Defining Education Requirements for Your Jobs

As an employer, you may be wondering just how important education requirements actually are during the hiring process. A formal education can benefit employees, but hands-on training also helps create and strengthen relevant skills. However, some industries have specific educational qualifications that are established by state or federal agencies. Consider these factors, as well as the information below, when determining requirements for your company.


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Overview of different education levels

In many cases, education directly influences salary. Some hiring managers turn to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) when deciding how much education for jobs is necessary. The BLS collects wage data from a variety of sources, including the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey and the National Compensation Survey. This data reveals how much education is typically required for different positions and industries.


As of April 2021, BLS data shows that employees with extensive educational training often earn two to three times more per week than workers without a secondary education. The median wage for workers without a high school diploma or its equivalent is just $619 per week, while workers with a doctoral degree bring in a medium salary of $1,885 weekly. Employees with a Bachelor’s degree typically earn $1,305 each week.


Let’s break down the different education levels you may encounter when interviewing potential employees.


No high school diploma or equivalent

This classification doesn’t mean an employee never attended high school. It simply means they didn’t graduate or obtain a General Education Development (GED) certificate.


High school diploma or equivalent

Applicants may select this option if they have a high school diploma, GED, or similar certification. This certification indicates an individual has successfully mastered the academic skills taught from kindergarten to 12th grade.


Some college

When an applicant says they have some college experience, it means they attended a secondary institution but haven’t completed a degree program. “Some college” can also mean that a worker has enough college credits for a degree but hasn’t formally filed for graduation.


Associate’s degree

An associate’s degree indicates the completion of a 2-year post secondary program or 60 college credits. This may be a specific program, such as nursing or criminal justice, or a general academic program. These credits may be applied toward a relevant bachelor’s program.


Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree indicates a student has completed a 4-year academic program with at least 120 college credits. Students typically major in a specific subject or field, such as science or psychology.


Master’s degree

A master’s degree indicates a student has completed 30 to 64 college credit hours beyond a bachelor’s degree. These credit hours are generally in a specific niche, such as project management for healthcare workers or classroom management for teachers. Students typically spend 1 to 2 years completing a master’s program, and it’s possible to have multiple master’s degrees.


Doctorate degree

A doctorate degree is often viewed as evidence a worker is an expert in their field. Doctorate degrees require 3 years of full-time academic studies, and you cannot obtain one without completing a master’s degree first. Not all fields have doctorate degree programs, but they’re common for medical professionals and lawyers.


Professional training

Professional training references educational programs that enhance a worker’s skills but do not result in a degree. This may be a post-secondary certification or a combination of educational training, such as classes or seminars about industry essentials.


Internship or externship

An internship or externship occurs when a worker learns skills directly on the job. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and some internships qualify for college credit. Externships are typically unpaid and do not qualify for college credit.


The main difference between internships and externships is the work required. Interns are often treated like regular employees and have their own workload. Students participating in an externship simply shadow employees so they can learn how to perform essential duties.


When is defining education requirements important?

Educational qualifications aren’t always necessary for every position or industry. However, there are times when creating some can benefit your company. Review the pros and cons of establishing education requirements so you can decide what works best for your business.


Pros of including education requirements

There are numerous reasons why including education requirements can benefit your team. Consider these possible benefits when sharing qualification expectations in a job listing or your company’s website:

  • Listing specific education requirements helps ensure that you hire workers who are aligned with your company’s expectations.
  • Workers who meet standard educational requirements for your industry may have a strong interest in your company, as opposed to applicants who just want any job they can get.
  • Employees with the required educational background may require less training or supervision.
  • Completion of post-secondary training can indicate an applicant is ambitious, dependable and capable of seeing a goal through to completion.
  • Customers or clients may have peace of mind knowing that your workers must meet rigorous educational requirements.
  • Establishing educational qualifications helps your company meet industry standards for formal training.

Cons of including education requirements

Setting specific requirements for education can help your company, but it may also hinder your growth. Here are some reasons why it may be a drawback listing this information:

  • You may miss out on a great employee simply because they don’t meet your qualifications.
  • You have no way of knowing how hard someone worked in college, so their GPA may not accurately reflect their potential or ability.
  • Hiring candidates with specific educational backgrounds may result in a lack of diversity at your company.
  • Sometimes hands-on training or on-the-job experience is more beneficial than a college degree.

Sharing education expectations for jobs

If you decide to make education for jobs a requirement at your company, make sure each job listing reflects that. You may also want to include this information on your company’s website in case applicants search for career opportunities there.


When you add education requirements to a job description, be specific in the type of degree and program. Do you expect applicants to have a degree, or is it okay if they are current students? Should workers major in a specific field, such as marketing or education, or is any degree fine?


You should also mention whether you’re willing to accept on-the-job training in lieu of professional academic requirements. For example, you may be okay with hiring a worker who has five years of experience in your field even though they have no college credits.


A college degree doesn’t make every applicant a good fit for your company, and you may overlook some good candidates if you have rigid requirements. Keep that in mind when determining whether educational qualifications should be mandatory for your employees.

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