Including relevant coursework on a resume
Make your resume standout further by including details of coursework relevant to the job.
Resume experts are often divided on the subject of relevant coursework. Some believe it has no place whatsoever, some are in favor and others believe it depends on the job position you're pursuing. There's a designated spot on your resume for your education history, but some prospective employers might be interested to know the details of your studies—and others might not. Ask yourself the following questions to help you determine when and how to use your course experience to your best advantage.
What kind of job are you applying for?
If you're applying for a summer job bussing tables at a restaurant, your coursework is obviously irrelevant. On the other hand, if you're applying to intern at a magazine, the hiring manager may want to know about your creative writing courses, short fiction prize and time spent working on the school paper.
What's your work experience like?
We live in a strange world where many employers request entry-level candidates to have a few years of work experience under their belts. It's a frustrating, convoluted predicament for graduates and anyone else who's new or just coming back to the workforce. When you don't have a lot of work experience, you need something to fall back on. Coursework is one of the more effective substitutes. Including it on your resume shows you have knowledge and skills even if you don't have any real-world job experience. Just remember not to go overboard. You don't need to list every class, lecture, lab and practicum you've ever taken.
Where does it go?
Opinions vary regarding where to put your coursework. Again, it generally depends on the job. For example, if you're applying to an academic position, put your coursework in a place of pride toward the top of your resume. If it's a technical position, place your coursework credits below your special skills. Otherwise, you could list it in the education section like this:
Bachelor of Arts, English, University of LMNO
Relevant Coursework: Literature, Creative Writing and Literary Explication
Use your best judgment, and always consider the position before including your relevant coursework. The keyword is "relevant," so remember to avoid mentioning unrelated courses or listing all of your academic accomplishments.
How to Include Your Coursework in Your Resume
As a current student or recent graduate, you may not have very much work experience to include on your resume.
One way to strengthen your resume is to emphasize related coursework and other academic experiences. Read below for advice on how to write a resume that focuses on coursework; you can also view a sample student resume.
Tips for Including Your Coursework in Your Student Resume
- Include related courses. Consider creating a section in your resume called “Relevant Coursework.” In it, include the courses directly related to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for work as a paralegal, list any classes you took related to law or politics.
- Include related academic projects. Similarly, if you have completed any research projects related to your future career, list these. If you are applying for a job that involves conducting research, list any extensive research projects you worked on.
- Include related extracurricular activities. If you participated in any sports or clubs where you developed skills relevant to the job you’re applying for, include these. You could include a section on your resume called “Extracurricular Activities,” or you might highlight activities in a broader section called “Relevant Experience.”
- Include volunteer experiences. Even if you did not get paid for this work, volunteer experiences can make terrific additions to your resume. For example, if you are applying for a job as a teacher’s assistant, describe your volunteer tutor experience.
- Use keywords in your descriptions. Beneath each experience, list your responsibilities and achievements in that experience that help show you as a strong fit for the position. One way to do this is to include keywords from the job listing in the descriptions. If the job requires field research experience, be sure to mention your “30+ hours of field research” in the description of your senior project.
- Emphasize academic successes. Beyond related coursework, you should also emphasize any academic successes, such as a high GPA or an award from an academic department. Although these successes may not appear to be directly related to the job for which you are applying, they demonstrate your hard work and responsibility.
- Edit, edit, edit. Take the time to thoroughly edit your resume for spelling and grammar errors. Also make sure that your font and style choices are consistent—for example, if you write one section title in bold, all section titles should be bold. You might set up a meeting with a counselor at your college career services office to have someone else read through your resume too.
Example of a Student Resume Focusing on Coursework
The following is a resume for a paralegal. This resume focuses on relevant coursework and leadership experiences.
Home 555-555-5555 Cell 555-555-1234
456 Oakwood Terrace
Anytown, PA 99999
Sagamore College, Easton, NY
Bachelor of Arts in Government
Cumulative GPA: 3.8
Awarded Outstanding Government Major, Spring 20XX
RELEVANT LEGAL COURSEWORK AND RESEARCH
Business Law Course, Business Department, Sagamore College
- Analyze and briefcases with a business focus
- Discuss and evaluate legal principles from an ethical perspective
Research Assistant, Sagamore
- Collaborate with adviser, research team, and Smith School of Medicine
- Conduct research regarding effects of steroids on activity level of rats
- Use computer program to gather and analyze data
- Present new findings in bimonthly discussion with department
Sociology of Law Course, Sociology Department, XYZ College
- Researched case law dealing with social policy and the Supreme Court
- Analyzed cases and produced final paper regarding social policy in court cases
- Explained results and conclusions in a final presentation to practicing lawyers
LEADERSHIP AND SERVICE
Resident Assistant, XYZ College
Fall 20XX–May 20XX
- Served as mentor and leader to incoming students, providing sense of community for those living in dorms
- Worked with staff members and campus safety to ensure safe and secure living environment
Produce Clerk, Food Market, ABC Town, MA
- Train new employees
- Awarded “Employee of the Month” five times
Lifeguard/Pool Supervisor, Local Town Pool, ABC Town, MA
Summer 20XX–Fall 20XX
Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint; LexisNexis; Adobe
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