Education is primarily used to mean formal schooling or other training which contributes to ability to meet vocational requirements, for example, reasoning ability, communication skills, and arithmetical ability. However, if an individual does not have formal schooling, this does not necessarily mean that he or she is uneducated or lacks these abilities. The term “education” also includes how well the individual is able to communicate in English. Unless there is evidence to contradict a person’s statement as to the numerical grade level completed in school, the statement will be used to determine the person’s educational abilities. The person’s present level of reasoning, communication, and arithmetical ability may be higher or lower than the level of formal education. Evidence of this includes the kinds of responsibilities the person had when working, any acquired skills, daily activities, and hobbies, as well as the results of testing. Therefore, a person will meet the criteria for the different education levels specified in the regulations, not solely on the basis of his or her statements, but based upon all evidence pertinent to evaluating that person’s educational capacities.

Categories of Education:

1. Illiteracy—Illiteracy means the inability to read or write. SSA considers someone illiterate if the person cannot read or write a simple message such as instructions or inventory lists, even though the person can sign his or her name. Generally, an illiterate person has had little or no formal schooling.

2. Marginal Education—Marginal education means ability in reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills which are needed to do simple, unskilled types of jobs. SSA generally considers that formal schooling at a 6th grade level or less is a marginal education.

3. Limited Education—Limited education means ability in reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills, but not enough to allow a person with these educational qualifications to do most of the more complex job duties needed in semi-skilled or skilled jobs. SSA generally considers that a 7th grade through the 11th grade level of formal education is a limited education.

4. High School Education and Above—High school education and above means abilities in reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills acquired in formal schooling at a 12th grade level or above. SSA generally considers that someone with these educational abilities can do semi-skilled through skilled work. High school education includes a General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

The criterion of “high school or graduate or more—provides for direct entry into skilled work” is met when there is little time lapse between the completion of formal education and the date of adjudication, and where the content of the education would enable individuals, with a minimal degree of job orientation, to begin performing the skilled job duties of certain identifiable occupations with their RFC.

5. Inability to Communicate in English—Since the ability to speak, read and understand English is generally learned or increased at school, SSA may consider this an educational factor. Because English is the dominant language of the country, it may be difficult for someone who doesn’t speak and understand English to do a job, regardless of the amount of education the person may have in another language. Therefore, SSA considers a person’s ability to communicate in English when it evaluates what work, if any, he or she can do. It generally doesn’t matter in what other language a person may be fluent.