STEM Resume Breakdown, Part 6 of 6 – Education and the Final 5%

Welcome to the final post in my 6-part STEM resume writing series. Part 6 will cover education and other sections to help you outshine your competition and strengthen your candidacy.

If you have been diligently following my 6-part STEM resume writing series, you are on your way to developing a targeted and achievement-oriented resume that includes:

Part 6 will cover the following topics:

  • How to position your education and professional training
  • Other applicable sections you can include in your resume
  • Frequently asked questions that address special situations

This article also includes links to other informative blog posts. Let’s get started!

How to position education on your resume?

Many people often ask where to position their education and professional training. The answer to this question varies depending on your current career stage. For example:

  • If you are a new graduate, your education will likely be your most valuable asset. Therefore, it makes sense to place this information at the top of your resume.

  • If you have 5+ years of professional experience, you can move your education to the end of your resume, unless you recently earned or are in the process of pursuing another degree, such as an MBA or a Ph.D.

What information do you include in your Education section?

Keep it simple and list the following:

  • Name of degree and field of study
  • Name of educational institution
  • City, state, perhaps country
  • Years of graduation

What if my target position is in a different field from what I studied?

Omit the field of study and list the degree name (i.e. Bachelor of Science or B.S.) for applicant tracking systems.

I’m concerned about age discrimination. Should I include years of study?

It depends. In most cases, yes. Graduation dates help you tell your professional story and illustrate career progression.

New graduates and young professionals with under 10 years of experience can include graduation dates. Professionals with 10+ years of work experience targeting senior executive roles can also show years since it’s expected that senior-level candidates would have a lot of experience as their career evolved.

In some cases, it’s best to remove graduation dates if you are concerned about age discrimination. If you remove graduation dates, cut your work history so you don’t unintentionally age yourself. For example:

Let’s say you graduated in 1998 and removed that year from your Education section. However, after completing your degree, you also began working that same year and included your start year, 1998, at your first job. A hiring professional reading this will assume that you are trying to hide a gap and that you are older than you are.

Therefore, I advise doing 1 of 2 things: include your year of graduation OR, if applicable, summarize your early career experience without dates. Finally, don’t eliminate the year of graduation while showing employment starting in the 1970s! If you omit years of graduation, be consistent.

Later in this post, we will cover how to feature Early Career Experience.

Should I include my GPA? 

If you are a recent graduate with little to no work experience, a strong GPA (3.5 or higher) can be a great asset for the first 1-2 years of graduation. If a job posting asks you to include it with your application, follow the instructions.

When should I remove it?

Once you get 2-3 years of work experience under your belt, you can remove your GPA since employers will be more interested in your work history.

Should I include academic honors and awards?

If you are a recent graduate with little to no work experience, honors and extracurricular activities can speak to your skills, work ethic, and personal drive to succeed. If you are an experienced candidate, your career achievements will be more valuable than your academic honors and awards from several years ago.

What other sections can you include on your resume?

What you include depends on your professional background. The keyword is relevancy.

Ask yourself: does including this information help sell you as a candidate?

Remember, your resume is a marketing tool, NOT an autobiography.

Examples of additional resume sections include:

Early Career Experience: One way to include experience older than 15 years is with an “Early Experience” or “Prior Experience” section. You can omit dates and highlight key accomplishments and expertise related to your current career goals.

Publications, Presentations & Patents: Thought leadership can set you apart as an expert in your field. List them in reverse chronological order. Be selective, especially if you have a long list. Consider creating separate sections or an addendum page.

Awards & Honors: Awards highlight the key qualifications you bring to a position. List them separately or include them in the education or experience sections. Again, be selective. Awards from 10 years ago carry less weight than ones from a few years ago.

Professional Affiliations: If you have extra space, listing relevant industry or trade association memberships is a great way to stay current with industry trends. For career transitioners, relevant associations can serve as great networking opportunities.

Volunteer Experience: Volunteer work can reveal different aspects of your character and valuable hard and soft skills. You can list it like your experience, and add details of leadership positions you held and projects and initiatives you led and supported.

Military Experience. Mention your branch/field of service, highest rank achieved, significant honors earned, and honorable discharge status. If your military experience directly links to your career goal, share 1-2 highlights.

Technology Skills: For STEM professionals, lab techniques and technology skills are important for performing key job functions. Carefully review each job posting to assess what skills are most valuable to Hiring Managers in your industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I have multiple degrees and relevant certifications?

List the most recent degrees first. If you’re currently working towards a degree that you have not yet completed, list it first and the anticipated month and year of completion.

If you have relevant industry certifications (i.e. Lean Six Sigma, CPA, PMP, etc.), you can put under a separate heading, such as “Certifications & Licenses.”

What if I don’t have a college degree?

I’ve worked with many clients who lack formal education but more than made up for it with years of well-rounded experience and regular industry training.

If this sounds like you, I suggest the following:

  • Omit the Education section completely, but be prepared to discuss it in an interview.
  • Focus on your accomplishments, professional development, and training.

If you’re applying for a position that states a high school diploma or GED is required, consider listing those qualifications, if applicable. Otherwise, leave out this information.

Should I still include education if it’s incomplete?

Absolutely. This information can be advantageous for keyword optimization, especially since many job postings list a Bachelor’s degree as a requirement.

Education is the #1 item job seekers lie about on a resume, which is a shame because it is so easy to disprove. There are ways to position this information for keyword optimization while being truthful, such as:

Completed X credits or coursework towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.

How do I address my community involvement with my church, temple, synagogue, etc.?

I recommend against including any information that divulges your religious background. Reason? It can result in employment discrimination, which, while illegal, still happens.

Unless your field has a religious connection or is an extremely important part of your life, I recommend including it in the Volunteer Experience section and describing it in a general context.

Coordinated a initiative that raised $100K+ for a local charitable organization.

How do I address my political involvement?

I recommend the same approach as religion because political affiliations can be problematic and set you up for discrimination.

Elected as Executive Committee Chairman, City, State, Years

If you have made it this far, congratulations! By now, you’ve hopefully created a strong resume that you feel confident about using in your job search. I invite you to refer to the previous posts in the STEM resumes series part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5 anytime.

Scientech Resumes is dedicated to helping science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals find fulfilling work through targeted, branded, and keyword-optimized resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and other career marketing documents. Schedule a FREE 20-minute discovery session to get some real-time feedback on your current resume and job search strategy or connect with me on LinkedIn. Let’s get you where you want to go, with greater results!

Kate Williamson

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