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When Should You List Your Education at The Top of Your Resume Vs. The Bottom?

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Organizing your resume can be a pain in the neck. With limited real-estate on paper, and with just a couple of seconds to impress the employer, having a stunning and properly organized resume can be crucial to your success.

That’s why one of the most important elements of your resume will be two things:

  1. Education

  2. Work experience

These two elements will form the most part of your resume, and will (or at least should) take up the majority of space available. Don’t fool yourself – the hiring managers probably won’t read all of it. That’s why today we will discover when to put emphasis on education, and when on work experience. But the question remains, should you list education at the top or bottom of your resume?

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What you should always focus on

The biggest part of the 20th century, and the entire 21st so far, is seeing a skill-based economy. That basically means that what you can do will always have advantage over what you know. There’s even a saying which goes ‘Those that can’t do, teach’. So the focus should always be on the skills. However, these skills need to be relevant to whatever position you’re applying for, so if you have them – always add specific powerful keywords on your resume to showcase your skill-sets.

If you don’t have the skills which can be used to complete the job you’re applying for – but have other skills instead – then shove them down below.

When to add education at the top of your resume

You should go with work experience and skills first, pretty much by default. But there are situations when education should be emphasized. Those situations could be:

  • Poor or lacking work experience

  • Career switching

  • Your calling is too specific

There are probably more situations out there that we can’t even think of at the moment. If you’re still unsure where to list your education on your resume, you can always seek advice from professional resume writers.

For those with poor work experience, such as work unrelated to the position they’re applying for, or they had zero internships, education could be a stronger argument. In that case, it should be listed at the top of the resume.

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Career switchers and uniques

For career switchers, it’s similar. Their previous work experience is pretty much unrelated, which leaves them with nothing but formal education. There is, however, something called ‘transferable skills’ – a set of skills obtained in one industry, which can be applied to another, fairly irrelevant one. You can seek the help of a professional resume writer to identify potential transferable skills for your industries.

Or – your calling is too specific. Now, there is only a handful of people in this category, but it should not be neglected. In certain fields, education is perceived equally important as work. If you’re in one of them, then by all means – list your education first.

How many types of resume formats are there?

There are four types of resumes currently in use – the default, chronological resume, the functional resume, the hybrid resume, and the targeted resume. The chronological resume, which is mostly used nowadays, lists both employment and education history reverse-chronologically, starting with the most recent entries.

This type of resume allows the candidate to create a document emphasizing education, and thus can be used here. A functional resume, on the other hand, is the one placing almost the entirety of the focus on skills. It is mostly used by career switchers and people with employment gaps. Even though we’ve listed career switchers as one of the groups that might want to go for education first, a functional resume is not something that can be used in that respect.

A hybrid resume, combining the best of both worlds, is probably the best choice here. It allows the candidate to list both education and previous employment, as well as skills. It will allow candidates to place a stronger emphasis on education, while still listing all the skills and previous job experiences in a compact, coherent way.

The final type of resume is the targeted resume, which obviously can work, as its name is self-explanatory. It is built specifically for a single position, and if you believe listing education first is necessary, then by all means go ahead.

No one-time solutions

When it comes to writing a professionally-looking resume, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each candidate is unique, and so is each job opportunity. Going with your education first might not be the usual approach, but it doesn’t mean it can’t work and that you should stay away from it. That’s why so many job seekers pay for the help of professional resume and cover letter writing services.

Remember – the only thing that matters is that you show your employers that you would be a valuable asset to their organization, and that you have what it takes to solve their business’ problems.

If that means going education first – then go education first. Otherwise, stick to the skills.

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