What Does Level Of Education Mean? (Explained)

African graduate standing outside college


When applying for a new job or filling out legal paperwork, you might get asked what level of education you have.

If you’ve never seen this question before, you may be uncertain what it means.

Here’s everything you need to know about what a level of education means and how it’s applied.


What Does Level Of Education Mean?

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Level of education refers to the level of formal education that you have completed.

If you only graduated from high school, for example, then your level of education is a high school diploma or GED.

If you went to college and received your bachelor’s degree, you would say that your level of education is four years of college or a bachelor’s degree.

If you went beyond a bachelor’s degree and got your master’s in something, that’s your level of education.

You can say that you have a graduate level of education or a master’s degree.

The topmost level of education that you can have is a doctorate or a Ph.D.

If you never graduated from high school or received your GED, you have no level of education.


Why Do People Ask For Your Level Of Education?

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If you’re wondering why you need to know your education level, it’s worth knowing who might ask you for it and why.

Here are some people or situations that might ask for your level of education.


1. Employer

Businessmen at job interview


One of the most common people who will ask for your level of education is your potential employer.

During an interview, it’s common for employers to ask for your level of education.

They have a certain candidate in mind, and they want to ensure that the person they’re thinking of hiring matches those standards.

For example, a hospital might be looking to hire a new doctor.

They will ask a doctor about their level of education to ensure that they have the right level of education per their standards.

Those who work blue-collar jobs might also get asked the question.

In this case, the employer might want to know if you have enough formal education to take on more advanced tasks.

For example, they might look to make you a manager or supervisor at some point.

Having the right level of education gives them a sense of comfort that you have the skills and knowledge needed to take on a more advanced role.

If a prospective employer asks you about your level of education, it’s usually to determine if you have the right amount of skills and knowledge to do the job.

If you don’t have the level of education that they’re looking for, they might pass you over for someone who does.

This can make getting a job difficult for someone who has a lot of experience in the field already but never received formal education beyond a high school diploma or GED.

Employers are the most common people to ask you about your level of education.


2. Census Takers

Members Of Support Group Sitting In Chairs Having Meeting


Another individual who might ask you about your level of education is a census or survey taker.

The government can glean a lot of information about people based on their level of education.

For example, they’ll often compare someone’s level of education with their household income.

If they find that a lot of people with a basic high school diploma earn low household incomes, they might use that information.

For example, they might start a campaign that pushes more people to attend college and work in higher-paying positions.

The government can also use this information to determine a community’s needs.

For example, if an area has a large number of people who only have a high school diploma or GED, this might indicate that there’s a problem with the community.

Perhaps there aren’t enough advanced jobs in the area to encourage people to attend college.

Perhaps all the colleges and universities are too far away.

Maybe there aren’t enough programs in the community to make attending college more affordable.

By answering these questions truthfully, you might be able to help your community receive funding, programs, and aid to become an educated and thriving community.

As such, you’ll sometimes get asked about your level of education by a census or survey taker.


3. Dates

Romantic young couple dating in pub at night


Another person who might ask you about your level of education is a date.

While it may be a bit odd, some people may have a genuine curiosity about your level of education.

They might want to know if you received any formal years in education.

For example, if the person you’re on a date with has a master’s degree, they might wonder if you also have a master’s degree.

To some people, having a certain level of education, or lack thereof, could be a red flag.

For example, if you only have a high school diploma or GED, there’s a chance that the date might not want to pursue the relationship further.

They may have some stereotypes in mind that they then assign to you based on your level of education.

People who have a particular interest in child-rearing may want to ensure that their spouse matches or exceeds their own level of education.

They want to ensure that their child gets the best possible chance of being born with high intellect.

Things can get a little weird if a date starts asking you about your level of education.

However, it also sometimes works as a conversation starter.

For example, if you did attend college, they might want to know about your experiences there.

You may find that you share similar interests or have something to bond over.

While your date may not always ask about your level of education, you may run into one or two who do.


4. Researchers

Business people on meeting


Another group of people who might ask for your level of education is researchers.

If you take part in a type of experiment, the researchers usually need to know your level of education.

That’s because they use that data to help remove any variables or put you in a similar group.

For example, they may be running an experiment about some sort of intellect-based theory.

They may need people who only received a high school diploma and people who received a doctorate.

The experiment may then examine the results of both groups.

Even if the experiment isn’t directly related to education, knowing your level of education is an important detail of their data collection.

It helps them remove outliers or come up with possible patterns that they’re seeing in the test results.

If you take part in an experiment or research study, you can expect the researchers to ask about your level of education.


5. Military

Soldier aims his weapon in sight


If you’re planning to join the military, they might also ask you about your level of education.

Most of those in the military expect you to not have much formal education.

They mostly expect you to have a high school diploma or GED.

However, if you have a higher level of education, they might be able to fast-track you into a higher position within the army.

For example, instead of starting at the bare bottom of the army ladder, you might be able to start a rung or two above the bottom.

Your performance in boot camp will determine how high you climb, but since you have a higher level of education than many of the other soldiers, you might get tapped for officer training.

You might also get tapped for mechanical work or to become involved in something that requires a higher standard of education.

In the military, everyone goes off to serve in one way or another.

However, everyone is also given a job.

Your level of education can sometimes determine what that job is going to be.

You can think of the military as your employer.

You get paid and receive some benefits while performing work for them.

The more educated you are, the more advanced job you can apply for.

As such, if you’re thinking of joining the military, you can probably expect them to ask about your level of education.


What Do I Put For Level Of Education On An Application?

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If you’re filling out an application and it asks for your educational background, you may be unsure of what to put.

When asked for your level of education, you’ll want to choose one from the following list:

  • High school diploma
  • GED
  • Technical or Occupational Certificate
  • Associate Degree
  • Some college coursework completed
  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Master’s Degree
  • Doctorate
  • Professional

The one you choose depends on the highest one you’ve achieved.

Here is each level of education in more detail to ensure you’re selecting the right one.


1. High School Diploma

You’d choose a high school diploma if you graduated from high school but never attended college or university.

This also means you never attended technical school or vocational school to receive training in a specific occupation.

A high school diploma can get you into some basic and entry-level jobs.

You can even get into some more advanced careers based on your experience.

You can still earn a good amount of money with a high school diploma.

However, you usually have to work a bit harder and longer to advance than those who get college educations.

Certain careers and jobs may not be available to you, however.

Some employers require their employees to have some form of a college degree to do the work.

These are jobs that are usually specialized like in healthcare or law.

High school diplomas are the lowest level of education that you can have.


2. GED

If you never graduated from high school, you may be unsure what your level of education is.

That all depends on if you went back to school to get your GED or not.

If you didn’t go back to school to get it, you don’t have a level of education.

If you did and earned your GED, your GED is your level of education.

A lot of employers take GEDs and high school diplomas as the same thing.

They both indicate that you have a basic education.

That means that you basically qualify for the same jobs that those with high school diplomas qualify for.

As such, a GED is also the lowest level of education that you can have.


3. Technical Or Occupational Certificate

If you decide to study a certain occupation at a technical or occupational school, you might get a certificate.

For example, you might go to a vocational school to study to become an electrician.

When you’ve finished your education and passed the exam, you get your certificate to work as an electrician.

This counts as your level of education.

That’s because you expanded your education beyond the basic classes learned in high school.

An occupational certificate may not get you hired into some careers, but it does give you something a bit more than a basic diploma or GED.

As such, you might find it’s a bit easier to get work with a certificate than without it.


4. Associate Degree

For many people, the first step into college is with an associate’s degree.

This usually means that you studied for a specific degree for two years at a college or university.

Like other degrees, an Associate’s Degree usually requires you to take a few courses outside of those designated for the career that you want to pursue.

Once you’ve taken those classes, passed them, and have the right number of credits, you’re able to graduate with your Associate’s Degree.

An Associate’s Degree is helpful for skipping over entry-level jobs in certain careers.

It also means you have a greater chance of landing a job than those with a high school diploma or GED.

While you may not advance high on the career ladder initially, the degree can give you a bit of a head start.

If you completed two years of university and received your Associate’s Degree, this is your level of education.


5. Some College Coursework Completed

There’s a stage between an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree.

If you’re trying to get a job while studying for your bachelor’s degree, this is probably your level of education.

It means that you’ve taken or are taking classes towards your bachelor’s degree.

Some employers will want to know your expected graduation date if you tell them this is your level of education.

You can sometimes get hired despite not having a degree if you make the employer aware that you’re currently attending classes and getting your education.


6. Bachelor’s Degree

The next level of education beyond that is a bachelor’s degree.

This means that you’ve taken at least four years of college.

Your education level includes the coursework included with your particular degree as well as electives.

Those who have a bachelor’s degree tend to get hired more than those with associate’s degrees and far more than those with just high school diplomas or GEDs.


7. Master’s Degree

The problem with a bachelor’s degree is that there’s a large number of people who have one.

Fewer people have a master’s degree.

A master’s degree is another degree that usually takes two years to get.

However, that all depends on how long it takes for you to complete your coursework and all the other requirements that the degree has.

A master’s degree usually means you have a more specialized education on a specific topic or industry.

You’ll find that a lot of employers will want to hire you since your level of education is higher than most other people’s.


8. Doctorate

A doctorate, or Ph.D., is the cream of the crop.

It can take anywhere from a year to several years for someone to get their doctorate.

You usually have to defend a dissertation and prove yourself an expert in your field to receive the degree.

Fewer people get doctorates than master’s degrees.

As such, employers will often happily hire you.


9. Professional

A final level of education that you might qualify for is professional.

Sometimes this runs alongside a doctorate.

It essentially means that you received a specific professional degree in a field like law, medicine, or dental.

It shows that you have superior training and education in that specific field.



Level of education is a useful piece of information that employers, and others, often use to determine if you qualify for a certain position or situation.

Sometimes your level of education doesn’t matter if your specific education doesn’t include the job you’re applying for.

Otherwise, knowing your level of education can help you fill out certain parts of applications.

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