CV education and qualifications guide – CV Plaza

CV education and qualifications guide

By: Sobhan Mohmand, Editorial manager       Last updated: 30 Nov 2018

The Education section of your CV gives the employer a brief overview of your education, studies and qualifications to date. Alongside the Employment section, it is considered to be one of the most important parts of your CV.

Example of a graduate’s CV education section:

how-to-write-education-section-cv

What to include in this section

You can include any of the following in this part of your CV:

  • Academic results, degrees, diplomas and certificates
  • Technical and professional qualifications *
  • Work and vocational training received *

Studies that you can list in this section include:

  • Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees
  • A-Levels, BTECs and other college-level courses
  • GCSEs
* Note: If you have a separate “Qualifications” section, you should include any work or vocational courses/training in that section instead of here.

How to list GCSEs on your CV

If you are highly educated (i.e. you hold a Master’s degree or PhD) or you are a senior professional, you should not include your school’s GCSE results on your CV. This information would be considered highly irrelevant and outdated at this stage in your career.

In all other cases, it is a good idea to list or mention your GCSEs in this section of your CV because GCSEs are highly valued by employers and most jobs require candidates to have GCSEs in at least English and Maths at grades C or above.

There are two acceptable ways of listing your GCSEs on your CV:

1. Complete – list down all subjects + grades

  • English (A)
  • Maths (B)
  • Science (A*)
  • Geography (A)
  • Business (C)
  • ICT (B)
  • History (B)
  • Art (A)

This is the ideal format for school leavers or those that apply for their first job.

2. Compact – stating the total number of GCSEs in one sentence

As can be seen from the first approach above, it takes up a lot of precious space of your CV that can be better utilised for other information.

Instead, you could write it in one simple sentence:

8 GCSEs including Maths and English at grades A–C.

This is the recommended format for most candidates who are university students or graduates or already have some relevant work experience.

How to list A-Levels on your CV

For higher level qualifications, such as A-Levels, it is essential that you are more descriptive on the subjects and grades awarded of the qualifications.

Do not write:

I possess three A-Levels.

That doesn’t mean anything to the employer!

Instead, you should mention the subjects and results of your A-Levels:

“A Levels in Business (Grade A), Accounting (Grade B) and Economics (Grade B).”

If you’d like to list down your A-Levels instead of writing it as one sentence:

a-levels-grades-on-cv

How to add your degree on CV

If you want to find out how to write your degree on your CV, make sure you follow the guidelines outlined in How to present your degree on your CV.

It contains tons of examples and tips on how to get this right – even if you are still studying and haven’t graduated yet.

Should I include my training qualifications in this section?

That depends on the CV format that you have selected.

Some CVs have a separate ‘Qualifications’ section in which candidates can list their additional professional or vocational training qualifications.

Other CVs do not have this section.

If your CV does not contain this separate section then you could include your professional training and qualifications in the Education section or in the Employment section of your CV, depending on the type of training or qualification.

Location of the education section on your CV

A CV’s ‘Education’ section usually comes straight after the ‘Employment’ or ‘Work Experience’ section. This is the most common approach adopted by most candidates and favoured by employers.

The following are exceptional cases in which you would place the ‘Education’ section before the ‘Employment’ section:

  • When having impressive academic qualifications
  • When one has recently graduated with little or no work experience
  • When applying for a job that especially requires educational excellence

education-qualifications-cv-section

Both of these approaches are correct, and it comes down to your personal choice and preference which format you adopt for your CV.

Tip: Don’t assume the reader will understand your qualifications!

There are dozens of terms and abbreviations that are used to describe courses and qualifications. Do not assume that the prospective employer, who may not be highly experienced, to be familiar with all types of qualifications and their significance.

Consider the following terms for various levels/types of qualifications:

  • SCQF
  • NQ
  • HND
  • BSc Honours
  • HNC
  • GNVQ
  • BTEC
  • Cisco
  • SVQ
  • PMQ

Ask yourself: Will the prospective employer understand all the academic terms and abbreviations that I have written in my CV’s education section?

If in doubt, expand on these terms by using the full title rather than a simple abbreviation and also state at what level they were taken.

How to write and format your CV’s education section

The following is the minimum information that is required for each entry in this section:

  • The name of the qualification (e.g. BSc Computing)
  • The name of the institution (e.g. The University of London)
  • The start and end date (e.g. September 2015 – July 2018)
  • The grades/results of the qualification (e.g. 2:1)
Format and layout

What do you write first?

  • The name of the course?
  • The name of the institution?
  • The date?

The answer is… it depends 🙂

Which approach is the best for you depends entirely on your personal circumstances and preferences:

Age

The most common format for writing education and employment entries on a CV is to first mention the dates followed by other information. This is the approach that we have taken in our CV examples.

If, however, you are senior in age you should never list the dates first.

Do not write the date of your Education first on your CV if you're a senior person.

This may make the potential employer think,

“Gosh, this candidate finished their secondary education before I was even born!”

We have already discussed the implications of mentioning one’s age or date of birth on one’s CV.

Best practise: Mention the course or the institution first, drawing away the reader’s attention to these other details rather than focusing on dates.

The institution that you studied in

If the educational institution (college or university) that you studied in is a prestigious institution, you should write the name of the institution first.

For example:

Write the name of the university or other educational institution first on your CV if it's prestigious.

Studied at Cambridge University? Not bad… not bad at all.

The course that you studied

If the course that you studied is significantly related to the job that you are applying for, you should write down your course name first.

If you are applying for a Business Manager position:

Write the course name first on your CV

Remember: be consistent! Prospective employers do not have time for solving puzzles. Choose one particular format and stick to it throughout your CV.

More tips and guidelines

  • Use bullet points rather than long sentences or paragraphs.
  • Entries should be generally presented in a chronological order, i.e. starting with the most recent.
  • Do not include any outdated or irrelevant qualifications.
  • Include any modules or units that you have studied as part of the qualification if it is relevant to the job that you are applying for.

3 Examples of different CV education sections

There are a number of different ways in which you can present your education or qualifications on your CV. There is no single “right” way of doing it.

Below you will find 3 good examples of how to present this section on your CV:

Example 1 – University graduate (higher education)

2014 – 2017             BA Sociology (Hons)             University of Portsmouth
Degree classification: [1st Class]

Relevant modules:

  • Social Research I
  • Introduction to Social Policy
  • Crime, Subversion and Injustice
  • Philosophies of Welfare
  • Poverty, Class and Inequality
  • Media and Society

2013 – 2014           A-Levels           Mayfield College
Subjects: History (B)     Geography (A)     English Literature (B)

2006 – 2013           GCSEs           Aspire Academy
Results: 10 GCSEs at Grades A-C, including Maths and English.

Example 2 – College leaver (further education)

2009-2012       South England College
                        Higher National Diploma (HND) in History
                        3 A-Levels: History (B), Geography (C) and English (B)

2003-2009     Strafford High School
                      2-week training in Personal Safety (including in First Aid)
                      10 GCSEs at grades A*–C

Example 3 – School leaver or college student

2016– 2017             BTEC General Cookery in Hospitality (L1)             Pearson College
Results: Distinction

Relevant Units:

  • Serving Food & Drink
  • Food Preparation & Cooking
  • Food Safety in Catering
  • Preparing & Serving Drinks
  • Employability And Communication Skills

2009 – 2016             GCSEs             Monk’s Hill School
Results:

  • English (B)
  • Mathematics (C)
  • IT (B)
  • Design Technology (B)
  • Electronics (C)
  • Physical Education (A)
  • Religious Education (B)
  • Geography (C)

Conclusion

  • Your CV Education section is considered to be one of the most important sections of your CV so it is recommended that you make sure it’s written and presented with the utmost care and consideration.
  • Experienced or highly educated professionals should completely omit information about their school and O-Levels / GCSEs results. This information would be considered irrelevant and outdated.
  • A-Levels entries should be accompanied by the subjects studied and grades achieved.
  • All entries in this section should contain at least the following four elements; (1) Name of the qualification, (2) name of the institution, (3) start and end date and (4) the grade awarded.

Good luck!