when should I move education to the bottom of my resume?

A reader writes:

I graduated from college 2-1/2 years ago and have held 2 positions since then, one of which I worked at throughout college. Those 2 jobs and 2 internships are included on my resume.

I’m looking for new positions and am wondering, at what point do I move my education to the bottom of my resume? I still consider myself a recent grad and I’m very hesitant to move it down. My college is one of the top recruited in the country, with a very large alumni base that loves to hire other alums, and I feel it is a big selling point. I don’t think my experience is especially impressive, but it does relate closely to the work I’m looking for. Is it time to move it to the bottom or is it still a big selling point on my resume?

In the vast majority of fields, employers care more about your work experience than they do about the details of your education. Yes, they might require a degree, even a degree in a specific field — but it’s your work experience that’s going to determine how qualified you are compared to other candidates.

Because of that, I’d nearly always lead with your work experience, not your education, unless one of the following is true:

1. Your work experience is really unimpressive (which would mean no internships, no work in your field, and no other substantive work). In this case, your education might be the strongest thing you have going for you, and it would make sense to lead with it.

2. You’re in one of the relatively few fields where education is considered as significant a qualification as work experience. (Although in those fields, work experience is still usually a differentiator between candidates, and education is more of a prerequisite for your application to even be in the mix.)

3. You’re trying to change fields and you have recent education in your field, but all of your work experience is in a different field and anyone looking at your resume is going to be confused about why you’re applying until they see your education section. In that case, you might find it helpful framing to put the education first so that a reader has some instant context about why you’re applying for this job, context that they won’t get from your work experience.

But for the vast majority of people, work experience is what you want to lead with and emphasize.

Turning back to your case specifically, the fact that you went to a top recruited school with friendly alumni doesn’t really trump the above. Employers are still going to see your school, after all — but it’s not the meat of your qualifications, and so I wouldn’t lead it.

Now, all that said, is it going to destroy your chances if you lead with your education anyway? No, of course not. But if you’re interested in making your resume as strong as you can, talk about work experience first.

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