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Level of Education: What it Means and How it Can Help You Find a Job Faster

education levels what they mean

Many job postings request and/or require that you attain a certain level of education to be eligible to work in that occupation. What does level of education mean? In simple terms, level of education means the last or highest level of education that you have completed.

For example, if you graduated high school, then attended college for two semesters, you would put high school as your level of education on your resume. Here are the usual levels of education that employers use on job descriptions.

Employers include these educational requirements in the job description or position advertisement. You’ve probably seen this in job postings on job boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed.com and on the company’s website.

But what does each level of education mean exactly? And why could understanding level of education help your job search go faster? This article will answer both of these questions. So let’s get started.

Level of Education and Income

Your level of education and income are tied together. For the most part, as education level increases so does one’s income earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measured the unemployment rate and weekly earnings for education level. As you can see there is a relationship between level of education and salary. A person with a doctoral level of education earned nearly three times the amount of someone with a high school diploma.

Level of education has a massive affect on your earning power. Chart shows that a doctoral degree person earns about $1883 a week and a person with a high school diploma earns $746.

Level of Education by State

When it comes to the level of education by state, Zippia looked at the percentage of people per state who have a master’s degree level education. These were the top states:

10. Rhode Island: 13.1%
9. New Hampshire: 13.37%
8. Colorado: 14.34%
7. New Jersey: 14.36%
6. Vermont: 14.5%
5. New York: 15.09%
4. Virginia: 15.69%
3. Connecticut: 16.79%
2. Maryland: 17.72%
1. Massachusetts: 18.17%

Level of Education for Specific Jobs

Level of Education for Medical Assistant

Postsecondary nondegree award.

Level of Education for Cosmetology

A cosmetologist needs to have a high school diploma or GED. Graduation from a postsecondary program is generally required in order to be licensed. Most states require cosmetologists to get licensed.

Level of Education for Physical Therapist

Physical therapists need a doctoral degree, more specifically a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited physical therapy program.

Level of Education for Psychologist

A psychologist must have a doctoral degree level of education. With a doctorate degree you can work without supervision. Counselors, on the other hand, may have a masters level of education to practice.

Level of Education for Real Estate Agent

Unlike the other professions, being a real estate agent doesn’t have a required level of education. According to Career Explorer, the education levels vary.

Education% of real estate agents
No education29%
High school diploma32%
Certificate or associate degree18%
Bachelor’s degree4%
via career explorer

Level of Education Defining the Terms

These education levels in the USA may seem pretty straight forward, but to make absolutely sure you know how to fill out your job application accurately, here are the definitions.

Less Than High School

This level is exactly as it reads. You have not completed high school or earned a GED, also called General Educational Development or General Education Diploma. You may have completed elementary school, middle school, but you did not earn all of your credits to graduate high school.

High School Diploma or Equivalent

This education level is found on entry-level jobs. It means you’ve finished high school, or passed an equivalency exam. You have a high school diploma or the equivalent, that GED we just mentioned.

Some College, No Degree

Some college, no degree means you have been awarded a high school diploma, or equivalent. In addition, you’ve also finished at least one postsecondary course, but you did not earn a college degree or award.

This level of education of some college is what you should use on your job application if you did not earn a college degree, but have college credits. You would use this level of education while in college, if you have not earned a previous degree.

As far as your job search goes, you will often see this as a minimum education requirement on listings for internships or part-time jobs aimed at college students.

It’s important to point out that this education minimum is on few job listings.

Associate’s Degree

An associates degree is awarded for the completion of two or more years of full-time academic study after high school. These degrees can be earned at community colleges.

Notably, an associates of applied sciences degree is career-centered and prepares you for jobs in healthcare, engineering, construction, or home repair. It can help you start your career as anincluding positions like dental hygienistsurgical technologistwelderhairdresser, or construction equipment operator. Some of these careers also require a license or certification.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelors degree level of education means you have been awarded a diploma for at least four years of full-time academic study beyond high school.

Postsecondary Non-Degree Award
A certificate or other award that usually is not a degree. Certifications issued by professional (i.e., industry) organizations, or certifying organizations, are commonly not included in this category. These certification programs may last for only a few weeks, or for as long as two years. Examples include certificates for health aides, paramedics, EMTs, and hairstylists.

Master’s Degree

A masters level of education means you have earned a masters for one or two years of full-time academic study beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Doctoral or Professional Degree

This advanced degree of PhD, medical doctor, law degree etc is awarded for at least three years of full-time academic work after earning a master’s degree.

Examples Levels of Education in Job Postings

Level of education is often used to convey a minimum level of education required. This means you can have additional credentials, but to be considered for the job posting you must have at least the level of education listed. Here are a few ways a job posting might phrase a minimum education or education level.

  • Must have a GED or high school diploma.
  • Must have a high school diploma or equivalency.
  • A bachelor’s degree is required.
  • An associate’s degree, or equivalent, is required. This usually boils down to a minimum of 34 credit hours plus one additional year of relevant full-time experience.
  • A master’s degree and three years of experience or Ph.D. degree with no prior experience are acceptable.
  • Education Levels and Job Applications

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Kate Williams

Kate Williams is a business communications expert and is the editor of Job Affirmations. She is a professional resume writer and has studied Myers-Briggs personality types and how they influence career choice. Job Affirmations has hundreds of job descriptions categorized by the 16 Myers-Briggs types, by career interests and work values. Kate also shares her best writing tips including the proper formatting of emails and cover letters You'll find positive affirmations for work, inspirational quotes, career vision boards for your best year ever.

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