Education Verification: Your Guide To Education Background Checks

Education verification is an important part of the employee screening process and is a great way to verify your candidate has the education they say they have. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for candidates to exaggerate, or outright lie, about their education history or background — 75 percent of employers have caught a lie on a resume. 

Further, 46 percent of respondents in a staffing poll said that they know someone who included false information when applying for a job, an increase of 25 points from a 2011 survey. This false reporting can put employers at risk of hiring people who are not qualified for the position, and potentially for negligent hiring claims as well. 

This article will explain what an education background check is, as well as answer common questions about education checks, and explain how to do them so you can be confident in your hiring decisions. 

What Is An Education Background Check? 

An education background check, also referred to as an education verification or an education check, is a process used by employers to confirm the education, training, or certification claims of candidates and to identify any potential discrepancies. Often performed by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), education background checks can be used to check applicants’ attendance at high schools, universities, and vocational schools, and verify degrees earned. 

Typically, education background checks do not verify a license to work in a specific vocation, which is a different type of screening called Professional License Verification. 

An education background check is important because some candidates may not be forthright in sharing accurate information about their education backgrounds. In some cases, they may list schools they didn’t attend, or degrees they didn’t receive. 

Why Do Employers Need To Verify Education? 

Employers need to verify education because, for many positions, formal education is a foundational indication of an applicant’s ability to do the job. You’ll want to verify that candidates have the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform job functions. Educational background is one key indicator that they do. 

With the proliferation of what are often called “diploma mills” — online organizations that provide documentation of degrees for a price but don’t actually deliver or provide education — it’s increasingly easy for applicants to obtain fake degrees and other misleading credentials. 

Employers conduct education background checks to build a trustworthy team, protect their companies’ reputations, and verify that employees are qualified for the positions they’re hiring for. If not, your organization could be subject to liability.

Ready to start a background check? GoodHire provides FCRA-compliant background checks for companies of all sizes.

What Is Included In An Education Background Check? 

An education background check shows whether the educational claims that a candidate has made on their application or resume can be verified, and identifies potential discrepancies before you hire. This will encompass verifying the school attended, dates attended, degree or certificate (e.g. Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees, etc.) earned, and in some cases may include honors achieved, areas of study, and GPA.

Is GPA Included In An Education Background Check? 

GPAs are not typically included in an education background check provided by consumer reporting agencies. However, for positions where GPA is very relevant (higher ed teaching positions, for example), you may wish to request that candidates provide a transcript to verify their GPAs. 

How Far Back Do Education Background Checks Go? 

For education background checks, consumer reporting agencies are free to check the background across a prospective employee’s entire lifetime. For other types of background checks there are rules, regulations and compliance requirements that may vary on a state and local level. 

How Long Does Education Verification Take? 

Education verification takes just a few days in most cases. However, turnaround time is dependent on the responsiveness of the educational institution being queried and how readily available the information is to them. In some cases, they may need to access hard copy records which may take longer.

What Do I Need To Verify A Candidate’s Education? 

To verify a candidate’s education, you would need to provide their date of birth, name at the time they were registered and, in some cases, their Social Security number. In addition, if you’re using a CRA to conduct a background check, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that you receive job applicants’ written consent.

How Can I Check International Educations? 

International education backgrounds can also be verified using a similar process to verifying education at US schools, colleges, and universities. GoodHire can conduct international education background checks for candidates currently living in the US who have previously studied or earned a degree at institutions in 226 countries.

What Are The Legal Regulations Around Education Verification? 

When using a CRA, employers must follow federal compliance regulations and adhere to local laws when searching a candidate’s history and using background checks to make decisions about employment. Two important requirements relate to the FCRA, a federal law, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a regulatory agency. 

The FCRA requires employers to inform candidates that they will be conducting a background check and to obtain candidates’ written consent to do so. Further, if you consider not hiring a candidate based on information found in a background check – for example, if there is a discrepancy found in a candidate’s education check — you must follow the FCRA’s adverse action process.

The EEOC is concerned about any type of discrimination that may adversely impact some candidates over others. You need to be consistent in conducting background checks for all applicants, not just certain applicants based on age, race, etc. Local laws may also come into play based on both the locations you are hiring for and where applicants are located.

Clearly, compliance is a critical concern for any organization. The risk of hiring somebody who provided false education credentials can be significant both in terms of potential monetary liability and in terms of negative brand or reputation impact. Choosing the right background check company is an important part of protecting your company from this risk.

How Do I Get An Education Background Check? 

Education background checks are an important part of the screening process when considering candidates for many jobs. They help provide assurance that candidates have the education and skills required for the job and minimize liability risks that employers may face if employees do not have the appropriate education for a job. 

Education background checks can be difficult and time-consuming for those who are not familiar with the process and have not done them before. Partnering with a background check company like GoodHire can remove the difficulty, streamline the process, and save you time so you can quickly get the assurance you need that your candidates have the education background they claim. 

Trusted by more than 80,000 employers, GoodHire is an accredited employment screening provider you can turn to for fast, reliable background checks. GET STARTED.


The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.