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Abbreviations on a Resume — A Comprehensive Guide

Abbreviations on a Resume — A Comprehensive Guide

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Because a resume is a professional document, the way you structure your words and language is very important.

The rules for using abbreviations can be tricky because it depends on what section of the resume you are working on, and how much experience you have.

Let’s look at some of the most common rules. 

As a general rule, abbreviations on a resume should be used when writing educational titles, certifications, or commonly abbreviated words. Apart from these instances, abbreviations should never be used.  Do not abbreviate words by using conjunctions or writing half words to save space. 


Why should you use certain abbreviations on your Resume?

Using certain abbreviations on a resume helps break up long, wordy sections.

Concise resumes are appreciated by employers because they sometimes read hundreds at a time.

You want your resume to make you look as impressive and fitting for the job as possible in the least amount of time, and abbreviations will help you do this! 

There also happens to be many types of words that are typically abbreviated which are needed on a resume.

It looks strange to un-abbreviate those common words, so they should not be written as such. 


What types of words are commonly abbreviated on a resume?

Words that are better known by their abbreviations should be left that way on a resume. A few examples include writing SATs instead of “standardized tests”, or PhD instead of “doctor of philosophy”.

Educational titles and achievements are among the most common.

The following list includes some words which are abbreviated in a resume:

  • BS (Bachelor of Science)
  • BM (Bachelor of Music)
  • PhD (Doctor of philosophy)
  • CFA (Certified financial advisor) 
  • Dr. (Doctor, in the case of a title attached to a name)
  • NY, MA, CA (State names)


Which abbreviations should not be used on a resume?

While one of the main goals of a resume is brevity, this should not come at the cost of unprofessionalism.

There are a few rules to follow when remembering what not to write, so here are some pointers:

Resumes should not include conjunctions. Words such as “didn’t, won’t, it’s, we’re” should be written out in their full two-word forms “did not, will not, it is, we are”. 

Never write “etc.” on a resume. Do not even write out the phrase et cetera! This looks very unprofessional and open-ended.

Your resume should outline your exact deeds and experiences, and etc. is not a good way to do so. 

Lesser-known abbreviations should not be abbreviated on a resume without explanation.

For example, most employers in the United States may not know that a JLPT 3 certification means that a person has passed the third level of the Japanese language proficiency tests. 

In cases of rare certifications, it is better to write out the words so that the employer understands your skills instantly.

This changes the formatting from

  • JLPT level 3

To a better, easier understood

  • Japanese Language Proficiency – Upper Intermediate (JLPT Level 3)


How to abbreviate dates on a resume

Dates listed on a resume should be written differently depending on what section they are written in.

There are many more specific rules to be followed, but we will list a few regarding abbreviations. 

Months should never be written in abbreviated form on a resume. Abbreviated months look sloppy and are often unnecessary.

When writing months, they should be listed in either their full written forms, or their numerical forms.

If the day is needed in a section (and it isn’t typically), it is written only in numerical form.

Days are also never listed with “st, nd, or rd” Here are some examples of how dates should be listed:

March 2012
Mar 2012 / Mar. 2012
January 2, 2020Jan second 2020 / Jan 2nd 2020
3/15/1995 (or) 3-15-19953 15 1995

Do be aware when writing full dates in numerical form. The United States always lists dates as (month, day, year) in contrast to most other countries that write (day, month, year). 


How to include abbreviations in the education section

The education section is a section where abbreviations are often used, so let’s take a look at some examples of the best ways to format this.

Something to keep in mind is that educational titles are generally understood, and do not need to be over-explained. 

Employers will understand what you mean if you write “BA” or “BS”, you do not need to write out “Bachelor of Arts” or “Bachelor of Science”.

This clutters the section, so it is not recommended unless you are a new graduate who needs to fill blank space on a resume.  

Note: Some people choose to write out these abbreviations as B.A. or B.S. 

This is not grammatically incorrect but is also not recommended by MLA standards.

If you do choose to include periods, be consistent throughout your resume when abbreviating. 


Virginia State University (20xx – 20xx)

BA in Psychology 

Minor in Communications


Abbreviations are especially useful if you have more than one degree or certification to list in the same section.

Take for example, an education section of a person with dual degrees:



Vassar University (20xx – 20xx)

BA in Economics 

BA in Finance 

Minor in Mathematics


If this were written as “Bachelor of Arts” twice in one paragraph, it becomes wordy and difficult to read at a glance.

A general rule is to only write out words with possible abbreviations if the section is particularly short.


Listing abbreviations in professional titles

If you have earned a doctorate, you have earned the right to show it off! It is perfectly acceptable to include “Dr.” in front of your name on a resume.

“Dr. John Smith” at the forefront of a resume already reassures the reader that the applicant is a professional in the field. 

It is also acceptable to include an educational credential after the name in a resume so long as it is master’s level or above.

This is typically written with a comma between the name and the credential. 

This can be formatted like the following examples:

John Smith, MD

Jane Doe, PhD

It is certainly not necessary to list your name as such, though it can help your resume stand out from the first moment an employer lays eyes on it.

Take into consideration what position you are applying for and decide whether your degree is relevant enough to include it outside of the education section.