Do Background Checks Show Education? (How Employers Verify)

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Background Checks | May 28, 2024

Man on the right holding up his hands and questioning do background checks show education history while a background check report online shows an approved education background check.

Education Verification Background Check
Education background check searches education history, transcripts, diplomas, professional licenses, employment history, and more.

Employment applications often ask about an individual’s education history, but if a person has embellished their resume, they may wonder, “Do background checks show education?”

Basically, the question is whether a person’s real education (and even their GPA) will be part of what appears on a background screening.

There are various kinds of background investigations, many of which verify education history using various processes.

The key is understanding which ones will check education and how they do it. To learn how to look up someone’s work history, run a background check on yourself first.

The following guide provides actionable information about authenticating educational records and how employers verify applicants’ education history.

Do Background Checks Show Education History?

Though not all companies conduct background checks as part of their pre-employment process, those that do will most likely seek to confirm an individual’s self-reported education history. So, why do background checks show education history? There are several factors that contribute to this important issue.

    • A large majority of individuals polled report having lied or would lie on a resume or job application.4
      • This is a big area of concern for employers who want to ensure they are hiring individuals who are honest and trustworthy.6
    • Education history is relatively easy to verify and can provide valuable insight into a candidate’s character and integrity.7
      • Many parts of a candidate’s resume may be difficult to verify, but the education history is easy by comparison. Thus, it is a simple way to conduct a quick character check on a potential employee.
    • Education verification helps ensure that an individual is qualified for a particular job and has the necessary skills and experience.
      • No employer wants to end up in the position of having an employee who is completely unqualified for a particular job. Confirming education history can help ensure that the candidate has the skills or potential needed to succeed.3, 10

Does a Background Check Show If You Graduated High School?

If a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED)19 is required for a job, it is highly likely that the background check conducted will seek to confirm that the candidate did in fact graduate high school and receive a diploma. It can also verify which high school was attended and the dates of attendance and completion.12, 17, 18

What Is an Education Background Check?

When wondering what shows up on a background check, many people have asked “Do background checks show education?” An education background check is a background screening designed specifically to verify an individual’s self-reported education history.7 Education background checks can gather and confirm information about:2, 12, 17

      • High school attendance
      • Diploma or GED
      • College attendance
      • College degree completion
      • School attendance dates
      • Honors, awards, and certificates

In most cases, it is not too difficult to conduct a do-it-yourself (DIY) education background check as many education records can be obtained by contacting the school.7 However, there are some obstacles to a DIY background check, which are discussed in a later section of this article.

Thus, many employers pay for a third-party background screening service to conduct education background checks. This is the fastest and easiest route, as many third-party agencies access national and global databases to verify education history.6, 7

How Far Back Do Education Background Checks Go?

Education background checks are not limited by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)20 in the way that criminal background checks are.17

Therefore, an education background check can extend as far back as the individual’s educational history, if needed. Generally, education background checks will look as far back as high school, and potentially further in rare instances.4

What Happens If My Education Background Check Failed?

When an education background check is unable to confirm a candidate’s self-reported education history, it is likely to fail and will probably result in an individual losing a job opportunity.1, 3 If this scenario arises, the individual in question should follow these steps.

Step 1. Request to see a copy of the background report and any relevant information.
Step 2. Scan the report and documentation for errors or inconsistencies.
Step 3. If errors are discovered, contact the educational institution to address and resolve the issue. Inform the employer that the situation is being remedied.
Step 4. Once the issue is resolved, supply the employer with accurate, updated information.
Step 5. If there is no mistake on the background report, or the issue cannot be resolved, adjust the personal resume to reflect most current and accurate education information.

What Is Education Verification?

When people inquire “Do background checks show education,” they are referencing the education verification process. The term “education verification” is often used interchangeably with education background check. This is appropriate as education verification is the process of checking an individual’s educational background.2, 5

Dept of Education website screenshot with yellow arrow pointing to GED requirements. Education verification is designed to confirm the institutions an individual attended, the dates of attendance, the degrees obtained, and sometimes trainings and certifications as well.5

How Do Employers Verify Education? (How Do Background Checks Show Education for All Schooling Types?)

There are two primary ways that an employer can verify an individual’s education. The employer may hire a credible third-party background screening service to conduct the education background check or the employer may choose to go the DIY method. Read more about these options below.

Third-Party Education Background Check

Many employers hire professional services to conduct education background checks because it is efficient, easier, and faster. When an employer contract with a third-party service for education verification, the background check company will go through the following steps.4

      1. Check public education databases and the National Student Clearinghouse for public data.2, 4
      2. Contact reported education institutions directly to verify reported information.2
      3. Request that the candidate provides education documentation directly.2

DIY Education Background Check

A DIY background check requires a bit more time and effort on the employer’s end and may not generate the comprehensive, thorough results gathered by professionals. However, the DIY method is generally free. To conduct a DIY education verification, the employer should:7, 17

      1. Get the candidate’s signed authorization, per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).20
      2. Note the name that the candidate used while at school (e.g. maiden name).
      3. Contact the reported institution directly and make a request for the candidate’s education confirmation. Transcripts can be requested but may cost money.
      4. Google the education institution to ascertain it is credible.
      5. Check an online list of diploma mills to be doubly sure.
      6. Ask the candidate for substantiation (when needed).

Do Employers Check Education on Resumes?

In most instances where employers conduct employment background checks, education verification will be included. Education verification is a simple way to gauge a candidate’s honesty, experience, and knowledge. Sometimes, an employer may not verify reported education because they do not consider education relevant to the job position.

Do Employers Check Degrees?

Generally, the education verification process will seek to confirm each and every degree listed, as well as the attendance dates, major focus, honors received, and graduate dates.10, 18

Verifying college/university degrees is particularly important for employers as it allows them insight into a candidate’s work ethic, determination, and resiliency.7

What Does Failed Education Verification Mean?

A failed education verification means that significant inconsistencies or discrepancies were found between an individual’s self-reported education history and what was discovered during the education background check. The most common reason for this is because the applicant exaggerated or lied on the resume and/or application to appear better qualified. However, sometimes there can be a mistake with the records at the educational institution which can potentially be addressed and resolved.3, 10

What Are Some Potential Obstacles to Education Verification?

There are some potential obstacles to education verification that can complicate and sometimes prolong the background check process. Note that many of these obstacles create more difficulty for DIY background checks than for professional background checks.

Candidate Permission

Per the FCRA,20 all background checks conducted for professional reasons require the signed consent of the individual in question. This is not news to most employers, but what many employers may not know is that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)21 further protects student records. Some schools will not release student or former student information without seeing the candidate’s signed authorization form. Luckily, sending and receiving digital images and files is easier and faster than it has ever been.

Furthermore, some schools may refuse to disclose student information to outside parties entirely. In this case, the applicant can be asked to supply the education proof required.12

Professional background checks conducted by third-party companies may avoid this issue entirely by using national or global education databases to check and confirm information.

School Response Time

When conducting a DIY education background check, there are several school-related factors which can come into play. Suppose that the school in question is on summer break, is understaffed, or is no longer open. In this situation, the employer may be forced to wait or do extra research to find out where student records are held and who to contact for information.12

Additionally, schools with large populations may take longer to find a specific student’s records. Remember to always obtain the last name used by the individual at the time the education was obtained. Most schools will not have a history of name changes.12

Again, professional background checks typically circumvent this issue.

Degree Not Yet Posted

In the case where the candidate has only recently completed their education, their degree may not yet be posted. This poses a problem for professional background check services that use large databases to confirm education history, as the database may not be completely updated. In this scenario, contacting the school in question for verification is a good idea.12

Diploma Mills

One concern of increasing importance is the use of diploma mills to obtain false documentation. There are actual websites which can generate fake diplomas, degrees, and certificates, and there are plenty of individuals who will pay for these services. Unfortunately, documents provided by these sites are becoming increasingly sophisticated and may be able to fool unsuspecting employers.12

Professional background check services are likely to have records of companies to look out for. They also are trained to spot potentially fraudulent documentation.

International Education

What happens when an individual reports international education?

Some individuals are choosing to study abroad and diversify their experiences, and it may be easier for applicants to exaggerate their education history with an international school.4 Thus, international education can and should be verified in much the same way as the rest of an individual’s education history. Professional background check services can access global databases for education verification. With a DIY background check, the employer would need to contact each international school individually to obtain the necessary information. In some cases, language barriers may make this difficult.

Can I Get an Educational Background Check on Myself?

Any individual can pay for an educational background check through a third-party background screening service to ensure that their education history is up-to-date and accurate in the databases. However, a DIY education background check is totally feasible, as an individual can easily contact the school in question, provide proof of their identity, and request verification of attained education. Note that colleges typically charge a fee for copies of transcripts.8

How Do I Get an Education Background Check Free?

In many cases, it is possible to conduct a DIY education background check for free. This may involve contacting past high schools, colleges, and universities to ensure that their records are accurate, up-to-date, and accessible for background check companies.

Some institutions may require proof of identity to release education information. Furthermore, some universities do require that individuals pay for copies of their transcripts.

Most people have a copy of their resume stored on their computers or lying around somewhere to be updated at intervals and used for new job applications. Individuals may not realize that an employer is likely to verify an applicant’s reported education history.

The answer to the question “Do background checks show education” is that almost all employment background checks will seek to confirm education history, so being truthful on resumes and applications is the best policy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Do Background Checks Show Education

Do People Lie About Their Education? How Many People Lie About Their Education?

Statistics indicate that 70-85% of people report that they either have lied or would lie on their resume to appear more qualified for a job, and exaggerating or fabricating education history is one of the most common application deceptions.4, 12

An individual may lie about their education on an application to appear more desirable or competitive for a particular position. They may claim a degree or a minor focus that they did not in fact complete or list a prestigious university name when they actually attended community college. Some individuals even use diploma mills to generate false documentation. Note that any lie on a job application is a red flag.6

What If I Lied About High School Diploma Background Check?

Lying about education history is an increasingly common job application issue.3 However, this does not make it any less significant. Dishonesty on an application will be taken very seriously, as hiring managers want to employ individuals who demonstrate integrity.

While it is possible that an education background check will not verify the reported high school diploma, it’s a possibility that it might be checked. It is always advisable to be truthful on applications and come clean about any exaggerations.13 Deception leads to feeling anxious about the results of a background investigation.

Do Employers Really Verify Education?

In most instances where an employer conducts a background check, education verification will be included. Verifying education ensures that an individual is qualified for the position applied for. It also helps employers identify individuals who may be dishonest. Hiring managers for any position are going to give preference to applicants who are truthful.14

Do Concealed Carry Background Checks Show Education?

A background screening for a concealed carry permit is unlikely to show education history. Though this type of background check is fairly in-depth, it primarily examines criminal records and looks for evidence that may preclude someone from carrying a concealed weapon. Typical disqualifiers may include:

  • Severe criminal convictions (felonies)
  • Repeated criminal convictions
  • Pattern of violent, reckless, or unpredictable behavior
  • Declaration of mental insanity or incompetency

Does International Education Show Up on a Background Check?

Yes, international education can show up on a background check. Most third-party background check services will verify both continental and international education when an education background check is ordered.17
The process for verifying international education is very similar to other education background checks and may use a global education database. The key difference is that it often takes more time to verify international credentials, and customers/candidates can expect to wait up to two weeks for results.9

Verifying international education will likely be much more difficult with a DIY background check, as language barriers and communication errors may delay the process.

Can I Pass an Education Background Check Without a High School Diploma?

Education background checks will typically verify the highest education level listed. Someone who did not receive a high school diploma should not claim that they did. For many applications, valuable job experience and excellent character references can help counterbalance the lack of a diploma. However, it is always a good idea to complete the GED program to list on applications, as it is a prerequisite for many jobs.15

Do Employers Really Check Education on Resumes? Will My GPA Show Up on an Education Background Check? Will It Impact My Chances of Getting a Job?

Sometimes, during an education background check, universities will disclose college transcripts as proof of degree. In this case, the GPA will be visible to the employer or hiring manager. However, if an employer did not inquire directly about GPA during the interview, it is unlikely that it would disqualify an individual from employment.16


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19General Educational Development. (2018). Jefferson County Public Schools. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from <>

20Federal Trade Commission Protecting America’s Consumers. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Statutes. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from <>

21U.S Department of Education. (2022). Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Policy. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from <>

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