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Job Jargon Definitions and Meaning

Last updated October 28, 2021

Starting a first job can feel exciting and daunting for a bunch of reasons. One of the reasons for confusion is that there is so much jargon with a new job. “Jargon” is a set of words that are specific to a certain topic. For example, if you play basketball you know about free throws, slam dunks, and shooting percentage. When you get a job, you’ll find words and acronyms like PTO, benefits, and W4. What do they mean? Have no fear - we’ve got you covered!

Deciphering your Paycheck and Pay Stub

Most of the jargon you will find will be on your paycheck and your pay stub. Luckily, we have a whole article and video on how to read your paycheck and pay stub!

There will certainly be other new terms that aren’t on your paycheck. Here are some key words to know:

Human Resources (HR)

The Human Resources or “HR Department" is there to look out for the well-being of all employees at the organization. This includes overseeing the entire employee life cycle - recruitment, hiring, onboarding new employees, training, employee benefits, and professional development. You can read even more here.

Paid Time Off (PTO) and Unpaid Time Off (UTO)

Employers must have policies in place for when employees miss work for different reasons. We often think of these in terms of sick days, vacation days, or other types of leave like parental leave or even jury duty. Your employer should have a policy for PTO, or paid time off. This is a term that may include all of the different reasons for missing work. Be sure to ask your HR representative about the company’s PTO policy and what applies to your position. Your employer also may offer UTO, or unpaid time off. This may be time that you are allowed to miss work for a while and not lose your job, but you will not be paid for that time.


The term "benefits" at a job usually pertains to things like medical and dental insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance. Depending on your company, you may have other benefits to take advantage of like tuition support or discounts on products.


A W-4 is a tax form that you will fill out with your HR representative when you start your job. Basically, this form will determine how much federal tax will be withheld from your paycheck. If you make under $12,000 per year you will not end up owing any federal tax, but be sure to work with your HR representative to fill this out in the best way possible for your situation.


A W-2 is a tax form that you will receive from your employer at the end of the year. This is the primary form that you will use to file your tax return. If you have more than one job in the year, you will have multiple W-2 forms from that year (lucky you!). There are many free tax support services available across the country. Check with your local library system first as a great resource!

There may be many more questions, definitions, or help you need so be sure to text #Jobs to 33-55-77 and one of our trained job advisors will help you out with your specific questions! 

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Things To Look For In Tuition Reimbursement Programs [Quiz]

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