When is it useful to list courses on your CV? That depends on the position you’re applying for, how much space you have on your CV and the stage of your career and in which section of the CV should you list them? Here’s what you need to know.
If you’ve just left education and you don’t have much work experience, your courses could boost your application as they demonstrate to employers that you do at least have the skills and knowledge if not the practical experience.
Similarly, if you’re changing careers, listing professional qualifications or training courses on your CV demonstrates your willingness to learn and to keep up with industry developments.
Only include relevant courses
When you’re applying for a project manager role, for example, few employers will care about your pottery course or that you’re a qualified scuba diver. The key is to only include courses that are relevant to the job description and that complement your skills and work experience.
You have a lot of work experience
If you have a lot of work experience, you’ll need to consider whether you have enough space on your CV to list your courses, bearing in mind that a CV should ideally be no more than two A4 pages in length.
While courses can help convince employers of your suitability for the job, it’s your practical experience that counts, so if you’ve had the opportunity to apply what you’ve learnt since taking the course, it’s fine to leave the course off your CV.
Courses are only interesting to employers if they are relevant and recent – but there is a caveat. For instance, if you’re applying for a secretarial position, it’s not necessary to list the MS Word course that you completed some fifteen years ago as it will be evident from your work experience that you can type. Not to mention that everyone can use MS Word nowadays and stating this is the same as saying you can read.
On the other hand, if you completed a secretarial diploma, it’s fine to mention it on your CV even if it was a long time ago as it will add value to your application.
Courses that don’t belong on your CV
The courses you list on your CV should present you in a good light. Therefore, avoid listing courses that appear out of the ordinary such as courses for reading tea leaves or communicating with animals telepathically.
The same applies to online courses. While many online courses allow you to develop your skills and build on your knowledge, some recruiters and employers, rightly or wrongly, value professional qualifications (exams taken at university or at an accredited institution) more than online courses.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to only include online courses from trustworthy training providers, e.g., Hubspot, Udemy, Coursera, etc.
How to list courses on your CV
Where you list courses on your CV will depend on the stage of your career and how much focus you want to place on them:
To boost your application, you could mention any projects you completed while taking your course(s); projects or other assignments show that you’re able to put what you’ve learnt into practice.
Be sure to only include courses that are recognised or highly respected in your industry or result in a qualification, e.g. Google Analytics Academy, in this section of your CV.
- ‘Work experience’ / ‘Employment history’
Alternatively, if you have completed training at work, you could mention the courses you’ve taken in the ‘Work Experience’ section of your CV.
Many companies offer training in first aid or fire safety. If you’ve completed training in either of these areas, it’s a good idea to mention it in your CV, regardless of the job you’re applying for, as first aid and fire safety skills are always useful to employers.
You would list these courses in the same way as you would list other courses in your CV, e.g.
Red Cross Nov 2020
First Aid Training
- ‘Professional Development’/‘Training’
For professionals with extensive work experience, the most common way to list courses in your CV is in the ‘Professional Development’ or ‘Training’ section which goes after the ‘Work Experience’ and ‘Education’ sections of your CV.
To avoid giving employers the impression that you’re more skilled than you actually are, avoid mentioning introductory classes, seminars or workshops and only list the courses that you have completed.
The ‘Certifications’ section of your CV is where you list official qualifications issued by accredited or recognised institutions. These can be industry-specific or skills-related qualifications.
If the course you have taken is necessary for the job you’re applying for and you have received a professional qualification for it, then it’s best to list the course in this section of the CV.
For example, if you’re a chartered accountant and you have been awarded the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification, listing the qualification in the ‘Certifications’ section ensures that it will grab recruiters’ attention.
It’s important to check the validity of your qualifications and to make sure that none have expired. If a certificate has expired and you’re in the process of renewing it, indicate this on your CV so that employers are aware.
As a rule of thumb, technical qualifications are likely to come with a validity date as software tends to be frequently updated, therefore, it’s worth checking before you include them in your CV.
There’s no hard and fast rule as to where to list courses in your CV – you could even mention them in all of the sections above depending on the type of qualification and the requirements of the position. Above all, your course should be relevant and recent, in most cases.
Of course, you may decide you don’t have enough space on your CV to list courses you’ve taken. This is perfectly understandable if you have an extensive career history. As long as your CV paints the best possible picture of you as a candidate, how you decide to present your skills, knowledge and experience is ultimately up to you.