English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Which of these three terms is the most relevant in a resume?

Should any be avoided?

For clarity, I do understand the irony of pretending to be a self learner posting questions on StackExchange, thank you.

share|improve this question
seems like a post for careers.stackoverflow.com – camelbrush Apr 12 '13 at 20:48
The resume is just a context, the question is more about obsolescence / common use. – MonoThreaded Apr 12 '13 at 20:53
Practically, avoid all three in a resume. – Mitch Apr 12 '13 at 23:03
Self-learner doesn't make much sense because it's always us, ourselves, who do whatever learning gets done. – onomatomaniak Apr 13 '13 at 17:11
up vote 11 down vote accepted

self-taught: I would use this with reference to a specific subject/technology/whatever which I had taught myself: I am proficient at X (BMgc, Unseen University), Y (Dip, University of Krull), and Z (self-taught) or I taught myself Z or I am a self-taught expert at Z.

self-learner: I probably not use this word, but if I did, I'd use it to describe a general temperament, rather than a specific piece of self-teaching: I am a self-learner. (It would be better, probably, to say that you were a good learner, and self-motivated (or, in the language of résumés, a self-starter).)

autodidact: I like this word, but, depending on what you're applying for, it might be too hifalutin to go on a CV.

share|improve this answer

I would recommend using 'self-taught' or 'autodidact' over 'self-learner'. Have a look at this ngram:enter image description here


Hence literary sources suggests that 'self-learner' isn't been used that very often compared to the others.

But in cases where you want to suggest that you have a quality to take initiatives and learn things on your own (like in the future), 'self learner' would fit fine. And for times when you want to suggest that you have already acquired a particular skills or knowledge I think, 'self-taught' would fit better pointing towards those already acquired skills.

share|improve this answer

Autodidact should be avoided at all costs. I may be one, but no one understands Greek.

I would prefer self-taught. It's English in origin, gets the idea across, and it's in common use. That's the best of all worlds - you'll be understood.

share|improve this answer

The question of which word will best serve your goals is probably unanswerable here. It depends on the mood and assumptions of the person who first sees your resume, more than anything.

While I generally agree with the other answers here, I think one key point of the difference in meaning is being lost.

"Self-taught" carries connotations that "autodidact" avoids. When people hear "self-taught" they often assume a process like learning bits and pieces to help you accomplish whatever goals you were working towards at the time. They'll often assume it means you lack the deep, fundamental understanding that comes with a formal education or experience.

"Autodidact", if a person understands the word, seems to carry a connotation of broader, more thorough "self-education" rather than simply picking up a skill that wasn't formally taught to you. This is someone who doesn't just teach themselves skills, but investigates a broad range of topics to the same depth one might experience in formal education.

So as TRiG says, "Self-taught" should be more about some specific skill you picked up rather than a broad range of study.

If you are trying to communicate "autodidact" in an area where you may be misunderstood, try "self-educated" instead. And maybe elaborate on your meaning with a paragraph about that in your cover letter, or a personal summary section.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.