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Job Jargon Definitions & Meaning

Last updated February 29, 2024

Starting a job can feel exciting and intimidating for many reasons– one of them being that there is a fair amount of jargon when starting. “Jargon” is a set of words that are specific to a certain topic. For example, if you play basketball, you likely know what free throws, slam dunks, and shooting percentages are. When you start a new job, you’ll see and hear words and acronyms like PTO, benefits, and W-4s being mentioned. But what do they mean and how do they work? We'll break them down for you!

Understanding your paycheck and pay stub

Most of the job jargon you’ll see regularly will likely be on your paycheck and pay stub. Read more about understanding both!

Human Resources (HR)

The Human Resources Department, also known as the HR Department, is there to ensure the well-being of all employees at the organization. This includes overseeing the entire employee life cycle: recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, and helping employees understand their benefits and professional development opportunities. Getting to know your HR representative at your job can be really helpful if you ever have questions about your pay, benefits, or workplace issues. Don’t be intimidated to check in with them– they’re there to support you! Learn more about the HR department here!

Paid time off (PTO) and unpaid time off (UTO)

Companies have policies in place for when employees need to miss work for various reasons, like when they’re sick, on vacation, need parental leave, or have been summoned for jury duty. These reasons for missing work are typically covered under PTO, or paid time off, which allows employees to take off specific amounts of time and be paid for them. Be sure to ask your HR representative about the company’s PTO policy and how it applies to your position. Your employer also may offer UTO, or unpaid time off. UTO is typically what it sounds like– time off from work that you won’t be paid for. Check in with your HR representative about your company's UTO policy and how it applies to your position.


Benefits at a job usually include things such as medical and dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and access to a 401k. Depending on your company, you may have other benefits offered to you, like tuition support or reimbursement, discounts on products, and more. It's important to note that part-time employees (employees who work 20 hours or less per week) at most jobs are not eligible for benefits, but be sure to check in with your HR representative to learn more.

A person types on a keyboard next to a laptop - Job Jargon Definitions & Meaning


A W-4 is a tax form that you will fill out with your HR representative when you start your job. This form determines how much money in federal taxes will be withheld from your paychecks. If you make under a certain amount in a year, you will most likely not end up owing any federal taxes. For example, if you worked in 2023 and made $13,850 or less, you will not need to file taxes in 2024. Be sure to work with your HR representative to complete your W-4 accurately so that you know what to expect when it’s tax season.


Your W-2 is the primary form that you will use to file your taxes. Employers typically send employees their W-2s at the beginning of the year to give them enough time to file. If you have more than one job in a year, you should receive a W-2 from each employer. If you have any questions about your W-2 and how you will use it to file your taxes, talk to your HR representative for support.

While there are many new acronyms and terms that come with starting a job, don’t be intimidated! Your managers, supervisors, and HR representative are there to support you. Have any more questions? Text #Jobs to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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