of your CV. They include:
Name of the institution – school, college, or university
Qualification with grades
Dates of attendance or the year the qualification was awarded
If you're a recent university graduate, you should also include details of relevant modules to highlight your candidacy.
Where to list education on a CV
Where you position your qualifications depends on how recent your education is and how relevant your work experience is to your intended next steps.
Education leaver: If you're just leaving formal education, your academic record will carry more weight with a recruiter or hiring manager than your professional experience, so you should position an education section above your employment history.
Current professional: If you're settled into your career and have gained skills and knowledge through your work, then the employment history section will take precedence and education can be positioned below it.
Career changer: The exception to this rule is for those writing CVs to change careers. For example, suppose you've had a long career in retail but wish to pursue a career as an accountant. In that case, you can place education before employment history and include details of the accountancy qualifications and relevant coursework you're taking in preparation for the transition.
How to format the education section of your CV
A few general rules exist for adding your academic qualifications and achievements to your CV. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
Reverse-chronological order: Start with your most recent education and work backwards
Add extra detail: Include relevant modules, coursework, and awards if they will add weight to your job application
Formatting consistency: Mimic the formatting of your CV, including a bold section heading, bullet points, and sentence structure
When writing your education, use this template:
Institution name – Dates attended (from-to)
Qualification/subject – Grade
Or, for space-saving, you could try a more compact version:
Qualification, grade – Institution – Year
How to list your education if you're still studying
You can still list a qualification on your CV if you're working towards completion. You just need to clarify that it still needs to be finished. For example, say “In progress” or “Due to complete in 2025.”
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 also be listed, focusing on the higher-level work and modules of particular interest or relevance. You can also mention if you're a member of any clubs or societies relevant to your chosen career path.
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 are enough details here.
If you're still studying, your education section may look like this:
How to write your degree on your CV
It's always best to include any postgraduate or undergraduate degrees on your CV, no matter where you are in your career. If you're a seasoned professional, lower-level qualifications can be omitted if they don't add anything of value to your application.
Recent graduates will still need to include all of the details above and 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 also include that.
In this case, you may list further education like this:
How to write your A-Levels and GSCEs on your CV
Suppose you have no plans to go to university and are planning to start work after finishing your formal education at school or college. In that case, you must include more details about the qualifications you've achieved 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 grade 4 or above for GCSEs (grade C for those slightly older!).
If you held any positions of responsibility during your studies and academic career, you could include those too – maybe you were a prefect, football team captain or student council member. Once you have some work history behind you, you can omit this level of detail.
Your education section could look like this for now:
Writing education on a CV: FAQs
What should I include in my education section 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. Suppose your qualifications were O-levels or CSEs rather than GCSEs. In that case, 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?
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 looks weak.
If eliminating the qualification or incomplete education creates a large and unmistakable gap in your CV, you may 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 the education section of my CV?
Your education is integral to the CV, so it should be reviewed every time you update the document with a new job or ongoing course. Make sure that you still have the right amount of detail for your experience level and that irrelevant parts are removed. You should gradually move 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. You won't go far wrong with this golden rule as your guide.
Are you properly showcasing your education and other academic achievements on your CV? Find out by getting a free CV review here.
This article was originally written by Jen David and has been updated by Laura Slingo.