Knowing how much of your education you should include on your CV depends mainly on what stage your career is at. Someone who has recently left education may have very little paid work experience and will of course need to showcase their academic achievements to date – whilst someone who has been working for years may be spoilt for choice when it comes to CV content.
If you’re unsure of how much detail you need to put into the education section of your CV, check out our guide below.
You’ve recently left school
Employers advertising for an entry-level position won’t expect to see a lengthy work history.
As a recent school leaver you’ll likely have little to no work experience and you’ll need to focus upon your academic achievements. This would typically be your GCSE’s and A-levels.
It’s important to not worry about your lack of work experience as everyone will have been in the same position at some point. The roles you apply for should be entry level – apprenticeships, or part time. As such, the employer would be well aware of the types of candidates that will be applying and their lack of work experience – so won’t expect to see a long list of past roles!
When starting with a blank page you may feel a little overwhelmed by the task ahead, and trying to complete a two page CV may be difficult. Remember, it’s all about what you have achieved rather than what you haven’t, so focus and expand upon your academic achievements detailing any interesting school projects and extra-curricular activities.
You may have also taken part in a work experience placement, so this should go under the ‘work experience’ section of your CV with a list of the tasks you performed, the responsibilities you were given, and the skills you learned. You may also be able to include a reference from that work experience placement, but make sure you check with them first to ensure they are happy to provide one.
You’ve recently left college or university
After leaving with a qualification or degree, your CV should still focus upon your academic achievements to date. Your work experience is likely to be quite minimal and although you should attempt to expand upon that as much as possible, your main focus should be around your education.
Depending on your grades at GCSE level, you may want to consider not going into too much detail. This really depends on the role you are applying for, and if Maths and English are really important to the role, you may want to only supply those grades. Getting a ‘D’ in science may be of no interest to the employer, and there is no need to have any negative aspects on your CV now that you have so much more to showcase from college and/or university.
You have a huge amount of work experience
For some people work experience is more valuable than academic achievements – and this could be for many reasons. If your grades were not very good in school and since you’ve left you’ve been working for a number of years, then when it comes to your CV you probably want to focus heavily on your work experience and either not include any GCSEs, summarise your achievements (e.g. ‘9 GCSES) or only include your best grades.
There are many jobs out there that focus mainly on work experience and an employer may not be interested in the grades you got at school. If you did get good grades and you are happy to present them on your CV, then go ahead – but don’t go into too much detail. A simple and short list of the subjects and grades is all that’s needed.
Any college or university degrees should of course be listed in the relevant section of your CV, but again, if work experience is more valuable for your career then focus on building a very strong ‘employment history’ section which focuses upon the relevant tasks and responsibilities that are directly transferable to the new role you’re applying for.
Focus upon your achievements
You should always highlight your skills and achievements, and leave off anything that would devalue your CV. A lot of school leavers worry too much about what they don’t have (e.g. work experience), rather than writing a great CV about what they’ve achieved so far at school, college or university.
Soft skills like team working, communication, and organisation are all extremely important to an employer, and even if you’ve had little to no work experience so far, it doesn’t mean to say you haven’t been fine tuning these soft skills during your education. On the contrary, you’ve learned and achieved a lot more than you realise, and the important part is appreciating this and creating a fantastic CV that showcases your new skills, talents and qualifications. Look back at all the projects, assignments and essays you’ve written, as well as any other extra-curricular activities. There will be lots of different skills you will have learnt from this work, so the key is to include these on your CV in a way that shows an employer that you are ready for work.
Our Achiever CV template is a great way to highlight past achievements – whilst our Curvaceous CV template is perfect for those without much work experience. Check out the full free CV template collection here.
Martin has been a senior manager of a large customer service team within the education services industry, dealing with all aspects of staff recruitment and management. He now authors and manages content for CV Template Master and a number of other leading websites. In his spare time, Martin is an accomplished pianist and teaches all styles with a particular focus on boogie woogie and blues.