Whether you're embarking on a career just out of college or hoping to change careers, it's daunting to explain your experiences on a resume. College courses can play a role in displaying your skills, interests, and value to a potential employer. By matching your learning to a potential employer's needs, highlighting upper level and foundational courses, focusing on the present and including professors as references, you can draw strong connections between your classroom learning and your value in the workplace.

Match Employer Needs to Your Transcript

When conducting a job search, it's tempting to simplify your work by creating one version of your resume. But if your skills, abilities and experiences don't precisely match the employer's needs, your resume won't stay in consideration very long. Challenge yourself to look closely at each job bulletin's requirements, and compare those needs to your transcript. List courses that fit their needs for the position. Show your interest in the work by taking the steps to ensure your resume is a match for their position.

Look Up and Look Out

Relevant coursework should be listed in the Education section of your resume. As you consider classes to list, be specific and creative. In being specific, list upper level courses that show your interests and abilities. For example, it would be more helpful to list "Race, Politics and Media" than it would be to list "Introduction to Political Science." Further, list courses by name rather than their catalog numbers, so there is common language between you and your potential employer. Be creative and don't limit these efforts to classes in your major. Elective courses that show problem solving, communication and teamwork skills are also valuable to employers and should be noted.

Don't Use a Crystal Ball

Resumes are designed to display current and previous experiences. College courses are great for demonstrating experience because there are records of what you've accomplished -- papers, presentations and grades. For this reason, confine listed courses to ones already taken. If you've enrolled in, but have not yet taken, courses relevant to the job, don't list them on your resume. Instead, share that information in a cover letter, which has a more fluid and conversational format. Use your resume to record what you've done, and cover letters to discuss what your experiences mean to you and your potential employer.

Include Professors as References

As we've mentioned, it's not just trade-specific skills that are valuable to employers. Your ability to communicate well and solve problems is also important for success in the workplace. When you consider who to list as references of your work, professors can be strong proponents of your potential both academically and personally. If you've built strong relationships with professors over your college career, ask if they'll serve as references for you. Instructors who know you and your work can give employers the extra confidence it may take to get you hired.


After spending several years in school, you have the tools you need for success in the working world. Knowing how to articulate those skills and lessons is essential to a positive hiring experience. By thoughtfully including your college courses on your resume, you'll be one step closer to finding meaningful and interesting work.

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About the Author

Amma Marfo is a Boston-area higher education professional and writer. She also writes for The Niche Movement, Talking Points Memo, and her personal site, The Dedicated Amateur.