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What Does Discipline Mean on a Job Application? — The Answer

What Does Discipline Mean on a Job Application? — The Answer

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Business English is famous for being confusing. And as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, that’s especially true on job applications.

Today, we’ll take a look at a particularly unclear part of some job applications: what to put when one asks for your discipline.

What does “discipline” mean on a job application?

On a job application, discipline has nothing to do with punishment. Instead, you’re being asked to provide an area of study you excel in, usually as part of a university degree. For example, if you have a BA in biology, you would list biology in the discipline section.

Discipline: a multifaceted word

Ordinarily, the word “discipline” is used to talk about punishing somebody for something. However, this word is actually quite versatile.

The Oxford English Dictionary records no fewer than 12 different meanings for discipline—and that’s only when it’s used as a noun.

As fun a pastime as it is, though, we’re not here to go dictionary diving. So let’s focus on the type of discipline that shows up on job application forms.

In this case, that’s definition 7a, where discipline refers to a specific type of knowledge gained via a formal education.

If you’re in university yourself, or have been recently, you might be more familiar with people asking what your major is or what you majored in.

This version of discipline is more or less the same, although they tend to be broader than degrees.

How to list your discipline on a job application

For jobs that only require any college degree, it might seem strange that an application would ask your discipline.

However, while knowing you were able to complete a degree is important to an employer, they will also want to know what you learned.

Asking for your major will give them some idea of that, but because majors differ by university it can be more efficient to understand the general discipline you studied.

In short, the thing to keep in mind if a job form is asking for your discipline is that your prospective employer wants to know what kind of knowledge you’re likely to have received from your formal education.

This means you should avoid listing your major or degree name and instead provide a general field of study such as business, literature or biology.

Just remember why you’re being asked to list your discipline and be truthful.



The following are some common disciplines that are appropriate for using on a job application. Again, don’t list it unless you actually studied it!

  • Biology
  • Accounting
  • Management
  • Political science
  • Economics
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Law
  • Anthropology


What do put if you don’t have a university degree

If you didn’t go to university, few things are more discouraging than job applications which assume you have a degree.

However, while it can be tempting to put something in a sarcastic or clever response if you haven’t pursued a degree and don’t have a specialty or discipline to list, it’s a bad idea.

Doing so might hurt your chances of getting hired much more than just being clear you don’t have a formal, university education.

Instead, try to highlight the unique skills and knowledge you would bring to a job. Your application will be a lot stronger as a result.


What is the meaning of “degree discipline”? 

The term “degree discipline” refers to the area of academia that a person’s university degree is in. A discipline is a grouping of degree programs into a common scholastic field. If you come across the phrase “degree discipline” while filling out a job application, you are being asked what (if any) academic area you have earned a degree in. 

An employer may decide to use the term “degree discipline” instead of just “discipline” to make it clear that they are asking what discipline you have earned a college or university degree in. Degrees you might have earned include a BA, MA, MS, JD, MFS, MD, etc. 

When hiring managers ask about candidates’ disciplines, it is wise for them to specify that they are asking about fields applicants hold a qualification in. After all, as the head of a company, you need to be able to back up your employees’ expertise with evidence. 

If employers fail to ask about educational qualifications when asking about disciplines, the answers they get may not be that helpful. 

If you do not have a university degree, you can respond “not indicated” on a job application.


The meaning of “discipline” in educational qualifications

The meaning of “discipline” when it comes to educational qualifications is the broad field of academia a person has earned a degree in. 

Disciplines also have sub-disciplines. When asked about your discipline, feel free to provide both the broader field of academia you studied in as well as the narrower sub-discipline(s) that you specialized in. 

For example, the category “humanities” is a group of similar disciplines. The disciplines within this group include, history, philosophy, theology, literature, languages, law, performing arts and visual arts. While this is a standard overview of the disciplines considered humanities, individual universities may differ in their categorizations. 

These disciplines then contain sub-disciplines. So, for example, “history” contains the sub-disciplines “American history,” “environmental history,” “world history” and many more. And each of these contains sub-sub-disciplines.

But don’t let any of this confuse you! The US Education System isn’t too hard to explain. The meaning of a discipline when it comes to an educational qualification is generally what university or college department you were awarded your degree by.


Frequently asked questions about academic disciplines 


What do people mean when they ask you, “What’s your discipline?” 

When people ask you “What’s your discipline?” they mean what field of academia did you study or are you currently studying within. Whether you are an undergraduate or a PhD student, if you study a subject within a discipline, answer the question “What’s your discipline?” by naming it. This might be history, anthropology, economics, law, psychology etc.  


What is the meaning of course discipline in an application form? 

The meaning of course discipline in an application form is the area of study that you are currently or were previously enrolled in. Asking for an applicant’s course discipline is a way of requesting information about what university department oversees their studies. This could be literature, biology, astronomy, mathematics, etc. 


What is your discipline in university? 

Your discipline in university is your broad area of study. If you study a subject within the field of history, then history is your discipline. If your degree program is part of the school of mathematics, then mathematics is your discipline.  


What does “discipline” mean on a resume? 

“Discipline” on a resume means “field of academic study.” It refers to the department your degree program belonged to when you were at university. One of the top tips for writing a resume is to include both your discipline, sub-discipline, and the name of your specific degree title in the “Education” section.