Educational Requirements

What You Need to Know About Qualifying for a Job

Hispanic girl studying at desk
••• Blend Images- JGI/Jamie Grill/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

When looking at job descriptions as you research occupations during the second step of the career planning process, there should be a section titled "Educational Requirements" or something similar, for example, "Required Training" or "Qualifications." Don't skim past this. It is critical information. It will let you learn how to become qualified to work in an occupation you are considering. The educational requirements may serve as a way to narrow down a list of possible career options. It is essential to know whether you are willing to put that much time into training.

What Do Educational Requirements Include?

A job description should provide information about the entry-level requirements for an occupation, as well as those for career advancement. It may specify one way to prepare, or it may list alternatives if there are several. These qualifications could be a combination of an academic degree, vocational degree, post-secondary certificate, formal or informal training, a professional license, and voluntary certification from a professional association.

Academic or Vocational Degree or Post-Secondary Certificate: A job description may indicate that one needs a college or graduate school degree in a particular major, for example, a Bachelor's or Master's Degree in Business, or it may not specify what field of study the degree must be in. The occupation may require a vocational degree or a post-secondary certificate that could take anywhere from a few months to two years to earn. It may state that the degree or certification should come from an accredited program.

You may learn that to enter a field you need only a high school or equivalency diploma, or no formal education at all.

Hands-on Training: In addition to, or instead of, a degree or certificate, an occupation may require specific training. It may be formal or informal. Examples of formal training are apprenticeships, internships, cooperative education, and on-the-job training. Informal training could include volunteer experience or other exposure that will prepare you to do the job.

Professional License: A license, sometimes referred to as certification or registration, is needed to work in some occupations. A job description will tell you if this is required nationwide or is compulsory in some or most states. Do not confuse mandatory certification with voluntary certification, a creditional that will be discussed later. It will also state what the steps are to getting licensed, for example, how much experience one needs and whether there is a written or practical exam. You can also use the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop to learn what the rules are for different occupations in every state.

Voluntary Certification: This credential, in contrast to mandatory certification or a license, is strictly voluntary. Some professional associations grant voluntary certification to individuals who demonstrate competence in an occupation or industry. Although not required, earning this stamp of approval could make you a more desirable job candidate. Some employers may only hire those who have it.

How to Find the Training You Need

When there are stringent requirements for entry into an occupation, for instance, training must come from an accredited program, it will be a bit harder to figure out what institution to attend. You can't just simply choose a college or vocational school because of its location, for example. These are several ways to go about finding out where to go.

Professional associations are a valuable resource when it comes to locating accredited or approved educational and training programs. First, use any search engine to find the professional association related to the occupation. Once you are on that organization's website, look for a section about education or careers. There will likely be a list of programs, as well, or links to resources you can use to locate that information.

The CareerOneStop Find Local Training Tool, sponsored by the US Department of Labor, is an excellent source for locating information about short-term training programs, colleges, certifications, apprenticeships, and internships. Search by occupation, school, or program along with the city and, state, or zip code.

Network to connect with individuals who work in the occupation you want to enter. Conduct informational interviews with them to learn the best ways to go about preparing for it. It is especially helpful to do this if there are alternatives. For example, someone with experience will be able to tell you whether getting a college degree provides better training than earning a vocational degree?

Get all the facts about educational requirements when exploring careers. It will allow you to make an informed choice as well as help you achieve your goals.