Education is one of the standard sections of a resume, but that doesn't mean it's something job seekers should include mindlessly. The education section can still be an opportunity to optimize your resume. A tailored resume is more likely to pass an ATS scan and impress a hiring manager or employer, so this article is all about the strategies behind tailoring your education section.
We talked to our career experts, and the consensus is that it can be appropriate to leave some education from your resume. Just like work experience, some education is not relevant to your career goals. In some cases, it can even get you thrown out of the running for a job during the hiring process.
Confused? Don't worry. In this article, we'll walk you through the pros and cons of five common reasons why you should exclude some education from your resume.
5 common reasons to exclude education from a resume
Here are five the scenarios we will discuss:
Advanced education when you're overqualified
High school education on a resume
Irrelevant education on a resume
Multiple degrees or certifications on a resume
Outdated education on a resume
1. Advanced education when you're overqualified for a job
If you're applying to a job you're overqualified for, it's acceptable to leave off advanced degrees. There are many reasons why you might be applying for a job you're overqualified for, including an industry switch, targeting a less stressful workload, or focusing on a company or mission you support. Your resume does not have to be an exhaustive list of everything you've done. In fact, it shouldn't be as it could increase the chances that your resume contains irrelevant experience.
If your education makes you look overqualified for a job you want, you can remove it from your resume. Job seekers appearing overqualified puts you at risk of multiple preconceptions, from salary expectations to feeling threatened. You can get ahead of this by leaving out some of your qualifications.
Example of when you should exclude an advanced degree:
If you have a Master's degree but you're targeting a part-time administrative position, you can safely exclude your over-qualifying degree. While you may be looking for a job that allows you to be home before 3 p.m., the hiring manager may think you're applying to any position you can find. Tailor your cover letter and resume to fit the job; sometimes that means trimming off your advanced degrees.
You can remove education if you’re overqualified for a job.
*Word of caution: while you can omit information from your resume, you should never lie about your education or work experience on a job application. Job applications are signed legal documents and if you're asked about your academic history, you must answer honestly.
2. High school education on a resume
You don't need to include high school education on your resume. If you have any education beyond high school, the degree is implied and including it would be redundant. Even if your highest degree is high school, you should still leave it off.
Only listing a high school diploma will make you look both young and underqualified for a job. Instead, you can list in-progress or incomplete degrees in the education section of your resume. You can otherwise supplement the education section of your resume with relevant training or certifications.
If neither of those situations apply to you, you can omit the education section altogether. Some of the most successful people in the world don't have a college degree, so don't let it discourage you from succeeding!
3. Irrelevant education on a resume
As stated above, your resume should be tailored to the job you're applying to. If you have education--especially if it's in addition to similar education--that isn't related to your current career target, you can leave it off your resume.
Including irrelevant information on your professional resume will do more harm than good. The only purpose of a resume is to show relevant coursework and that you're qualified for the position you're applying to. There are even situations where irrelevant jobs should be removed from your resume.
Example of irrelevant education:
If you have a certification from a web development program, but you're targeting an accounting position, you can safely leave off your additional certification. While web development skills are some of the best types of skills to include on a resume, you can leave them off your resume when it comes to tailoring your resume.
Only include degrees or certifications that are relevant to the position.
4. Multiple degrees or certifications on a resume
Some people have earned multiple degrees or certifications over their careers, leading to an education section that takes up valuable page real estate. If your education section is too long or confusing, you'll fail the 6-second resume test.
Hiring managers and employers are not going to dig through your education section to see if you have the specific degree or certification they're looking for. If you have multiple degrees, only list the one (or ones) most relevant to the position or industry you're targeting.
5. Outdated education on a resume
You should remove the year you graduated from most resumes to avoid age discrimination, but you should consider removing your older degrees for similar reasons. Even though it's illegal to discriminate based on age at any stage of employment, your age will have an impact on your job search.
Examples of outdated education:
Some degrees are in programs that have been discontinued by the school, so you might be giving away more information than you think. Without much detective work, a hiring manager is likely to assume your age if you list a degree in an outdated field like radio advertising or home economics.
Instead, list just the level of the degree and the institution. You do not need to include the year.
You want your resume's education section to be highly relevant to the job you're applying for, which means you can leave off education if you want to. Remember that while your resume can be strategic, your job application needs to be honest.
Now that you know what education to include, read how to organize your resume's education section. Best of luck with your job search!
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.