What Does “Institution” Mean on a Job Application?

What Does “Institution” Mean on a Job Application?

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Even though you know you are qualified for the job, a poorly written application will reduce your chances of landing that perfect job. That’s why you want to get everything all details right on your job application. So, how do you answer the field “institution” on job applications?

A job application that asks for your “institution” wants the name of the school where you received your highest post-high school education. It is appropriate to answer with the name of a technical school, college, university, or research institute.

Employers who want you to know your university are interested in whether you went to a prestigious school and what kind of degree you earned. But if the application asks for your institution, they are interested in your secondary-level education. In this article, I will guide you through the often-confusing world of higher education and how you can use your education to your advantage when filling up a job application.

What Does Institution Mean on a Job Application?

On a job application, “institution” usually refers to the school where you earned a degree or the school you attend as a student. It is preferred to mention the institution where you earn your highest level of education (see this guide to determine your highest level of education).

The terms “university/college” and “institution” are sometimes used interchangeably by employers, even though they bear different meanings. The term “college/university” indicates where the students earned their master’s or bachelor’s degree, but the term “institution” is broader as it also includes “research institutes”, “high schools”, “technical schools”, etc.

Finally, some employers use the term “institute”. An institute indicates that the employer is looking for a specialist in a narrow topic with particular skills. For example, some universities offer a degree in computer science. However, a graduate from the university might want to pursue their research in an “algorithms research institute”. In a similar way, a gastronomic restaurant might want to hire someone who graduated from a “culinary institute”.

Learn more: the different types of universities and institutions job seekers can mention on their job applications.

How to Complete the Institution Field on Job Applications

It is often recommended to add your degree and G.P.A. when filling out the form. A typical structure for the education section of an application might look like this: 

Institution/CollegeDegreeG.P.A.
HarvardMaster’s Degree in Applied Mathematics3.5

A university art student might have received an M.F.A. or Masters in Fine Arts. A degree with that label is sometimes called a “terminal degree” because it is considered the final degree of that type a student can earn. 

If the job application asks for your institute, you can write something along the lines of “Art Institute of Dallas.” If you received a degree from the Institute, then you can list it. In some cases, you might want to indicate that you received a certificate, a B.A., or a B.F.A., which stands for Bachelor of Fine Arts. For example, a student with an M.F.A. in creative writing cannot enter a Ph.D. program. The same rule applies to a B.A.F. degree holder.  

Even though many institutes give grades, most recruiters don’t weigh university and institute G.P.A.s equally. So a 4.0 from a university will get the recruiter’s attention, but a 4.0 from an institute won’t. So you could list the G.P.A., use a slash, and then write “see attached.”

InstituteDegreeG.P.A.
Institute of Fashion and DesignB.F.A. in Design3.8 / See Attachment

How Can Your Institution Boost Your Job Application?

Mentioning your institution can boost your job application if you have earned a degree from prestigious universities such as Harvard and Oxford. Employers who want someone in a specialized field might prefer an employee who focuses on skills needed for the job. 

For example, a student might attend a community college and receive a culinary certificate. If you went to a Culinary Institute, you would most likely have a leg up on that student. In many cases, a candidate applying for a job at a prestigious restaurant will get preference over the one with the community college certificate.

Having said that, a degree from an institute doesn’t necessarily guarantee a job. For example, a firm wanting to hire a web page designer might prefer someone with a university degree, even if an institute like the Art Institute of Dallas offers the same degree. This might surprise you, but the recruiter could have several reasons for the preference. 

How Your Insitution Can Hurt Your Resume

Some recruiters are concerned with the quality of the education because not all institutions are accredited. What is accreditation, and how can it hurt an applicant?  

To ensure universities meet minimum standards, and outside accreditation commission evaluates the university. For example, colleges and universities will receive accreditation from groups like Higher Learning Commission (H.L.C.) or Council for Higher Education (CHEA). 

Accreditation is voluntary, but colleges and universities prefer to go through the accreditation steps.  

Accreditation commissions examine a university for its procedures, grading policies, learning outcomes, and student evaluations, among other things. Those items are then measured against other universities. For example, introductory writing classes must require students to write a specific number of words or papers.

The commissions also look at a university’s hiring process, required courses for each major, consistent grading policies, and more.

Accreditation is not limited to universities. 

Organizations such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) are one of several agencies that ensure hospitals meet quality standards. Even charity organizations are accredited by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

Why Is Accreditation Important?

Accreditation is important because many employers prefer experience from an accredited institution over one that isn’t. Students at unaccredited schools are sometimes not eligible for federal student aid, and they often cannot sit for licensing exams. 

Sometimes course credits from an unaccredited school will not be accepted, which is why institutes caution students to see if their coursework will count should they want to transfer.

Many institutes claim to be accredited, but employers don’t give the institute’s accreditation much credence if they even know that it is accredited. The accreditation organization might cater only to that specific industry, and some view that as not valid accreditation.

How To Overcome the Stereotype That an Institution Degree Is Inferior

Overcoming the potential stigma of a degree or certificate from an institution cannot be done on a resume. Spaces on resumes are not large enough. Besides, what a recruiter wants to know is what you can do. 

Here is where you can take advantage of how institution curriculum or courses are designed.

Institutions’ courses are designed to emphasize outcomes, not degrees. Outcomes are what a student should know or be able to do after finishing the program. Although universities have them listed in the syllabus, they are not emphasized in classes. 

Often a professor will include them somewhere on the course outline but rarely refer to them.

But in an institute, outcomes are front and center, and you can take advantage of that. Compare these two experience statements:

University ExperienceInstitute Experience
At University X, I took courses in advanced design principles, full-stack integration, and computer history.At Institute X, I learned Color and Design Fundamentals, Layout and Concept Design, and Web page Scripting.

The assumption is that in the courses, a student learned the same concepts. However, the institute experience is much clearer about what you learned.  

You have two ways to communicate the experience you gained. 

First, you can include it in your cover letter or create an attachment that lists what you learned. Use the institute’s website to nudge your memory about what was covered while drafting your attachment.

Do Online Courses Count?

Online courses do not count if you took them through a non-accredited platform like Udemy, and they should not be listed as university experience. Although you might have learned valuable skills, there is little accountability in those courses. 

However, the courses have value, not only in what you learned, but they also show initiative.

What you should do in that case is write “see attachment” in the institute/college space and leave the others blank. Then, on the attachment, list the courses you took and the learning outcomes. Also, indicate what you did with that knowledge.

If your attachment only lists one or two courses, then consider another strategy. Instead of having an attachment that only lists a few things, put them in a cover letter. That way, the recruiter sees that you took some initiative, but you don’t have a mostly empty attachment.

What About a Bootcamp?

Bootcamps are becoming more common, especially in the computer industry. A Bootcamp is an intensive series of courses designed to teach specific skills, usually in coding or web page design.  

You can indicate the college or institute that ran the Bootcamp. Under Degree, list the Bootcamp name. These programs are typically pass/fail, so indicate that on the G.P.A. Then create an attachment that lists the outcomes.

What Should You Do If You Have a University Degree?

If you have a university degree and the resume asks only for an institute, you should also attach an attachment. However, your attachment cannot be focused on the courses you took but on what skills you learned. 

To accomplish this task, search for an institute equivalent to the industry you want to work in. 

Then find the courses or list of outcomes. First, create a chart of courses you took in your major in one column and corresponding outcomes in the other. Look for which ones you learned in the Advanced Design Principles course. 

Use this chart to create a document that shows what skills you acquired in your classes. 

Final Words

Recruiters and potential employers are interested not only in where you learned but what you learned. Therefore, creating an attachment that highlights learning outcomes or objectives in your studies will come in handy in many situations. 

So go ahead and create one, as it will give you a leg up over other applicants who thought their degree was enough to get a job.