Skip to Content

“Course of study” on a Job Application — Meaning & Context

“Course of study” on a Job Application — Meaning & Context

Sharing is caring!

If you’re filling out a job application and you’ve been asked for “course of study,” what does it mean?

You might assume it means what you studied in college, but you may not be sure, and what if you didn’t attend or finish college.

This can seem like a confusing question, but your potential employer mostly just wants to get a good idea of your educational background.

Today, we’ll talk about various answers you might supply to this question depending on your situation.

What does “course of study” mean on a job application?

Usually, “course of study” is asking you what your college major was. If you attended some type of vocational or other school or classes instead of or in addition to college, whatever your main focus was would be your “course of study.”

Where does “course of study” appear on a job application?

Job applications usually have different sections. For example, there is usually a section for you to list past jobs, a section about education and a section for your references.

“Course of study” appears on the education section.

Usually, there will be several columns that have headings such as “institution,” “years attended” and “course of study.”

Some might also include the question “Did you graduate?”

Whether or not you graduated, you can put your course of study.

“Course of study” for college students and graduates

If you have an undergraduate degree or you are currently a college student, this is pretty easy to answer. You would just put your major.

Here are a few examples for people who have a bachelor’s degree:

B.A. Journalism
B.S. Biology
B.F.A. Painting

You don’t actually have to include your degree. You can just put the subject instead, but including degree reinforces that you have one.

If you have an associate’s degree but not a bachelor’s, you can put that as well:

A.A. Criminal Justice

If you are still working on your degree, you could just put your major:

Business Administration

What if you are a college student who has not yet declared a major? You can just write something like “General studies.”

If you are pretty sure about what you plan to study but you have not officially declared your major yet, it’s okay to put down what you plan to major in.

While you should never be dishonest on a job application, this question is trying to get a sense of your background and interests, and it would not be inappropriate to list your planned major in this situation.

If you have advanced degrees, such as a master’s or a doctorate, you would indicate this in the same way as your bachelor’s.

For “course of study,” you could still put your main area of study, such as “history,” or you might want to put something more specific, like “history of U.S. colonial art.”

How specific you need to be will vary according to the type of job you are applying to. If your specific course of study is relevant to the job, you should use that.


“Course of study” for specialized areas

Many professions, particularly those that involve various licenses and certifications, have different ways that you could acquire degrees, licenses or certifications and you might need to be more specific about your course of study.

A good example of this is nursing.

If you just listed an institution and then put “nursing” as your course of study, it would not be clear whether you were a licensed practical nurse, a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner or something else.

Some nurses have college degrees while others may have a degree from a vocational school. Many but not all registered nurses have a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

While for a job like this there will probably also be a place to put what licenses or certifications that you have, it is good to be as specific as possible about your course of study.

Here are a few examples:

Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Course of study: B.S. Nursing

Institution: Louisiana Tech
Course of study: A.S. Nursing

Note that in the above examples, the first student has a bachelor’s while the second has an associate’s degree.

However, you could also become a licensed practical nurse by going through a program that takes a year or less and offers a certificate instead of a degree.

This still counts as a “course of study” even if there is not a traditional degree at the end of it.

Institution: Smith Technical College
Course of study: Nursing (certificate)

You don’t have to write “certificate” in this way, but it makes it clear to the employer that you do not have a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree.

This is not necessarily a disadvantage as the employer may be specifically for someone to take an entry-level position and might consider you overqualified if you had a more advanced degree.

Many other areas of the medical profession as well as other fields offer qualifications through certificate and licensing programs, and you would still list the area that you studied for “course of study.”

For example, many technical or community colleges offer certificates in certain trade areas, such as plumbing, construction or welding.

You can list these certificates under “course of study” as well.

“Course of study” if you are a high school student or graduate

What if you are still a high school student or you have a high school diploma but no further education?

It is fine to write something like “general” in this situation.

However, you might want to emphasize certain aspects of your studies. For example, some high schools have what is called an “International Baccalaureate” course of study, and if you are involved in this, you might want to list it.

If you took a college prep or a vocational track at your high school, you might want to list that too.

Here are a couple of ways that might appear:

Institution: Martin Luther King High School
Course of study: College prep (AP Physics, AP English, AP History)

Institution: Rock Hill High School
Course of study: Cabinetmaking

The bottom line with this question is that you shouldn’t stress too much about your answer.

Just try to give your potential employer a good sense of what you have studied and have some expertise in as a result of your schooling.