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Updated Oct 27, 2023

Employer Guide to Education Verification

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Kaylyn McKenna, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst

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Employers look at a number of factors and qualifications when seeking to hire a new team member, including work experience, social media activity, education and criminal history. Some of these qualifications are verified through pre-employment background checks. However, many employers don’t think about education when they create their background check process. Education verification is a great way to confirm candidate credentials and can help business owners make better hiring decisions.

What is education verification?

Education verification in the process of verifying a candidate’s degree or educational achievements during the pre-employment background check. Through education verification, employers obtain records of the candidate’s degrees and education. It is one of the more basic forms of background checks, but it can be helpful in confirming that a candidate is qualified for the job.

What are employers looking for in this process?

Education verification can return a number of key pieces of information about a potential employee. Here are just a few:

  • The degree they earned
  • The dates of their attendance or the date that the degree was conferred
  • The educational institution(s) they attended
  • Their GPA or honors 

The primary objective of education verification is to verify that the educational information that the candidate provided is accurate. In most cases, employers are focused on whether or not the applicant obtained the degree that they listed on their resume. However, they are also often looking at whether the candidate was truthful on their application.

Why employers should verify education in the hiring process

There are many reasons that you may choose to verify an applicant’s education background during the hiring process. 

Making informed hiring choices

A portion of candidates do misrepresent their qualifications or stretch the truth on their resume. Verifying their education ensures that the information provided is accurate so that you can make an informed hiring decision. If you are choosing between two great candidates, educational achievements or advanced degrees may sway you toward one of them, but you don’t want to make that decision based on incorrect information. 

Did You Know?Did you know
According to a study by, 1 in 3 candidate lie on their resume. Misrepresenting education credentials was the second most common lie.

Evaluating honesty

In addition to making sure that a prospective hire is qualified for the job, it’s also helpful to verify that they were honest on their application. Lying on an application brings not only someone’s qualifications into question, but also their character. You want to hire employees who are honest and transparent, as these are values that most companies desire in their employees.

Deciding compensation

In most circumstances, education level and achievements are factors in determining how much an employer is willing to pay a new employee. An employer may make a more generous offer to a candidate who graduated from a top school because of the belief that they are more qualified or better prepared for the role. Many employers also are willing to pay a higher salary if the selected candidate has an advanced degree. If you are negotiating compensation with a candidate based on their education, it makes sense to verify that they actually obtained that education. 

Some roles, such as those in government or education, also have specific salary tiers and formulas that correspond with years of education and experience. Employers in these fields typically need to verify all information related to any education that will be used to qualify for a higher tier, including years of attendance and the degree conferred. 

Why would an employer choose not to conduct an education verification?

Many employers skip verifying education because they think the process is too slow. This is a common myth about background checks. In reality, an education verification can be quite quick to run if you work with a background check service. However, working with such a service is an extra expense that smaller businesses may not want to incur.

Sometimes education verification results can highlight inaccuracies, such as name variations or incorrect student numbers, or leave out information like a student’s GPA or honors status. At times, a search may come up empty because some higher education institutions have a policy that allows only students themselves to access their records.

It is also worth noting that specific educational credentials may not be important for all positions. Entry-level roles are often learned on the job, and employers may embrace candidates with a variety of education levels, majors and backgrounds. When this is the case, employers may not conduct an education verification because they do not view it as necessary. However, it can still be useful to determine compensation and to ensure the candidate was truthful on their resume and during the interview process.

How to verify a candidate’s education background

Regardless of how you plan to verify a candidate’s educational background, it’s important to collect the candidate’s full legal name, the institution attended and written consent for an educational background check.

Doing it yourself

Employers may take a DIY approach to education verification by contacting the educational institutions themselves and requesting a candidate’s transcript or verification of their degree. This is sometimes a slower process, and there may be a form that the candidate has to complete for the institution to release their records. This may also be cumbersome if a candidate attended multiple schools. Be careful of violating privacy regulations, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which restricts who can view student records. 

Be aware of legalities around DIY background checks. Education verification typically requires consent from the candidate and may be subject to regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Give a candidate the opportunity to fix misinformation on their education record before you retract a job offer based on your findings.

Requesting transcripts from candidates

Some employers also ask a candidate to provide a transcript in order to verify their degree, grades and courses taken. This approach is a decent option if the actual courses are of significance to you. Most employers do not care too deeply about specific classes, particularly at the undergraduate level, where education is fairly general. However, if you are looking for specific skills or if a candidate took a nontraditional degree path (such as liberal arts programs that allow students to design their own majors), you may want to review their transcript. This option is also inexpensive and efficient since the candidate can typically download their unofficial transcript relatively easily and quickly.

Using employment background check services

You can use various background check services to run pre-employment background checks, including education verification. However, not all services offer education verification, so confirm this when choosing a background check service.

This is typically the best approach for verifying a candidate’s educational qualifications. These services are more efficient than doing it yourself, accurate and legally compliant. When doing your own education verification, you may run into legal issues and delays. Since education verification is likely only one aspect of background check that you will be conducting on a candidate, background check services can also be a convenient option for getting all of the information that you need in one place with one single authorization form from the candidate. 

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Kaylyn McKenna, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
For more than 10 years, Kaylyn McKenna has studied the ins and outs of the workplace experience. With guidance designed to help both employers and employees, she advises on workplace matters affecting small businesses. This has ranged from providing recommendations on HRO and PEO services to sharing pointers on job interviews and managing increasing workloads. Her expertise has been trusted by JobGet, Business Management Daily and others. McKenna holds a bachelor's degree in business administration. While pursuing her master's in industrial and organizational psychology, she focused on relevant topics like organizational change, high-performance teamwork and customer relations. McKennna has also led webinars on workplace happiness and unconscious bias in the workplace. With her additional interest in e-commerce and finance, McKenna's work has appeared in Forbes, CBS News and
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