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Education vs. Experience: Where to Place Them on Your Resume

A well written resume is often the most crucial part of any application not only because it provides a first impression of you for the employers or admissions officials, but because it’s a chance to stand out in a pile of countless other applications. Education, job titles, and companies you worked at are the key points recruiters will assess in less than a minute they spend looking at your resume. With education levels rising and the job market getting increasingly more competitive, good content is simply not enough to catch their eyes.

Mistakenly, many candidates compose chronological resumes in a ‘quantity over quality’ manner, with no regard to what is of actual relevance to the job or university they’re applying to. In reality, the structure of a resume is as important and can be a deciding factor in your recruitment and admission. This brings us to one of the most debated topics in the current job market – the importance of education versus experience, and which should be placed first in your resume.

Importance of Education

Many people grow up with the notion that good education is essential to getting a good job or pursuing and academic career. This might’ve been true in the past, but what we have today is a skills-based economy, in which particular abilities are more telling about individuals than the education they completed. Education certainly provides you with credible qualifications and teaches the skills to understand complex subjects, analyze and solve a variety of problems. This kind of theoretical knowledge is vital in many professions, but without hands-on, practical experience or a certain set of other competencies, a lot of the work or academic opportunities are simply unattainable. There are thousands of young people with similar diplomas coming out every year, and unless your place of education is very prestigious, reputable and well-known, it is unlikely to stand out in the resume.

Experience and Skills Based Economy

While most employers and admissions officials have education requirements for the position available, it’s best to look at it as the minimum of what is expected. It is important to let recruiters know how you can be beneficial to their institution and how you are better than any other candidate. Each workplace or academic space has its own dynamics and different challenges that you will have to face, and education alone cannot provide the skills to deal with these situations. Along with work experience, applicants should have competence in communication, teamwork, time management, motivation and drive, problem solving, confidence, and many others depending on the position. Even more, these skills should be credible, supported by the experience you have. If the experience isn’t relevant enough, it also doesn’t guarantee that your resume will attract attention.

So where to place Eduction and Workexperience on the Resume?

When it comes to this debate, the real answer is “it depends.” Despite countless sites advocating for either one or the other, the best solution is to assess what you have going for you in both fields. If your education is directly related to the new position and if currently it is your biggest achievement, then place it foremost. Along with the name and the program, include the GPA or the number of credits you’ve earned so far. Support your list of skills with extra-curricular activities, awards, voluntary work and any factual information that would be relevant for the position.

Alternatively, if you have meaningful work experience, which is similar to the new position or showcases your accomplishments, then it should be placed first. In order to draw attention of the employers or admissions officials, start from the most noteworthy positions, including the main responsibilities and key abilities you acquired through them. Instead of adding as much points as you possibly can, keep it focused on the most important aspects that would be comparable to the requirements of the new position.

In any case, no matter which structure you choose, your resume will be a reflection of who you are and what you value about yourself, so take the time to evaluate your accomplishments, research the institution and customize your resume to fit the description. If anything, it will show the recruiters that you actually care about the position.

Joost
My name is Joost and I have been active as a recruiter for the past 5 years. At Resume.io, I share my experience, tips and the "secret" tricks to help you get a job. Do you have questions? Please send me an email via the contact form.