If you've recently graduated, your practical job experience may be thin – but that doesn’t mean you don’t have other ways to show you’re qualified for the position. After all, your education should have included courses to prepare you for your chosen profession. The question is whether you should list relevant coursework on your resume. The good news is that you can include that information if it relates to your chosen career.
There are a few factors to consider before you list your last semester's classes, however. You need to think about where you are in your career, what your job target is, and how relevant your education is to that job target. This article will help you figure out if you should add relevant coursework to your resume, offer some tips on which types of courses and academic achievements to highlight, and explain how to incorporate relevant coursework into your resume.
What is relevant coursework in a resume?
It’s important to understand how you can determine whether coursework is relevant for the position you’re seeking. Fortunately, that determination is easy to make. All you need to do is consider whether the courses you completed are related to the job you’re seeking.
For example, if you are applying for a position in IT, those art classes you took in college would be irrelevant to employers. However, including any computer science courses that you completed could help demonstrate your competency and show that you’re qualified for the job.
While coursework is not the equivalent of actual hands-on professional experience, it can be enough to sway an employer who is impressed with the rest of your student resume. Remember, the whole goal of a resume is to garner enough interest to net you an interview. These tiny details may be just what you need to earn that consideration.
When should you include relevant coursework in your resume?
As a rule, relevant coursework should only be on your resume when it's both relevant and recent. Unlike your degree – which almost always belongs on your resume – your coursework is optional on a resume. In that case, you're most likely to want to list some coursework if you're a recent graduate and applying for an entry-level job.
If you’re a recent graduate, chances are that you have little to no relevant job experience to list on your resume. In that case, including relevant coursework on a resume will demonstrate your exposure to diverse topics.
Put simply, you may benefit from including relevant coursework on your resume if you are a recent graduate with little work experience, are changing careers, and need to demonstrate qualifications in your newly chosen industry or when you have additional space to fill in your resume.
KEY TAKEAWAY: When you have little work experience, including relevant coursework on a resume can be the best way to help you land that interview and get hired for a fantastic job!
What's your job target?
To help you decide whether to include relevant coursework in your resume, think about the type of job you want your resume to target. If your only professional experience with the job function or industry is through your education, it's a clever idea to list some of your classes. Again, you want to check that the classes are both relevant and recent.
Some positions have educational requirements where everyone has basically the same educational background. Others may have few educational requirements at all. If you have a BA or higher education and you're applying for jobs that only require an AA or a high school diploma, your college coursework is probably not relevant.
Before you decide to include any relevant coursework on a resume, you need to ask yourself whether it bolsters your qualifications for the job you want to land. In general, work experience, internships, and volunteer work are more compelling than education experience.
Where should you include your coursework?
Carefully consider the placement of relevant coursework on a resume. For jobs that emphasize educational achievements, you may want to list your coursework and education near the top.
If the position relies on skill and experience, you can list the topics you studied in your skills section. Otherwise, you can include your coursework in your education section of the resume. In fact, most job seekers place these details in their education section.
Finally, there may be times when you want to place this information in your work experience section. More on that later in the post.
How to include relevant coursework on a resume
If your experience is thin and you need to focus on relevant coursework, you want to do it correctly. Here are some tips to help you learn how to create a relevant coursework resume.
1. Be selective
You shouldn't include your full transcript on your resume. You should always prioritize the most advanced or specialized courses over any introductory or general coursework. "Advanced Financial Accounting" is a better choice than "Accounting 101." In that example, you would want to only include the advanced course since the more general class would be redundant.
While there isn't a fixed rule about how many classes you should list on your resume, somewhere between three and eight courses can be a good goal. If you plan to include more than four classes, you may want to get some advice about how to format your skills on a resume and apply it to a list of courses instead.
Using bullet points can help you save space and create a more visually appealing presentation. Remember, your resume is supposed to be one or two pages – and for entry-level candidates, one page is likely sufficient. Use commas, columns, or other visual dividers to keep your coursework organized.
2. Add other relevant educational experience
If you’re including relevant coursework, you might also include your high GPA on your resume.
You can also include other details related to your schoolwork. For example:
3. Don't forget about online courses
If you've taken any online classes, you can put those relevant courses on your resume even if they weren't part of your degree. We have a separate guide about how to include online courses on your resume.
Relevant coursework: examples
There are a couple of acceptable ways to list your relevant coursework on a resume. Your choice should be based on need.
If you have some experience and just want to bolster your credentials, you can take a simple approach to this information. Recent graduates will want to spend more time on this section to emphasize its importance.
Remember to identify your coursework with a label. Many job seekers simply use the format:
Related Coursework: [Course #1], [Course #2], [Course #3], etc.
Below, we’ve included some relevant coursework resume examples that you can refer to as you prepare your resume.
Option One: When your resume already includes some relevant experience
If you have relevant experience to list on your resume, you can include your relevant coursework in that section. You don’t need to include a lot of details, though. Instead, you can address your coursework using a format like this:
Bachelor of Science, Marketing, Best College USA
Relevant Coursework: Advertising, Copywriting, Sales Management, E-Marketing, Brand Management
Option Two: For recent graduates with no relevant experience
If your coursework-focused resume needs to emphasize education over experience, then you might want to use a different format altogether. The example below can serve as a template when you’re listing relevant coursework on a resume:
EDUCATION Best College USA, AnyTown, AnyState May 20XX Bachelor of Science in Marketing Cumulative GPA: 3.9
RELEVANT MARKETING COURSEWORK Advertising Concepts & Practical Application, Best College Marketing Department
Fall 20XX-Spring 20XX
Explored advertising theory and history
Analyzed ad-market dynamics
Developed effective advertising campaigns for partner businesses in the area
Brand Management 101, Best College Marketing Department Spring 20XX
Hands-on program working in collaboration with area merchants
Successfully rebranded two major employers in the area
Developed proposed brand-enhancing campaigns for six other employers
Including relevant coursework in your work experience section
There may also be times when you want to include relevant courses in your work experience section. For example, if your desired position includes qualifications that focus on specific skills, you may want to include more details about your education to show the types of skills you developed and how you’ve used them.
One additional benefit that you can enjoy from this approach is the opportunity to include some of those relevant keywords from the job posting. Employers who use applicant tracking systems tend to include job qualifications as keywords in those postings. If you can use those exact terms in your relevant coursework descriptions, you can help enhance your chances of getting your resume past the ATS.
If you do decide to list this information in your work experience section, make sure that you include enough detail to demonstrate measurable achievements in those classes. This can help a prospective employer to better understand how those courses have prepared you for employment at their company. Below is an example of how you can highlight a relevant coursework listing in your work experience section:
Brand Management 101, Best College Marketing Department
Rebranding Lab: Successfully completed rebranding project with local merchant, modernizing the firm’s brand with offline and digital campaigns that increased brand awareness by 42%,
Online marketing: Developed and implemented an online survey for test company that measured client brand preferences for five distinct products.
Client presentation: Researched, crafted, and presented nine separate test client presentations related to brand enhancement, expansion into new markets, and digital rebranding efforts.
As you can see, the use of relevant coursework not only lists the course but also presents detailed information about the types of skills the job seeker developed during their education. This information could be crucial for a prospective employer whose focus is on hiring someone with those specific skills.
How to tell when you should avoid putting relevant coursework on your resume
Of course, adding relevant coursework to a resume may not always be the right thing to do. You need to decide whether the inclusion of this information adds or detracts from your other qualifications. Fortunately, there is a straightforward way to know when you can just skip this information altogether.
1. Compare your resume to the job posting. Does it already include all the required skills that the employer has cited as necessary qualifications? Do you have work experience achievements that highlight those skills in a quantifiable way? If so, then there is no need to include your coursework.
2. Is your resume already one or two pages in length? That’s usually a good sign that you already have enough relevant skills and experience to highlight your qualifications, so chances are that your coursework won’t add any additional value.
3. Are you thinking about adding coursework that’s still in progress? Don’t. If your only relevant courses are ones that you’re still trying to complete, that information is better omitted.
Putting relevant coursework on a resume can make a real difference!
Like many job seekers, you may not be thrilled at the prospect of listing your relevant coursework on a resume. Still, adding coursework details can sometimes be crucial for establishing yourself as a viable candidate for a job. When you're short on work experience, your coursework is a wonderful way to include keywords from the job posting. This reinforces the relevance of your included coursework details and can also help your resume get past the applicant tracking systems (ATS).
You just might find that your educational achievements are the one thing that pushes you past your rivals and gets you that all-important interview!
Need help deciding whether to include relevant coursework in your resume? Get a free resume review today and let our team of experts provide the help you need!
Ken Chase, Freelance Writer
During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog.