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I'm working a full-time job and career with a family and would like to finish up my degree in computer science. What do most HR departments think of graduates from University of Phoenix (which is regionally accredited)? Are the degrees earned from University of Phoenix and other accredited non-traditional schools given less "respect" than standard universities?

I'm mainly interested in knowing what HR personnel and hiring managers think of applicants with degrees from regionally accredited for-profit schools that offer both on-line and campus classes. Are they a red-flag?

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  • I would argue that all universities are around because they generate a profit to some degree. Otherwise they would be "free" as in K-12 free. The problem with schools like University of Phoenix is that they are typically known as "technical colleges" which means the classes teach skills. Having the skill to do something and the knowlege to expand those skills on your own are two different things and often do not overlap. You also don't learn everything else you learn in your typical public/private university.
    – Donald
    Aug 29 '12 at 11:29
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    what exactly does a 'for profit' university mean? Drexel charges me upwards of 30k/year, so does it count as 'for profit'?
    – acolyte
    Sep 4 '12 at 16:04
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    In short, it's a tax status thing, and there are various things organizations have to to to be non-profit. Drexel and other private schools don't have shareholders.
    – JohnMcG
    Sep 4 '12 at 16:18
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    Here's one other note. The brick-and-mortar for profit classes are generally taught by industry professionals (like me at one point). A student who makes a positive impression on one of these instructors will have access to that instructor's professional network. The degree may not make an impression, but a referral from a known professional might.
    – JohnMcG
    Sep 4 '12 at 16:25
  • @JohnMcG That seems like a good point.
    – Chimera
    Sep 4 '12 at 17:18
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I believe that the litmus test for degree viability is the accreditation of the university. If the school is at the least regionally accredited by one of the recognized accrediting bodies then the product has credibility.

I have had no problems going to work for Fortune 500 employers with my my two degrees from regionally accredited for profit universities. I am not in HR but as a frequent hiring manager the combination of education and expereince gets my attention. The interview gets the job. Once I hire a candidate that person has to deliver.

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  • I agree with this. UoP is regionally and nationally accredited. That has to mean something.
    – Chimera
    Nov 4 '13 at 17:22
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Quite frankly, as a hiring manager (who is the person you really have to impress; the HR person just gives your resume a glance to weed out the obvious lowballers), a degree from a for-profit tells me you couldn't get a degree anywhere else. Honestly, I'd rather see a community college associates', telling me you went to night school, than an online correspondence degree.

Why? First off, let's review the courses of a BS in IT-SE from University of Phoenix. The degree program has very good emphasis on programming, but very weak emphasis on what you will be programming. Two semesters of Java, two of .NET, one of basic Web languages (HTML, CSS), that's all fine. But, almost anyone you are hired to program for will want you to know something about his business, or at the very least about all business. There is one course, one, attempting to cover everything you ever needed to know about business, with an emphasis on coding it, NOT understanding it. The Texas Tech MIS BBA degree path requires a semester each of finance and marketing, with two of accounting. That's on top of a general education requirement of two semesters of economics, which I don't see at all in the UP degree plan. A Tech CS degree would have given you backing in graphics and operating system programming.

The program's also very light on math; only 9 hours total. A Texas Tech CS B.S. pretty much hands you a math minor to go with it; most students start with three semesters of differential/integral/vector calculus (if you have to start with college algebra a CS degree is probably not in the cards), then linear algebra (matrix math), differential equations, foundations of algebra (where they show you the extremely complex higher math behind all of the simple equations and identities they told you to take for granted in pre-cal/calculus), and discrete math (set theory, field theory, etc). Even MIS, which isn't nearly as math-intensive, has two semesters of algebra and calculus followed by a semester of stats, and then finance is algebra-heavy (accounting has math of course, but it's mostly arithmetic).

So, while on the surface it looks like you're being given a solid backing on the ins and outs of coding, I would usually much prefer you have a knowledge of the actual business processes that you're automating with your code. I can tell if you grok coding with five minutes and a FizzBuzz problem, and I can tell in maybe another half hour of general questions whether you're experienced enough with .NET to not be completely useless your first day (and the UP degree program teaches VB.NET; C# is by far the more popular language, though you'll get used to it fast enough with the Java experience). What's going to be problematic for you is when I ask you what a credit memo is, or what accounts might be acceptable choices to hold the debit for a decrease in accounts receivable, or what a bond package is.

In addition, you learned all this by sitting in front of a pre-recorded lecture. Most of these courses are "on your own time", meaning that passing them is a matter of hammering at it until you pass the test. Semesters of a four-year college are calendar semesters; if you don't get it by test time, you fail. Fail enough and you're out; state and private colleges aren't interested in taking your money and watching you fail, because it destroys their reputation of producing quality graduates. They will instead "recommend" that you pursue other interests. A for-profit school doesn't really care; take the class 50 times, it's just more money for them. So, a four-year degree from a brick-and-mortar college tells me you at least learn quickly enough to pass a semester class in a semester (or two; no shame in retaking a couple of courses), and can keep pace with an overall course of study.

Lastly, though this doesn't really matter much to me as the hiring manager, being a "Phoenix" means you have zero personal networking. In a brick-and-mortar school, you sit in class with friends, impress your professors, and by the time you get out, you have reference letters and LinkedIn contacts which give you a leg up in finding your first job and moving up (or sideways if necessary). An online graduate has very little of that; the professors have never seen you in person, and they teach thousands of students every semester. Your entire college career is spent in the equivalent of classrooms larger than the average freshman English or Chemistry lecture course, where the prof has 5 sections of 500-600 students a day and couldn't care less who you are or how much you've excelled. Pretty much any interpersonal relationships you form with other Phoenix students are either superficial or existed before you joined.

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    +1 I think also a 4 year degree with some level of broad education that just helps with general critical thinking. You're not hired to be a coding robot but a general problem solver.
    – Doug T.
    Sep 4 '12 at 19:40
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    A lot of what you said makes sense, but I find parts of this answer overly business-centric in the domain knowledge someone needs to get a programming job. There are lots of jobs in other domains: systems, science, healthcare, education, gaming .... Furthermore, when I did business programming (I'm in science now), I spent more time on topics that generally wouldn't be taught in school - worker's compensation, for example - than on the accounting systems.
    – GreenMatt
    Jan 10 '13 at 21:12
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    Well I'm not saying that any 4-year degree would teach you everything you ever needed to know to do a job; even an MBA/MS/PhD wouldn't do that. There are several reasons for that, perhaps the foremost being that things change. Workman's comp rules, for instance. However, I will say that what I learned about accounting, finance etc was much more important in getting me my first job, and then my second, than the number of languages I'd coded in. It wasn't until my third and current job that the interviewers were more interested in how well I knew the languages and frameworks than the business.
    – KeithS
    May 8 '13 at 19:55
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What do most HR departments think of graduates from University of Phoenix (which is regionally accredited)?

In my experience, most HR departments view all degrees equally unless they're MIT/Harvard/Stanford sorts.

Hiring managers on the other hand will vary a bit more. Personally, I consider University of Phoenix, ITT (sorry IIT), DeVry, etc to be worth less than the paper they're printed on. I don't need an employee who is trained in a trade. I need someone with a well rounded background, who can apply that knowledge to solve problems, and grow with technology as it changes.

But as a software engineer without a degree, I fully understand the difficulties in getting past HR, and the (different) bias that other managers place on your education. If you have the opportunity to attend a more traditional college (even via a non-traditional route; many universities offer classes online/nights/weekends these days) then I'd recommend that. Everyone likes them.

If you can't, it depends on your locale. I would prefer a candidate that spent 4 years writing code and learning at their own pace over one that spent the money on a for-profit trade school. But that's probably not common amongst employers, especially in more traditional industries.

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    @Chimera - Networking helps get past some of the barriers. Every policy can be circumvented if the right people say it's okay. Beyond that, I'm not sure. I've found it easier to reward those companies without such rigid policies.
    – Telastyn
    Aug 28 '12 at 18:23
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    I agree wholeheartedly; if you have 20 years experience in the field of software engineering, you should know everything a college would teach you about software engineering, and probably everything you needed to know about the other "well-rounded" subjects they also require. However, there's a chance that they want the college degree because the college degree would give you advanced math, or stats, or accounting, which is directly applicable to the job. So, do your homework and ask around; the last thing you need is to fight for an interview, then fail a basic dual-entry accounting question.
    – KeithS
    Aug 28 '12 at 23:41
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    @Telastyn "University of Phoenix, IIT, DeVry," -- do you mean ITT instead of IIT? IIT is the Illinois Institute of Technology, a highly-regarded private university in downtown Chicago with three Nobel laureates on its faculty.
    – tcrosley
    Sep 4 '12 at 17:09
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    I don't think University of Phoenix is a trade school. The curriculum includes the normal GRE type stuff of other traditional universities.
    – Chimera
    Sep 4 '12 at 17:16
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    @Chimera I know two people to attend, and their 'college mathematics' was what I took in sixth grade. A bachelor's of computer science does not need Java I and II as well as .NET I and II. Trade school.
    – Telastyn
    Sep 4 '12 at 17:36
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I have viewed colleges/universities in one of four levels:

  • Top Tier: They are in the top ten for your field of study, or are viewed as as top university by a majority of people.
  • State school or Private school that is national or regionally known. The majority of schools fall into this category.
  • For-Profit colleges/Universities.
  • Fraudulent schools/Diploma Mills.

The problem is that it can be tough to tell the difference between the last two categories. In the worst of these schools many students drop out before graduating. If they try to transfer the credits aren't accepted by other schools. The students have trouble repaying their student loans.

Corporations have been burned by worthless or even fake degrees. Some organizations will not allow current employees to take employer paid for classes at the for-profit schools.

If the company limits the schools current employees can attend, they are likely to look unfavorably on these same schools when hiring new employees.

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I'm not in HR. In my experience the roles the HR team play depends on the role being filled. For developer roles then the HR team handles agencies and getting job descriptions out in the wild, not any validation on the incoming CVs. That is a job for the development team and this is were I come in.

Personally I don't really look at the "Education" section of a CV unless it is junior role. The degree will get a glance at most, not enough to work out where you took it. As such for me it would not matter.

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  • You make a good point. Of course why do so many job postings that say "must have 10 years experience in ..." also require a degree?
    – Donald
    Aug 29 '12 at 11:35
  • How many actually require a degree? I know the role we were advertising "required a degree" but we employed someone without one.
    – mlk
    Aug 29 '12 at 12:55
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    NOTE: I'm not saying degrees are worthless. However once you get past "junior developer" if your work experience does not scream "I'm good" then your degree is not going to either.
    – mlk
    Aug 29 '12 at 12:58
  • to your earlier question. I actually have no idea, but everyone wants a degree, so I got one. I also understand that true broad experience can trump a degree holder with no experience, having that degree can help, it shows at one point you understood the basics.
    – Donald
    Sep 5 '12 at 13:52
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I have an undergraduate degree from a prestigious University and a Masters from University of Phoenix. I think the only negative thing about my online education from the university of Phoenix is the stigma associated with obtaining a degree online. Some of the comments assumed that one could not get an education anywhere else, or that you are learning a trade. University of Phoenix is costly but requires their teachers to not only hold at least a masters but to also have worked in the profession at which they teach for at least 10 years. The hiring process for their staff is also lengthy but once hired they each teacher is peered with a mentor. They offer the convenience of furthering your education while working, traveling or raising a family. UOP also teaches a combination of theory and practice which you can not achieve in a normal college setting without an internship of some sort. This type of simulated learning appeals to many employers who often send their employees to UOP because the education provided saves the employer time and money that would normally be spent on extensive training. I don't know about other disciplines but I work in the health field and I knew more about the field, rules, regulations, and how to actually do my job than many of my fellow coworkers who have traditional degrees and who have been working for quite some time. Its very disheartening to hear that Hiring managers would discriminate without further research.

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    Hi Dani! And welcome to the Workplace! Thanks for this great information from a student's perspective. It would help a bit if you could reorganize the post and highlight the experience you yourself have had with employers and the UOP, as well as the value of the training. And I'd advise eliminating commentary on other answers since it distracts from the value of your content. Dec 16 '13 at 19:52
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In the State of Arizona, University of Phoenix has the same accreditation as U of A, ASU, and other private schools. Most classes are offered in person and modeled off of a Masters program. You will meet once a week and are provided assignments to complete both individually and in a group setting.

For the IT field, I would say you will need more math intensive training which is included in the University of Phoenix classes. This will include all of what Keoth S had mentioned.

"The program's also very light on math; only 9 hours total. A Texas Tech CS B.S. pretty much hands you a math minor to go with it; most students start with three semesters of differential/integral/vector calculus (if you have to start with college algebra a CS degree is probably not in the cards), then linear algebra (matrix math), differential equations, foundations of algebra (where they show you the extremely complex higher math behind all of the simple equations and identities they told you to take for granted in pre-cal/calculus), and discrete math (set theory, field theory, etc). Even MIS, which isn't nearly as math-intensive, has two semesters of algebra and calculus followed by a semester of stats, and then finance is algebra-heavy (accounting has math of course, but it's mostly arithmetic)."

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As a career changer who attended the University of Phoenix for my Masters in Education I was quite surprised when I did my internship in an elementary school and witnessed an obvious lack of technology knowledge and skills among many of the teachers there.

In addition, the average student attending UOP has been in the workplace (as they are older students) very diffetent from an 18 year old's lack of life experience.

I excelled in the classroom, I came from a back ground in sales as well as providing tools to small businesses to help them grow their business.

Many bright and very talented individuals attend online accredited universities, because they work full time and have families.

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    Hello Jean, welcome to The Workplace. This isn't a blog but is in fact a questions and answers site, so answers posted are expected to answer the question posted at the very top of all of the answers. What's more, it sounds like you have some experience with this, so if you can answer with facts, references, and personal experiences, that would add value. Please see the tour page to get an idea for how our site works. I edited out the parts referring to other answers since it didn't answer the question. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Dec 24 '13 at 1:45

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