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Employment Vocabulary

Tip: Use CTRL + F  to open a search box to make finding a word easier.

401(k) Plan

A retirement savings account sponsored by an employer that lets workers save and invest a piece of their paycheck before taxes are taken out. An advantage of a 401K is that many employers will typically match employee contributions.


Active Listening

The practice of paying close attention to a speaker and asking questions to ensure full comprehension.



Something that makes life easier or more pleasant. Perks you may get if you rent at a multi-unit complex such as swimming pools, weight rooms, and security.



An application is a form used to apply for a position. They may be online or at a computer kiosk, as well as traditional pen and paper. Often they are used as screenings by employers and the online ones may contain personality tests or other assessments.



A system of training in a trade or profession with on-the-job training that often helps tradespeople to gain a license to practice in their profession.


Background Checks

Pennsylvania state law requires that any person working in a position where they have contact with children under the age of 18 have background checks done.  This is standard in Early Childhood and in Health related professions. The three background checks used in PA are the PA State Police Clearance, PA Child Abuse Clearance, and FBI Clearance.



Things employers may offer you in addition to your wages. For example: sick days, maternity leave, holidays, paid vacation, reimbursement for parking space area, mileage for travel, and tuition reimbursement. Sometimes they are called “perks”.


Bereavement Day

A day off that your employer may offer you that allows you to take time off to attend funerals or attend to a death in the family.


Blue Collar

Refers to a position where one performs manual or physical labor.



Designations earned by a person to show that they are qualified to perform a particular job or task.



Classifieds are advertisements in a newspaper, magazine, or online, where you casn find employment opportunities; the section of a newspaper where these are found.



See Background Checks



A way of being paid where a person’s pay is a percent of the total amount of goods they sell. Some people who work on commission do not make an hourly wage, they only make the commission.  Some careers that work on commission are realtors, car salespeople, and salespeople in general.


Co-Op (Cooperative Education)

Cooperative education is a type of internship program that enables students to receive career training with pay as they work with professionals in their field of study.

Cover Letter

A letter of introduction that is sent along with a resume. It highlights any information you would like the employer to know that isn’t on your resume.


Credit Score

Short version: Your Credit Score is your reputation with money; how well you can manage it.

Long version: Your Credit Score is a three-digit number generated by a mathematical algorithm using information in your credit report. It's designed to predict risk, specifically, the likelihood that you will become seriously delinquent on your credit obligations in the 24 months after scoring.



Money that is deducted from your gross wages. Most deductions are for taxes – federal, state and local, as well as Social Security/OASDI. Not all deductions are taxes, some are for insurance, union dues, savings accounts and other types of deductions.



Degrees are certifications that are issued by colleges and universities. There are Associate, Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral Degrees. More information on degrees here.


A person who relies on another as a primary source of income. For example, a minor child, under the age of 18 is a dependent of his or her parent. Parents/guardians may claim a dependent as a deduction on their income taxes.


Direct Deposit

Your employer automatically deposits your paycheck into your bank account instead of getting a paper check.


Entry Level

A job that is normally designed for recent graduates of a given field, and does not require prior experience in the profession.



A temporary situation where employees stop working, but retain their jobs and do not get paid. During a furlough, employees keep their benefits and anticipate that they will return to work within a certain period of time.

Gross Wages/Gross Pay

The amount of your paycheck before deductions (which include taxes) are taken out.



Unlawful suggestive, sexual or abusive treatment directed toward a person. Usually grounds for firing.


Human Resources

In larger companies, Human Resources or “HR” is the department that is responsible for employee relations such as hiring, firing, harassment issues, and other questions employees may have about their benefits.



The price to borrow money. A charge for a loan, usually a percentage of the amount loaned.


Internal Revenue Service

Often called the IRS, this government department is responsible for collecting federal taxes. The annual filing date for taxes is April 15th.



An opportunity for a student to gain on-the-job experiences. This is (usually) not a paid position. You are paid with experience instead of money.



A meeting with the employer and potential employee where the employer asks questions to see if a person would be a good employee for their company.


Job Shadow

An opportunity (usually once or twice) to follow someone in the field you’re studying. It gives you a chance to see what is involved in that career and if you would like it or not.


Laid Off

The term used for ending of a person’s employment if they are losing the job due to downsizing or the business is closing that it is not their fault. If you are laid off, you are able to collect Unemployment Benefits.


Minimum Wage

This is the least amount of money per hour an employer can pay you for doing a job. Minimum wages vary across the country. PA goes with the Federal Minimum Wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.83 per hour, however, an employer will have to make up the difference if the employee’s tips and the $2.83 per hour do not meet the full Pennsylvania minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.



To bargain with an employer about your wages.



The unfair practice by an employer of giving jobs and other favors to relatives.


Net Wages/Net Pay

The amount of your paycheck after deductions have been taken out.



Networking is using friends, family, and people in organizations that you know to help you find employment.



See Social Security


Payment for additional work done outside of regular working hours. The rate for overtime is usually "time and a half", some employees may pay "double time" for holidays.


Paystub/Pay Statement

Traditionally the paystub is attached to your paycheck and it shows how many hours you worked, how much you were paid, how much taxes and deductions were taken out and other relevant information like vacation days and sick days. With Direct Deposit many employers email paystubs to employees or require employees to go online to look up their information.



A portfolio is collection of a person’s work and achievements to bring on an interview. It is basically a “brag book” of you and the work you have achieved in your chosen profession. Documents included in a typical portfolio include a resume, letters of reference, evidence of work, photographs or samples of work, certifications and awards.



Advancement in rank or position in a company.



Being on time.



An ability, characteristic or experience that makes you suitable for a particular career or activity. Some of these may include background checks, having a valid driver’s license, passing a drug test or other types of specific experiences.



A reference is a person who knows you and is willing to describe and support you when you are trying to gain employment; a statement to a person's character or ability.



A resume is an outlined written description of your skills, education, qualifications, and previous employment, which you send to an employer when you are looking for a position.



A fixed regular payment, typically paid on a monthly or biweekly basis but often expressed as an annual sum, made by an employer to an employee, especially a professional or white-collar worker.


Sales Tax

A tax that is added to the price of goods and services. PA sales tax is 6%. Not all items are taxable.



A test or assessment, done especially to detect an unwanted attribute or substance. Many online applications now contain screenings.



The idea that people who have been in a place of employment for a longer time have  precedence over newly hired people. Usually when a company is laying off employees, it is in the opposite order of how they were hired.

Social Security/OASDI

Social Security is a program that uses tax dollars to provide money for Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI). The current tax rate (deduction on your paycheck) for Social Security is 6.2% for the employer and 6.2% for the employee, or 12.4% total.



The term used for ending of a person’s employment if they are dismissed or fired. If a person is fired, they cannot collect Unemployment Benefits.



The rate at which employees leave a workforce and are replaced. Low turnover rates mean employees stay, high turnover rates means employees leave/quit a lot.

Under the Table

Usually a job where you are paid in cash with no taxes taken out. It is always illegal for the employer. If the employee does not report the income and pay taxes on it, then it becomes illegal for the employee as well.

Unemployment Benefits

A regular payment made by the government to somebody who is out of work (unemployed).


An organization of workers formed to protect the rights and interests of its members.



The collective name for services offered to the public; electricity, gas, water, trash removal, and sewer.



A fixed regular payment, typically paid on a daily or weekly basis, made by an employer to an employee, especially to a manual or unskilled worker, usually an hourly rate or daily rate of pay.


W-2 Form

The W-2 form is mailed to you by your employer at the end of the tax year. The W-2 form reports an employee's annual wages and the amount of taxes withheld from his or her paycheck. This form is necessary to do your annual taxes.


W-4 Form

The W-4 form is filled out before you start your position. The W-4 is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form you complete to let your employer know how much money to withhold from your paycheck for federal taxes. Accurately completing your W-4 can ensure you don't have a big balance due at tax time. It can also prevent you from overpaying your taxes, putting more money in your pocket during the year.


White Collar

Refers to a position where one performs a professional, managerial or administrative work.


Work Ethic

The belief that work has a moral benefit and an inherent ability to strengthen character.

An employee with a strong work ethic will be more likely to be promoted than an employee who is not committed to their job and responsibilities.


Work Permit

Any student under the age of 18 is required to obtain one of these from their school district. They cannot work without one. Work Permits help prevent abuse of Child Labor Laws. Once you are 18, you do not need a permit.


Year to Date (YTD)

On a paystub, Year to Date (YTD) shows how much money the employee has made and how much has been taken out for deductions for the year so far - January through December. Usually the amount shown for YTD on your last paystub of the year is the same amount that is on your W-2 form.



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