If you're a current student or early-career professional, you're likely going to want to include some relevant coursework on your resume to help boost your odds of landing your dream job. This is especially likely to be true if your work experience is a little thin and you're looking to demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge that potential employers are looking for.
Before you decide whether and how to include relevant coursework on your resume, it's helpful to understand what "relevant coursework" is. This is an option entry-level resume section that includes coursework you've completed that's relevant to the job you're applying to. This section can also be expanded to include projects, academic achievements, extracurricular activities and volunteer positions.
Clearly understanding the position you're applying for can help guide what relevant coursework you want to include in your resume. Matching the industry and functional responsibilities of the job to your coursework is a good bet. For example, if you're applying for a financial analyst position, including relevant coursework in finance, financial modeling, accounting, business or economics would be useful.
You'll always want to ensure that you tailor your course list to the job you're applying for. Therefore, if you're applying for a range of positions in disparate fields (for example, some in finance and some in science), you'll want to create multiple versions of your resumé with different course lists based on the specific courses that'd be relevant to each field.
Generally, using the course names to describe courses on your resumé will do just fine. If you want to go into greater detail, you can use a bulleted list noting the course and school name, course dates and two to four bullets highlighting relevant learnings or achievements from the course.
If you're at a school where courses are numbered without any particularly descriptive course name, you'll likely want to include your own short course description after the course number. For example, if you took Psychology 103, and the course didn't have any additional course name, but it was focused on abnormal psychology, it'd be appropriate to list the course as "Psychology 103: Abnormal Psychology" on your resume.
Here's an example of a course name-only listing of relevant coursework in a single column format (which would be similar to the education section in your resumé):
Here's an example of a course-name only listing of relevant coursework in a multi-column format, with the courses grouped into sections by topic area (which you can use to include more coursework and demonstrate expertise in multiple areas). You can adjust the number of columns based on the number of topic areas in which you want to include relevant coursework:
Finally, here's an example of a detailed coursework listing using bullet points to elaborate on the key learnings in each course. You can increase the number of text blocks as needed to add additional coursework:
If you think relevant coursework is going to be the primary feature of your experience, putting it at the top of your resume so it's in the main part of the document (where a professional experience section would normally go) is the best call. In this case, you should use the detailed coursework listing format above.
Conversely, if your relevant coursework is simply a supplement to the rest of your resume (this is likely to be the case if you already have internship or work experience), it'd be best to place it below the education section of your resume. In this case, you'll probably want tot use the single or multi-column format above, so as to maximize space for your internship and work experiences.
You can consider including relevant coursework on your resume if you're a student or recent (less than a year out) graduate. In these cases, including relevant coursework in your resume is a good way to demonstrate that you have relevant expertise, even if you don't have professional experience yet.
However, if you've been in the workforce for over a year, a relevant coursework section may no longer be useful as a section in your resumé. Once you're over a year out of college, focusing on your professional experiences and achievements is a better way to demonstrate your professional chops.
Another situation in which relevant coursework wouldn't be applicable is if you're applying for a job that won't find relevant coursework useful in the hiring process. For example, if you're applying for waiter or cashier jobs, such employers won't care about your relevant coursework — instead, they'll want to know if you've had past experience in such positions and understand the industry.
Armed with this information, you'll now be able to include relevant coursework on your resume when appropriate. Used correctly, this information can help your resumé stand out to potential employers so you can land a great internship, first full-time job or early-career role.
Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.