Although employers tend to emphasize relevant work experience, a candidate’s education may also be relevant to a position. For example, certain jobs might require specific educational backgrounds and degrees to qualify for employment. In these cases, employers may need to verify the accuracy of school attendance and degrees that candidates present, often as part of a background check.

What is education verification?

Education verification is a type of reference check performed before a candidate is hired, typically after a conditional offer of employment is extended. It may confirm a candidate’s date of attendance at a particular educational institution and/or receipt of a particular degree. Employers usually contact the school to obtain this information.

In what situations would employers want to verify an applicant's education?

Verifying an applicant’s education may be necessary if specialized training or certification is essential to the duties of a position. For some jobs, a candidate’s education may also be used to make financial decisions, like starting compensation.

Even if there are no prerequisites and employees will be trained on the job, it may still be worthwhile to check educational history to verify the accuracy of the information provided by candidates. Evidence of dishonesty on a resume or application could impact hiring decisions.

How do employers perform education verification?

When validating education, employers must comply with applicable laws relating to privacy, as well as notice and consent requirements. There are three generally accepted methods:

  1. Contact the schools or higher learning institutions directly
  2. Ask the candidates to provide a copy of their diploma or transcripts
  3. Work with a third-party background check service

The last option is an efficient and reliable way to verify education. Many background check providers will also check criminal history and may provide any necessary drug and medical screenings.

What does a background check for education show?

When background screening providers verify education, they may provide the following information:

  • Degree awarded upon coursework completion
  • Dates of enrollment and attendance
  • Level attained (i.e., high school, college, GED)

If employers need more detailed information on grade point average (GPA) or coursework completed, they may have to request a transcript copy directly from the candidate.

How to choose the best education verification service

Navigating background check regulations presents pitfalls, which is why employers should look for screening service providers who:

  • Are knowledgeable and reputable
  • Build compliance elements into their services
  • Collaborate with employers to better understand their current compliance requirements
  • Provide best practice recommendations for compliant background screenings

Frequently asked questions about education verification

How far back do education background checks go?

Background checks usually verify whether a candidate received a post-high school academic degree from an educational institution. If necessary, high school diplomas and GED credentials may also be confirmed.

How can I check international education?

Background check restrictions vary by country. Employers who need to verify a degree earned outside the United States may need to enlist a screening service provider and consult counsel to help comply with international privacy and employment laws.

What legal restrictions are related to education verification?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects student education records. In addition, employers that hire third parties for background checks must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires certain notices and consents prior to conducting verification. Employers must also give candidates a chance to correct information they think is erroneous before denying them employment due to background checks. State laws may impact the scope and timing of background checks, as well.

Is GPA included in an education background check?

Education verification typically does not include GPA. Employers who require this information may need to ask students to provide copies of their transcripts.

This article is intended to be used as a starting point in analyzing employment education verification and is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.

ADP Editorial Team

ADP Editorial Team The ADP editorial team is comprised of human resource professionals with extensive experience solving complex HR challenges for businesses of all sizes.