Resume Education Section: Accounting for Special Circumstances

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Regardless of your level of education, properly listing your education endeavors in the resume education section often makes a difference in receiving an interview. Many job postings specifically require a certain level of education or a specific degree, but what do you do if your education does not match up exactly? You work with it!

The way you present information in a resume education section can make a less-than-ideal situation seem more appealing, or at least presents it in a way that avoids harming your interview potential. Four common situations that may apply to your education include the following:

  • You are qualified by experience but do not have the required degree.
  • You earned a degree in another country.
  • You did not finish your post-secondary degree.
  • You do not have a high school diploma.

If any of these situations apply to you, presenting the information the right way in your resume education section can help you avoid being dismissed for a position that you may not appear to be qualified for on the surface.

Resume education section circumstance #1: Qualified but without required degree

In some fields, a degree is not the only way you can qualify for a position. If you have worked in a field and have gained the necessary experience and knowledge, some prospective employers are still willing to give you a chance. Emphasize any relevant experience regardless of whether it is from a professional setting or a volunteer one. If you have any educational classes or training that relates to the position, you can include it on your resume under the heading of “Education and Training” for your resume education section. In your cover letter, explain more in-depth how your experiences qualify you for the position.

Resume education section circumstance #2: Degree earned in another country

A degree earned in another country is more of a positive than a negative. However, some positions that require very specific degrees and educational training might cause a problem if you cannot show how the foreign degree is relevant in the resume education section. For any foreign degree, though, make sure you understand the US equivalent of the degree. Classes and program focuses likely differ from one country to the next. Contact a university or a professional organization that regulates credentials. On your resume, list the US equivalent degree, and bring an official assessment that demonstrates the value of the degree to an interview.

Resume education section circumstance #3: Incomplete post-secondary education

If you did not complete your post-secondary education, you want to explain the circumstances or situation to avoid missing opportunities. For degrees you are currently working on, list the degree as in progress, state the expected date of completion or put the date you started and “to present” for the date in your resume education section. This shows prospective employers that you are in the processing of obtaining the degree.

If you quit pursuing a degree without completing it, do not list the actual degree in your resume education section. Instead, reference relevant course work when it applies in your cover letter or in a section of your resume where it fits well.

Resume education section circumstance #4: No high school diploma

If you never received your high school diploma, it can be a tricky thing to avoid saying so directly in your resume education section. However, a few tweaks to how you present the information can at least temporarily keep the information unknown to prospective employers. There are three scenarios and ways to present information for each.

  1. Having an extensive work background and/or a range of skills you can demonstrate are both helpful. List both of these things before your resume education section. Instead of the simple heading of “Education” for your resume work education section use “Education and Development.” Under this heading, list any workshops, specialized training or certifications you have received. Include high school in the list without any additional information.
  2. When you have any type of post-secondary credential, you do not need to mention high school in any way on your resume. This allows you to avoid revealing the information, but always stay prepared to discuss it if it comes up in an interview.
  3. If you did not complete high school and you have no post-secondary credentials or education, do not include a resume education section on your resume.

While the special circumstances presented above might seem completely harmful to your chances of landing an interview, you can downplay the negative aspect of each by incorporating the information in the right way. However you include special circumstances in your resume education section, always stay prepared to discuss them in a positive way in a face-to-face interview.