by Ngọc Anh Nguyễn / 7 minutes read

Education Levels and Requirements for Employment

What are qualifications and education requirements when applying for jobs?

When you’re applying for a job, it’s important to know education requirements for the position. 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. The employers usually list education requirements for a position in the job description or position advertisement.

Jobs require different educational levels (Source: Internet)
Jobs require different educational levels (Source: Internet) 

Levels of Education

Here's a list of the education requirements that employers look for in candidates.

Less Than High School

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.

This is the completion of any level of primary or secondary education that did not result in the awarding of a high school diploma or an equivalency diploma.

High School Diploma or Equivalent

Applicants may select this option if they completed high school, or the equivalent, resulting in the awarding of a high school diploma or the equivalent, such as the General Education Development (commonly referred to as a GED) award. Other high school equivalency diplomas include the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) and the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC). 

This education requirement indicates an individual has successfully mastered the academic skills taught from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Some College, No Degree

This is the awarding of a high school diploma, or the equivalent, in addition to the completion of one or more postsecondary courses that did not result in any college degree or award.

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 refer to someone who has earned the necessary 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 could be a broad academic curriculum or a specialized one, like nursing or criminal justice.

After completing at least two years of post-high school full-time academic study, typically at the community college level, individuals can receive an associate's degre.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree indicates a student has completed a 4-year academic or full-time academic study beyond high school. Students typically major in a specific subject or field, such as science or psychology.

Many employers add this education requirement in their job descriptions. 

A bachelor’s degree indicates a student has completed a 4-year academic or full-time academic study beyond high school.
A bachelor’s degree indicates a student has completed a 4-year academic or full-time academic study beyond high school (Source: Internet)


An apprenticeship is a formal training program that combines a full-time job with training.

Through an apprenticeship program, you can obtain paid, relevant work experience while acquiring the skills and credentials that employer’s value.


Certifications are awards by a third-party organization that has a certain set of standards. Earning a certification means that you have accomplished a set of requirements and met the organization's standards. To earn a certification, you typically need to complete various courses. You may also need to have a certain amount of professional experience. The purpose of a certification is to show that you have a specific set of skills and background knowledge.

Although some companies require certifications, you typically do not need one to work in a job or occupation legally. They are often a way to enhance your resume, showing that you value continuing your education and enhancing your skill set. Oftentimes, before an organization awards you a certification, you may need to pass an examination or a series of tests.

Certifications are awarded by a third-party organization that has a certain set of standards
Certifications are awarded by a third-party organization that has a certain set of standards (Source: Internet)


Some occupations require a license to work in the field. Licenses are typically regulated by the state, and each state's requirements may differ. Examples of occupations licensed in many states include teachers, land surveyors, doctors, lawyers, cosmetologists, nurses, building contractors, counselors, therapists, and electricians.

Postsecondary Non-Degree Award

These programs lead to a certificate or other award but not a degree. The educational institutions give the certificate as a result of completing formal postsecondary schooling. Certification issued by a professional organization or certifying body, is not included here. 

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 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.

Doctoral or Professional 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.

Level of education (Source: Internet)
Level of education (Source: Internet)

Examples of Education Requirements in Job Postings

Examples of education requirements listed in job postings:

  • Must have a GED or high school diploma.
  • Must have a high school diploma or equivalency.
  • High school diploma or GED, bachelors, or associates degree preferred.
  • Completed certified apprenticeship program preferred.
  • Serve-safe certified, or a food safety certification preferred.
  • Possession of a valid registration as a Licensed Practical Nurse.
  • A bachelor's degree
  • An associate's degree, or equivalent, is a must-have. 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.

Experience in Lieu of Education

In some cases, when applying for jobs, the employer may list work experience or equivalent experience that can replace for education. If you have the required equivalent experience, you may be considered for employment without the required bachelor's or other college degree or certification.

Education Levels and Job Applications

When businesses offer educational hiring criteria, it's important to remember that if you don't meet the requirements or come close to meeting them, your chances of getting an interview are lower.

In some cases, if your resume and the skills and background required for the position are fairly well aligned, you may have a chance at getting an interview.

For instance, you should submit your CV if you have extensive job experience that is relevant to the position and you are just one or two credits away from earning the necessary bachelor's degree. However, it is better to concentrate your efforts on applying for positions where you actually have the necessary educational and professional credentials.

You can list work experience instead of education levels (Source: Internet)
You can list work experience instead of education levels (Source: Internet)

In short, the purpose of these education requirements is to ensure you have the knowledge and skills to get the job done safely and effectively. Common education requirements involve certifications and licenses that prove you have specialized training in a specific area.

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Ngọc Anh Nguyễn

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Since my major in university is Marketing, I always grasp the chance to improve my skills to become an all-rounded Marketer in the future. This job, to some extent, has brought me a lot of knowledge about multiple areas, which will be beneficial to my study career. In my free time, I'm into reading and watching classic movies. My favorite genre of all time is romantic comedy.

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