What Does “Highest Academic Level” Mean on a Job Application

What Does “Highest Academic Level” Mean on a Job Application

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Job application forms usually require you to fill in some personal information, including your name, address, age, sex, etc. Another standard section you have to answer in such forms is your educational attainment or highest level of education.

Here is what you should fill out.

How Can I Determine My Highest Academic Level?

Educational attainment is the highest academic level completed by an individual. The completion of a certain level of education entails that you have successfully acquired the necessary knowledge and skills that allow you to progress to the next level.

For those who have never attended school or have only attended kindergarten, all educational institutions and corporate offices consider “No Formal Schooling” as their educational attainment. Moreover, the highest academic level of those with formal education can be categorized into basic education and higher education levels.

Basic Education Level

For the basic education level, which includes primary and secondary level, your educational attainment is the highest grade you have completed, not necessarily obtaining a diploma. For instance, if you have only completed 3rd grade, your educational attainment is 3rd Grade. If you were able to finish 6th grade, your highest academic level is 6th Grade. Furthermore, as you complete your high school education, your highest level of education becomes High School Graduate.

If you have reached 12th grade but did not finish and receive a diploma, the highest academic level would be 12th Grade, No Diploma. Additionally, General Equivalency Diploma is the educational attainment of those who have received a general equivalency diploma instead of a high school diploma by successfully passing the GED examination.

Higher Education Level

Higher education involves degree programs at the associate, undergraduate, graduate levels. Associate degree programs prepare you for technical and entry-level careers or may serve as pathways to baccalaureate degree programs. 

Completing an associate degree generally requires two years of full-time study, usually in community colleges or technical schools. A bachelor’s degree takes you four years of complete academic studies in an accredited educational institution. 

Acquiring a bachelor’s degree provides you with a wide range of career opportunities and the approval to enroll in graduate school. Graduate-level education involves advanced degree programs. It includes master’s degrees and doctorate programs that allow you to master a specific subject area further. 

A master’s degree allows you to broaden your knowledge and skills in a particular field to improve your appeal as a candidate and eventually increase your earning potential. At the same time, a doctorate is the highest academic degree you can earn, allowing you to become a society-recognized expert in your field.  

In higher education, an individual’s educational attainment refers to the diploma or degrees awarded by accredited schools upon completion of degree programs. Table A shows the different educational attainment in higher education levels that you may hold depending on your qualification.

Educational AttainmentQualification
Some College, No DiplomaAttended college but was not able to complete and receive a degree
Associate DegreeCompleted a two-year college degree program
Bachelor DegreeCompleted a four or five-year baccalaureate degree program
Master’s DegreeCompleted a master’s degree program
Professional Doctorate DegreeCompleted a professional doctorate program such as law, medicine, etc.
Academic Doctorate DegreeCompleted a research degree program such as Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.
Table A. Educational Attainment in Higher Education (Taken from NIDA CTN Common Data Elements)

Most educational attainment in higher education levels requires completion of degree programs such as Associate Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, Professional Doctorate Degree, and Academic Doctorate Degree. At the same time, those who attended college but were not able to complete a degree and receive a diploma may use Some College, No Diploma as its highest level of education.

What to put if you are still in college

What do you write as your highest academic level if you have gone to a university but have not graduated yet? The appropriate response would be “Some College, No Degree.” Such academic value indicates that you have attended college but have not completed your degree program.

Some forms will most likely have a list of educational attainments choices. If such a response is not available among the options provided, you should choose “High School Graduate” as it is your highest academic level.

Choosing “High School Graduate” when “Some College” is not available despite finishing a couple of college semesters is more acceptable when filling out forms. If you are worried about not impressing the hiring department with what you filled out, you can express your education further during your interview. You may also fill out the “Others:” section with your current formal education status. 


Job applications usually have a minimum requirement for educational attainment. Some employers accept high school graduates, while others require a bachelor’s degree. Some professional careers even require you to acquire a more advanced degree. 

Having some college education is decent enough in most cases and is acceptable in many application forms today, even if you have only taken one semester in any program. However, a higher level of educational attainment is still key to accessing better career opportunities.