What Does “Education Level” Mean on a Job Application?

What Does “Education Level” Mean on a Job Application?

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The question “What is your education level?” often comes up on job application forms.

You should answer this question with the highest academic level you’ve completed! For example, let’s say you have earned a high school diploma, a Bachelor’s degree in Computer science, and a Master’s degree in Communication Systems. Then, you can answer with “Master’s degree.”

If you want to include more details, you can also answer with “M.Sc. in Communication Systems from the University of Oxford.”

Note that it can be tricky to answer the education level’s question, especially if you have not earned your high school diploma or are still studying in college. This is why I have performed in-depth research to cover those special cases.

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Education level on job applications

Here is a table about the different education levels that employers look for:

Your highest academic levelRequirements
High school diploma or equivalentYou have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED).
Technical or occupational certificateYou’ve received training in a special skill to be used in a trade (i.e., mechanical, electrical, carpentry, etc.)
Associate degreeYou’ve completed undergraduate studies and earned a 2-year degree at an accredited institution.
Bachelor’s degreeYou’ve got an undergraduate degree from a college or university.
Master’s degreeYou have earned an MBA (graduate degree) from a college or university
DoctorateYou hold a doctorate degree.

However, there are special cases you need to consider.

Special Case 1: I Went to College but Haven’t Graduated Yet

If you finish your Bachelor’s degree in a few months, you can answer with: “anticipate Bachelor’s degree, Spring 20**”.

If you are studying for your Master’s degree, you can put “Bachelor’s degree.” If the job requires a Master’s degree, you should state that you “anticipate MA graduation, Spring 20**”.

Special Case 2: I Did Not Complete My Degree

If you did not complete your last education level, don’t despair. There are ways to turn that information to your advantage.

There is usually a choice for “some college,” and that would apply to your situation. However, if this option is not available, here’s what you can include on your job application:

  • Say what you completed: “completed two years of junior college” or “completed one year of formal vocational training in automotive repair” or “completed one year of doctoral studies in communication” and so on.
  • State what you did: Be ready to answer questions about why you didn’t complete your studies. However, don’t state the reasons why. Instead, provide goals and accomplishments. For instance:

In other words, you want to use professional language and expressions that inform your prospective employer about your skills, abilities, and accomplishments in measurable terms.

Special Case 3: I Have Not Finished High School

There is usually an option called “no formal schooling” on the job application. Otherwise, you can indicate that you never attended school or only attended kindergarten.

Special Case 4: Education Level for School Admissions and Academic Positions

The question of “what is your education level” bears a different meaning for school admissions, assistantships, and professorships.

Usually, colleges and universities use the following table for education level:

RankEducation levelDuration
1Elementary School6 to 7 years
2Secondary (High) School4 years
3.1Vocational College
Technical College
1 to 3 years
3.2Bachelor’s degree4 years
4Master’s degree
Postgrad education
2+ years
5Doctorate3+ years
6Postdoctoral studiesIndefinite
7ProfessorshipIndefinite

To stand out on your application, provide information that shows your ability to engage in academic research, extracurricular activities, teamwork, and group leadership. 

Why Do Managers Ask About Education Level on Job Applications?

When looking at your education level, here’s what hiring managers usually look for:

  • Your qualifications: mention if you have a high school diploma, a doctoral or professional degree, a technical or occupational certificate, etc. For more information about the nomenclature, please read our guide: the differences between a degree, a diploma, and a certificate.
  • Subjects completed: Employers like Studycrumb want to know which courses you follow and whether you are familiar with the basic concepts important to the job.
  • Grades: What topics engage you or interest you most? What areas of study are your strengths? In what areas do you need additional training? Are you mentally suited for the job you are applying for?

Summary

Your education level is interpreted differently according to the application that you are filling out.

  • Applications for further studies: When filling out an application for a scholarship or a course, you need to show where and what subjects you’ve completed and if you need special resources or accommodations.
  • Job applications: When filling out information about education level on job application forms, be ready to provide proactive answers when explaining your education history, including interrupted studies. To stand out from other job applicants, focus on knowledge, skills, and attitudes relevant to the job. 

Remember, your education level speaks in different ways to different people. So for best results, fill out those application forms the best way you can.