Resume Sections: How to Organize Your Resume

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about the sections you should always include on your resume, and the supplemental ones that can help shape your unique professional narrative.

[Featured image] An abstract image showing a man's hands holding a resume while a person in a suit sits in front of him.

A resume outlines your professional story, including where you've worked, the responsibilities you've had, and the education you've earned. Resume sections break up this information into organized chunks that support and strengthen your narrative.

In this article, we’ll go over resume sections you should always include and the ones you may want to consider adding, depending on the story you hope to share with recruiters and hiring managers

4 important resume sections 

You should make an effort to include the resume sections below to illustrate who you are, the professional experience you’ve acquired, and the skills you’ve developed to be successful in those roles.  

1. Header 

Your header appears at the top of the page and should include your:

  • Name

  • City and state

  • Phone number

  • Email address

  • Website or link to portfolio (if you have one)

While it used to be common to include your full address, that’s not necessary now that most applications are online. You may be asked to share that information eventually, but it’s not expected on your resume. 

Many companies rely on an applicant tracking system (ATS) to handle the volume of applications they receive. In that case, it’s a good idea to keep the formatting of your header relatively straightforward so an ATS can quickly scan and parse your information. Use a larger font for your name, but keep the other pieces of information to a standard 11- or 12-point font size. 

Here's an example of a resume header:

A resume header stating Abby Wilson; Software Engineer; Cleveland, Ohio; 1-555-555-5555;

2. Experience

The way you detail your experience will depend on the type of resume you choose—chronological, functional, or combination. Let’s review the difference.  

  • Chronological resume: Lists the roles you’ve held, beginning with your most recent and working backward, as well as your primary responsibilities. Include your job title, company, and the dates you held each position.

  • Functional resume: Also called a skills-based resume, which groups your dominant skills and experience together. While you should still list your titles and companies, you won’t include dates. 

  • Combination resume: A mix of both chronological and functional that calls out the most relevant skills you’ve developed while also detailing your work experience. 

When discussing your experience, try to use action words—like conceptualized or transformed—as much as possible. These can help get your resume past the ATS, especially when they align with the job description. We've compiled 120 resume action words you may want to integrate as you set about drafting or revising your resume.

Learn more: How Far Back Should Your Resume Go?

3. Skills 

In a dedicated section, list your major technical skills or the software and apps you know how to use. A skills section can also be a prime opportunity to highlight any key workplace skills, such as leadership or communication, that you haven’t been able to feature in the bullet points detailing your experience. 

Learn more: How to Feature and Format Key Skills on Your Resume

4. Education 

In your education section, list the name of the degree you earned (Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science, for example), the name of the college you attended, and the year you graduated. 

When you’re a recent graduate, you may want to include extra details, like what you majored in and your GPA. You should also list your education before your experience. Once you’ve been working for at least three years, you'll flip these sections and list your experience first.

Optional resume sections 

There may be times when you want to include optional resume elements, like a summary or a hobbies section, to clarify who you are. You don’t always need to add the categories below to your resume, but these extra sections can be useful when you're looking to pivot careers, move to a new city, or build out your story.

Resume summary 

There’s no strict rule about when to use a resume summary or not, but it can help provide a high-level overview of your career so a recruiter quickly understands who you are. A summary appears between your header and first section (be that experience or education). Use one or two sentences to explain who you are professionally, the experience you’ve developed, and the impact you’ve had.

Resume summary example: Creative social media manager with four years of experience overseeing all major channels for a fintech start-up. Trained in Hootsuite, Buffer, and Google Trends. 

Resume objective

As a one- or two-sentence overview of your larger professional goals, a resume objective can be beneficial when you’ve recently graduated or are interested in changing careers. An objective appears between your header and your first section and states what you want from your next position and why you’d be a strong fit for a new company.

It's recommended to not use both a resume summary and a resume objective, so consider which one would be more beneficial to frame your overall resume.

Resume objective example: Established cybersecurity analyst with experience in multiple frameworks and intrusion detection looking to become a security architect for a global company, where I can implement key design features to safeguard critical data. 


It’s becoming more common—and popular—to learn new skills or advance the ones you already have through professional certificate programs, which are specialized education designed to focus on specific job-skills development. 

You can list your certificates in a “Certifications and Licenses” section, which typically appears after your education section. If you choose to include it, list out the following information: 

  • Title of certificate 

  • Awarding institution

  • Date earned

  • Date certificate expires (if applicable) 

  • Relevant skills 


You can help recruiters and hiring managers understand more about who you are in the broader scheme of work by including a hobbies section. If you do, it should be the last section on your resume after you’ve covered everything else. You should also try to keep your hobbies section brief, given that you have limited space to convey your professional story. 

Resume sections to avoid: references

Though it used to be more common to list references on your resume, you should avoid doing so in this day and age. A section of references takes up valuable real estate when you ideally want to spend that space explaining your skill set and experience. Plus, you don't want to share your references' contact information until it's necessary.

Instead, create a separate document that mirrors your resume’s font and formatting to list your references, and submit that item when a recruiter or hiring manager requests it. 

Learn more: Should You List References on a Resume?

How to organize different sections on a resume + examples

The way you organize your resume will depend on the type of resume you choose (chronological, functional, or combination), the amount of experience you have, and your larger goals. Let's go over these steps one-by-one.

  • Review the types of resumes available and decide which would be best for your specific needs. Remember that ATS systems more accurately parse chronological resumes when determining the amount of experience you’ve acquired. 

  • The length of your resume will depend on your experience. Keep your resume to one page when you have less than 10 years of experience, and expand it to two pages when you have more.

  • Consider whether you should add in a resume objective or a resume summary to frame your resume, and whether additional sections make sense to help build out your larger story.

Remember that a resume should reflect your unique story. Using both the required and optional sections, build a document that explains what you’ve done and your larger career aims. Let’s look at how three different applicants might organize their resume sections: 

Career changer resume sections

A career changer has a specific career outcome in mind and may have taken additional steps, such as completing a professional certificate, to help achieve it. They may also want to use a resume objective to explain the reason behind their career change, helping a recruiter make sense of their story. 

  • Header

  • Resume objective

  • Experience

  • Education

  • Certificates

  • Skills

Recent graduate resume sections

A new graduate will want to highlight their recent education before turning to the experience they’ve acquired, whether through a part-time job, internship, or some other type of work. They may also want to include an objective to explain what they’re seeking in their first major professional role. 

  • Header

  • Resume objective

  • Education 

  • Experience

  • Skills

  • Hobbies

Standard applicant resume sections

A standard applicant isn’t looking to change careers or explain their career goals, and they’ve likely worked for at least a few years. They don’t need to highlight their education near the top of their resume. Instead, they’re committed to advancing in their chosen career path. 

  • Header

  • Resume summary

  • Experience

  • Education

  • Skills 

  • Hobbies

Explore further 

Refine your resume-writing skills with the University of Maryland’s course Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters on Coursera. Enroll for free to learn about the real purpose of a resume and how to cut through the candidates and grab a recruiter’s attention. 

You can also add to your resume and develop specific job skills with a Professional Certificate from leaders such as Google, Meta, IBM, Salesforce, and more on Coursera. Learn about in-demand areas like project management, UX design, data science, marketing analytics, and sales

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