Does Relevant Coursework on a Resume Matter?

Experts are divided on whether this tactic helps your resume stand out.

Does Relevant Coursework on a Resume Matter?

Relevant coursework on a resume is debatable.

Can relevant coursework on a resume help grab the attention of hiring managers when you lack real-world job experience? It depends.

First, let's define relevant coursework. These are the classes and subjects you took at school that relate to the job(s) to which you are applying. Examples of relevant coursework for particular jobs include:

  • For law firm jobs
    • American Government: Constitutional Foundations
    • the Presidency and the Shape of the Supreme Court
    • Comparative Judicial Systems
  • For graphic design jobs
    • Introduction to Engineering and Design
    • Integrated Digital Media
    • Animation and CGI Motion
  • For public relations jobs
    • Reputation Management in a Digital World
    • Online Marketing Strategies
    • Strategic Brand Management

You want your resume to be the most compelling advertisement for your skills—of that there is no doubt. However, when you're gathering your credentials to apply to jobs, people are often divided on the subject. Experts generally believe three things when it comes to relevant coursework for a resume:

  • some say it has no place whatsoever
  • some are in favor
  • others believe it depends on the job position you're pursuing

There's a designated spot on your resume for your education history; some prospective employers might be interested to know the details of your studies—and others might not. Ask yourself the following questions to help determine when and how to use your course experience to your best advantage.

What Kind of Job Are You Applying To?

If you're applying for a summer job bussing tables at a restaurant, your coursework is obviously irrelevant because the skills you'll need to perform well on the job have little to do with what you studied in school.

On the other hand, if you're applying to intern at a magazine, the hiring manager may want to know that you took creative writing courses, were nominated for a short fiction prize, and spent time working on the school paper. Those experiences and the knowledge you gained from them directly pertain to working at a magazine.

Think about the skills that you'll need in order to perform well on the job, and ask yourself if you've taken any classes or courses that contributed to those particular skills.

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. Relevant coursework on a resume is one of the more effective substitutes. Including it 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. The keyword is relevant.

Putting Relevant Coursework on a Resume

Opinions also vary regarding where to put your relevant coursework on a resume. 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

Get Your Resume to the Head of the Class

Use your best judgment, and always consider the position before including relevant coursework on a resume—remember to avoid mentioning unrelated courses or listing all of your academic accomplishments. We know, it's a lot to remember. But don't worry, Monster has your back. Need some help fine-tuning your resume? Get a free evaluation from Monster. We can show you which areas could use some extra attention so that your resume gets an A+ in the eyes of hiring managers.