How to Write a Graduate School Resume: Tips + Examples

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

If you're hoping to get your master's degree, you'll need to create a grad school resume. Your student resume details your educational background, academic achievements, and more. Take advantage of these tips to help you write an effective resume.

[Featured image] A woman in a white shirt and headphones sits at a laptop working on her grad school resume.

You’ve completed your Bachelor’s Degree, and now you want to take the next step and earn a master’s degree. Before you start the application process, you’ll need to prepare a graduate school resume. Knowing how to craft a grad school resume can help you highlight your best skills and experiences as you try to gain admittance into your choices of schools.

Graduate school resume vs. standard resume

A standard resume is a document that provides an overview of your work experience, educational history, special skills, and accomplishments. By giving an employer a glimpse into what you can offer a company or business, a standard resume can help you land a job interview. 

A graduate school resume is a little different than the one you'd typically give to an employer. Instead of targeting a personnel director or human resources manager, this resume goes to a school admissions officer. While a standard resume focuses on work history, a grad school resume emphasizes your academic history and educational achievements.  

Graduate resume sections

Graduate school resumes are similar to standard resumes but typically place greater emphasis on your academic abilities than a resume you might send an employer. As a result, your resume for grad school should feature the following six sections: 1. Header

2. Educational background

3. Work experience

4. Special skills

5. Research projects and publications

6. Awards and honors

With these sections, you should be able to provide most of the information an admissions officer needs to decide whether or not to accept you into a master's program. 

Read more: Resume Sections: How to Organize Your Resume


Tips for creating a graduate school resume

When it's time to create your graduate school resume, a few tips can help. To build an effective resume, think about length, format, and content. Below, you'll find some key tips on how to make the strongest possible resume:

1. Include a header.

As the name implies, a header is placed at the top of a resume and it's the first thing a reader sees. A header includes your name, address, phone number, and email address, and it can be centered or left-justified. For extra impact, highlight your name in bolded, slightly-larger print. 

2. Keep your resume concise and focused.

As a grad school applicant, you have more flexibility than a job hunter when it comes to the length of your resume, and this allows you to provide more information. But it's still important to keep your resume concise, so try not to exceed two pages in length unless you have a significant number of academic publications that cannot be included in that space. 

3. Use a clear, easy-to-read resume format.

Your grad school resume should follow a specific format. With the exception of your name and contact information, each section of your grad school resume should have a heading. For clear definition, add two or three lines of white space between each section. 

When including education or work experience, always list entries in reverse chronological order. This means the most recent entry should appear first. For easier reading, remember to arrange lists of information in bullet points where appropriate. 

4. Emphasize your educational achievements.

The education section of your grad school resume will be a focal point for admissions officers, so make sure to be thorough. If you include the relevant info, an admissions officer can look at your grad school resume and know that you meet all of the necessary requirements for a master's program. Include:

  • The name of the college or university you attended for your undergraduate degree

  • The location of the college or university (city and state)

  • The date of your graduation (month and year)

  • Your degree/s (include majors and minors)

  • Honors distinctions like magna cum laude or summa cum laude

  • Your Grade Point Average

  • The number of times you appeared on the Dean's list

In this section, you can also include any studies you've done abroad if relevant to a master's program. In addition, you might add a short list of key undergraduate classes you've taken.  Read more: How to List Education on a Resume

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5. Highlight relevant work experience.

Unlike a career resume, which lists every job you've had over a period of time, this section on a grad school resume should focus on work that's relevant to your area of study, including both relevant professional work experience along with other experiences like college internships and volunteer work. These types of work experiences show an admissions officer:

  • That you've been exposed to different perspectives

  • That you can take direction

  • That you can excel as a team member

If you've had a paying job that complements a particular master's program, you can also list it. 

Each entry under this heading should include the period of time you worked, your position, and the name of the workplace. Just below, add a brief description of your duties. Here’s an example:

09/2016 to 1/2020 - Junior Accountant, New Day Consulting, Chicago, IL

- Prepared bi-monthly payroll - Reconciled financial ledgers and bank statements

- Assisted with tax preparation and submission

- Communicated with clients about billing and other financial issues


6. Note any special skills.

In this section, you can list any technical or interpersonal skills you have that might be relevant to a master's program. Examples include:

  • Computer skills

  • Proficiency in a foreign language

  • Translation skills

  • Aptitude for writing and editing

  • Skills in leadership and teamwork

Read more: How to Feature Key Skills on Your Resume

7. Include research projects and academic publications.

Admissions officers want to know if you've participated in research projects that relate to a master's program. You can list professional and/or academic publications you may have authored or co-authored. These can include:

  • White papers

  • Academic papers

  • Reports

  • Magazine articles

  • Books or chapters of books

For each publication, list:

  • The title

  • Where it was published

  • The publishing date

  • The names of any co-authors 

8. Highlight your awards and honors.

In addition to distinctions included in your header, you may have received other awards and honors. Here, include the names of awards and honors and when you received them. Examples you might list include:

  • Scholarships

  • Fellowships

  • Awards you've earned on the job

  • Volunteer-related awards

  • Relevant contest prizes (art, writing, design, etc.)

9. Consider mentioning extracurricular activities (optional).

Although this section is optional, you may want to list a few of your extracurricular activities if they are relevant to a graduate program. These could include activities like:

  • Peer tutoring 

  • Membership in academic clubs and organizations

  • Work on a college newspaper or magazine

  • Work in student government

  • Participation in political campaigns

  • Participation in college sports

  • Unique hobbies like gardening, marathon running, painting, or playing an instrument

Extracurricular activities show your interests outside of the classroom. They also demonstrate certain strengths you may possess, such as commitment, creativity, leadership, and teamwork. 

Resume editing tips

Creating a good graduate school resume involves careful editing. Resumes make a good impression when they are well-written, organized, and free of spelling and grammatical errors. To impress the folks reading your resume, take advantage of these tips:

  • Follow the graduate school's program requirements. 

  • Be concise in your writing.

  • Use the spelling and grammar tools available in your word processing program.

  • Proofread your resume several times as you're writing.

  • Double-check for errors by reading your resume out loud.

  • If you're sending your resume electronically, submit it in PDF format to avoid formatting glitches.

  • If you're printing your resume, use white or ivory cotton paper for a clean, professional appearance.

Read more: 10 Ways to Improve Your Resume 

What's next

Your graduate school resume allows you to highlight why you would be a good fit for a particular master's program. Ready to see what getting a master's degree might look like? Check out online master's degree programs on Coursera from top university partners like the University of Pennsylvania, Imperial College London, and the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.