I'm updating my résumé and I'm trying to describe myself as "someone who learns on his own", though more briefly. I think the word "autodidact" fits but an informal survey around the workplace showed that many people don't know what the word means. I'm concerned that using the word will leave those reading my résumé scratching their heads, or worse, make me appear pretentious.

Does "autodidact" fall into the category of "five dollar words" and should I just replace it with a brief phrase?

  • 1
    You could also ask here: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions as that site is focused on workplace-related questions, including resumes. Commented May 28, 2012 at 17:18
  • 1
    *Actually, if you want this question on TheWorkplace, you should ask to have it migrated, rather than cross-post (ask the same question twice in two places). Commented May 28, 2012 at 17:25
  • 1
    If you use the word and someone is impressed by it, it will increase your chances of getting the job by an insignificantly small percentage. On the other hand, if it makes someone think "What a pretentious git" then your CV will hit the reject pile straight away. It's just not worth the risk. Personally, I would be in the first category, but I doubt most HR people are impressed by vocabulary. Commented May 28, 2012 at 17:48

4 Answers 4


I think it probably is too obscure. Put "self-learner", "self-starter", "self-taught in (some skills you want it to apply to)".

The only place where I'd expect to see such a word in a resume would be applying to an academic position where use of such words is common.

I think in general it's a bad idea to confuse the people who might be reading your resume as it could cause them to pass it over.


Every organization, every hiring manager, and every position offered is unique, so it is difficult to make a blanket rule about whether a word or phrase is suitable. After all, there is an entire industry build around résumé or c.v. writing and formatting.

Autodidact can refer to someone with skills in a subject but no formal education in a particular subject, but also to someone who is "educated" without formal schooling. I wouldn't want to be interpreted as passing myself along as a modern-day Abraham Lincoln, but I do say that I am self-taught in object-oriented programming or server administration.

  • "Self-taught" (in the example you gave) seems to have the exact same meaning as "autodidact" (in a subject). Besides, I think Paul wants to know how to say that he is capable of self learning, not that he learnt something by himself.
    – Danny
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 16:58
  • 2
    @Danny. I may be misled by the usage that the term "autodidact" has in my mother tongue (Italian), but 1. I'm surprised that people might find it difficult to understand, and 2. its meaning is normally that you have already learnt something (so, I'm an autodidact in (subject). It would never be used to indicate that you are willing to study something on your own.
    – Paola
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 18:43
  • @Danny That is exactly the point. The poster asked if "autodidact" would be obscure or sound pretentious. I answered that "self-taught" would be a suitable alternative that addresses both concerns.
    – choster
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 18:56

You could say you are a lifelong learner. It is a pretty widely used term for adults who continue to voluntarily learn things on their own.

  • It sure is an extremely "trendy" term, it has been adopted in the European Community to state that teachers should not think they have completed their education at university, but should study further to meet the new challenges which different generations of learners will pose. I detest the expression, but it is probably the best. +1
    – Paola
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 18:48
  • @Paola, I like the concept that everyone should continue to learn his or her whole life, though, don't you?
    – JLG
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 18:50
  • Of course I do; what I don't like is the fact of being obliged to study things you may not be inclined towards, just because some wise man has decided that that will be the future requirement in your job, only to change his mind a couple of years later. I don't like being forced into doing things, perhaps it's my inclination, perhaps it's because I'm not a young girl any longer, and I'm looking forward to retirement as a time when I'll finally be free to follow my whims.
    – Paola
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 0:53

You could use "I am a self-learner" or "I am capable of self learning" instead.

  • Or rather 'self-learner'
    – Jim
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 16:49
  • Depends on the form sentence e.g. I am a self-learner or I am capable of self learning.
    – Danny
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 16:51
  • Agreed, but given that the OP wanted to use autodidact presumably as in, "I am an autodidact" the equivalent would be "I am a self-learner."
    – Jim
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 16:53
  • Corrected. 1234
    – Danny
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 16:55

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