If you’re a college student, recent graduate, or entry-level professional, chances are you don’t have a lot of professional experience to list on your resume.
This, in turn, might make you feel insecure about your application, especially considering that the work experience section is among the most important section of a resume.
Well, listing your relevant coursework might just be the answer!
By listing the courses that are relevant to the job position or internship you’re applying for, you can show recruiters that while you don’t have much work experience, you have the right skills and knowledge for the job.
But what is the right way to list relevant coursework on your resume and is there a time when you shouldn’t list it all? And what exactly is relevant, to begin with?
In this article, we’re going to answer all those questions and more. Read on to learn:
- When Is Relevant Coursework Necessary on a Resume?
- How to List Relevant Coursework on Your Resume in 3 Steps
- 7 Tips on Listing Relevant Coursework on Your Resume
- Resume Example With Relevant Coursework
And more! Let’s dive right in.
What Makes Coursework Relevant?
Professional experience is one of the most important sections of a successful resume, but you first need to land a job to start building it.
Which begs the question, how can a recent graduate or entry-level professional prove they’ve got what it takes for an entry-level position with no, or minimal, professional experience?
Well, this is where coursework comes in.
Together with academic projects and achievements, as well as extracurricular activities, listing relevant coursework can help students and entry-level professionals show they’ve got the necessary skills for the job despite not having the relevant professional experience.
The coursework you list on your resume should actually be related to the position you’re applying for.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer, listing your achievements in your World History class won’t really impress recruiters. If, on the other hand, you mention that you were top of your class in Design and Layout, you’ll be effectively showing recruiters that you have great potential as an up-and-coming graphic designer.
When Is Relevant Coursework Necessary on a Resume?
To sum things up, here are the top cases when relevant coursework is necessary on a resume:
- When you’re still a student
- When you’re applying with an entry-level resume
- When you’re applying for an internship
- When the coursework is directly related to the job position
If, on the other hand, you have 2+ years of work experience in the field, as well as the needed skill-set, coursework on your resume will only take up space and can be skipped entirely.
Checking the job description is another way of determining whether you should add relevant coursework to your resume. If, for example, the job description requires that you list your majors, GPA, diploma, or portfolio, chances are they’ll also be interested in your coursework, especially if it’s relevant to the position.
How to List Relevant Coursework on Your Resume in 3 Steps
So you’ve established that you should include relevant coursework on your resume. Now, you may be wondering where exactly to include it.
As a rule of thumb, coursework is listed under an applicant’s education history. Depending on whether you have any professional experience to list, the education section may come before or after the work experience section.
Here are the four best ways to add relevant coursework to your resume:
#1. Add a New Line in Your Education Section
Instead of creating a fresh section called “Relevant Coursework,” you’re better off just adding the courses to your education section.
As a student resume can be one-page max, this helps you to save up the space needed for other essential resume sections.
Here’s a practical example of what this looks like on the resume of a recent graduate applying for a high-school teaching position:
BA in World Literature
2012 - 2016
Relevant coursework: British Literature, American Literature, Medieval Literature, William Shakespeare, Language and Cognitive Development
#2. List Your Relevant Coursework in Bullet Points
To make your relevant coursework more visible and reader-friendly, list them in bullet points underneath your diploma title.
Here’s how the above Literature graduate’s resume would look like following this formatting:
BA in World Literature
2012 - 2016
- British Literature
- American Literature
- Medieval Literature
- William Shakespeare
- Language and Cognitive Development
#3. Explain How The Coursework is Relevant to the Position
Finally, if you want to take your relevant coursework resume section to the next level, add detailed explanations to your courses to support how they’re relevant to the position you’re applying for or how they helped develop your skill-set.
A recent study found that companies are suspending the use of degree completion as a proxy and instead now favor hiring on the basis of demonstrated skills and competencies. This means that your relevant coursework should aim to show exactly how it has helped you acquire the skills required for the position.
Here’s an example of how that would play out for a journalism student applying for an entry-level reporting job at a newspaper:
B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication
Northwestern University, IL
2015 - 2018
- Writing and Reporting: Learned the ins and outs of news reporting through several practical assignments and exams.
- Media Ethics: Got introduced to the most essential ethical theories and decision-making strategies in journalism and wrote a paper on Ethical Journalism and Human Rights that got published in the Political Communication Journal.
- Gathering and Developing the News: Gained first-hand experience in interviewing, researching, newsgathering, and communicating with sources.
To make sure your coursework is as relevant as possible, check out the required skills in the job description. If you have taken classes that have helped you master those skills, then make sure to mention how by adding all the necessary details, as shown above.
7 Tips on Listing Relevant Coursework on Your Resume
Here are seven tips you should always keep in mind when listing coursework on your resume:
- Take advantage of keywords. When evaluating your resume, recruiters scan it to look for the keywords that were mentioned in the job description (e.g. skills, experiences, etc.). You can re-read the job ad and, where relevant, include these keywords in your coursework section.
- Tailor your resume to the job offer. In order for your coursework to add value to your resume, it really needs to be relevant. So, if you’re applying for a job that doesn’t take academic background into consideration or that’s completely unrelated to your major, you’re better off omitting coursework altogether and focusing on other important sections, such as your hard and soft skills.
- List online courses. If you’ve completed some online courses that are relevant to the position you’re applying for, feel free to also include them under relevant coursework.
- Add value through other academic achievements. Relevant coursework can say a lot about your potential, but recruiters will be even more easily convinced if you support it with other academic achievements, including your GPA, extracurricular activities, etc.
- Show how you’ve grown. When you’re explaining your relevant coursework in detail, you can include how you’ve grown by listing all the skills you acquired in the process. Those can be both soft skills, like communication and interpersonal skills, and hard skills like programming or doing extensive research.
- Change the relevant coursework as you progress. Many college students start working in their freshman year. If that’s the case with you, make sure to update your resume from year to year to reflect your academic journey and most recently acquired skills.
- Check for errors. A well-written, error-free resume shows that you’re attentive to detail and that you care to make a good impression.
Resume Example With Relevant Coursework
And that’s a wrap! You now have all the necessary information to add relevant coursework to your resume effectively.
Before you start working on your resume, though, here’s a brief summary of the key points covered in this article:
- Listing relevant coursework on your resume is not mandatory but can be very helpful if you’re a student or an entry-level professional.
- If you have at least a year of professional experience, drop your relevant coursework and focus on tailoring your work experience and skills sections to the position.
- Relevant coursework typically goes under the education section. You can either give a general or a detailed summary of your coursework.
- You can make a separate relevant coursework section only if the job you’re applying for requires a strong academic record.
- Your coursework needs to be relevant to the position. This means you should leave them out of your resume if they have nothing to do with the role.