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Here in USA I currently work as an IT Consultant at a large Massachusetts-based retailer. Looking at the demographics of the IT personnel, about 50% of them are from India. The vast majority of these have a degree from some Indian University (such as University of Lucknow) that an average American has probably never heard of.

Besides that we have some random people from Europe and some of these have a degree from a university located in Antwerp or Tampere.

So here in America we also have this mentality (or maybe this is just an impression that marketers or Hollywood likes to promote) that investing into a degree from some high end University (e.g. MIT, DeVry, etc.) is better for ones career than some lesser known University (say, University of Oklahoma).

But looking at what kind of people are doing the IT work, and where their degrees are from, I am curious to know whether there is much difference?

Here I would define "IT work" as all work dealing with the "server side" support of a large enterprise, including (but not limited to):

  • Software development (COBOL, Java, C#)
  • Enterprise architecture
  • Administration of server farms
  • Enterprise security (maintaining, configuring, planning security architectures)

Above categories are all examples of IT work where the demographics are as explained earlier.

How much value do HR people put in a degree from a prestigious university, as opposed to some less known American (or European, or Chinese) university?

(This question is of interest especially considering the cost of studies at some more prestigious university in USA vs. some of the other universities.)

  • 2
    What exactly do you mean by "IT work"? this can be anything from senior software development architect at Google to help desk tech at your retailer. – ThomasMcLeod Mar 13 '15 at 1:41
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    There are millions of IT jobs in the US. HR people can't afford to think in terms of university prestige - the pool of candidates from prestigious universities is not deep enough. – Roger Mar 13 '15 at 1:43
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    The prestige of the university always matters. It's just that it matters more in some cases than in others. – ThomasMcLeod Mar 13 '15 at 1:55
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    You should not consider cost as a primarily driver factor of where you get a education. The primary factor is quality of the education. The next important is whether the particular program meets your interest. – ThomasMcLeod Mar 13 '15 at 1:58
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    DeVry is high end? – Chris L Mar 13 '15 at 20:00
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I attended the University of Waterloo which would be a prestigious Canadian university where Microsoft is known to get a bunch of their interns as well as being the home of Blackberry that has seen better days.

The advantage of this kind of school can come in a few forms:

  1. Networks - Some companies may actively seek out grads from those top schools as MIT, Stanford, Berkeley and other big name CS schools in the US may be where relationships form. My first job out of university was in Seattle, Washington for a dot-com where the CEO had gone to Waterloo and they put the job ad there rather than at other schools to find developers in 1998.

  2. Familiarity - If I'm talking to a fellow Waterloo grad there can be references to courses or places on campus that may not be true of people from other places. Thus, it can be how I trust someone by knowing what school they attended. I have co-workers that would say similar things of SAIT which is a polytechnic school here in Alberta.

  3. Fame - Last but not least, for some places the name alone can bring a some respect that can be hard to get otherwise. This would be where Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale can work more on reputation of the institution than the greatness of its grads where some tech companies were started by grad students like Yahoo! and Google.

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    I didn't go to an ivy league college, but it is still well known in my field, and I've run into ALOT of other alumni (twice during interviews). I think it has helped as at the very least in every interview my college was known. – Andy Mar 13 '15 at 14:29
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    I would say point number 1 is the biggest benefit from going to a "Prestigious" school. However after your first couple of years working it is all about experience. However because of your network you will have more positions open that never hit the job boards. If you can afford to go to a good school do so, however don't go 300k in debt to have the name of the school if it wont get you that much return. – RubberChickenLeader Mar 13 '15 at 16:55
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I'd be surprised if HR were the ones evaluating a person's competence for the job based on their institution. Actually, I'd be surprised if HR were the ones evaluating a candidate's technical expertise period, but I've heard of stranger things.

The long and short of it is, while attending a prestigious college can definitely help propel one's name and/or standing amongst other qualified candidates, that's about all it's going to do. The main factor of whether or not someone actually gets the interview nod is if they actually fit the requirements of the job.

The prestigious college may get one a few extra looks during the interview process, and it may also set some predispositions about how they're meant to perform as well, but the main qualifier for whether or not they're competent and capable to perform isn't going to lie in the college alone.

As an example, I worked with, then for, a person that didn't have a Bachelors in Computer Science, whereas I do. Irrespective of that, this person was brilliant at their job. They opened my mind to a lot of programming techniques and practices that I most certainly didn't know, and this developer has my absolute trust and respect.

There's someone else that I'm familiar with that didn't fare so well in the IT industry, and they've got a few graduate degrees to show that they went through the paces. They're brilliant, but they lean very heavily on pre-baked solutions from frameworks and other places, and are not ones to go out and attempt to remedy a need that the framework simply can't provide for them.

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    I work for a large US tech company that will only hire college grads from a highly curated list of prestigious schools. If you didn't graduate from one of them, your resume will not cross my desk as a college grad applicant for a position. Note that I don't agree with the practice, it's outside my control. – KenB Mar 13 '15 at 13:41
  • I didn't go to an ivy league college, but it is still well known in my field, and I've run into ALOT of other alumni (twice during interviews). I think it has helped as at the very least in every interview my college was known. I think it probably can help if the school as a great reputation. – Andy Mar 13 '15 at 14:30
  • Bottom line, if any old job will do then the school doesn't matter. If "particular" types of jobs are one's goal then the school usually does make quite a bit of difference. – Dunk Mar 16 '15 at 22:13
  • I'm not sure I agree with that sentiment. I'm mostly asserting the opposite of that. If you'd like, you're welcome to add an answer to the effect and contribute to the discussion. While I'm certain that certain companies do only hire from prestigious schools (as evidenced by @KenB's statement), I strongly doubt that this is the norm, and I further doubt that the type of job has anything to do with the selectivity. – Makoto Mar 16 '15 at 22:15
  • Most French big firms are hiring only from the french top superior diplomas. I wouldn't be surprised if what @KenB says for the USA was often true. – gazzz0x2z Nov 2 '16 at 8:32
2

There are companies that will directly recruit the graduates from the top universities and offer signing bonuses. There is a big difference in applying for a job and being directly recruited.

These universities have a lot of money because their alumni can afford to make large donations. There alumni are successful and put a premium on their academic background. I'm sure there is some hiring bias as well.

You would have to do the math to compare the cost of a lesser university with any potential difference in wages. It's also not the cost of the loans you may have but the stress that comes along with it. When many graduates get their first paycheck, they feel a need to break-away from their poor college student status and spend their money. Factor in your ability to manage finances before taking on the risk.

2

I am an employee of a large defense industry company and am on a contract to provide IT services to a large government defense agency. I've been a contractor now for 18 years in various companies. All of the companies I've worked for fit what I'm going to say below, to a T. Note that I've never worked in a pure civilian-side position (non-defense, non-government) in any of my last 30 years of employment. All of that aside, I can only speak for my division of my company and the requirements we get from our government customer.

There is only one no heck requirement: Security+ or an equivalent from a short list of certifications. That's it.

As far as education goes, every single IT job (not counting upper management, of course, which aren't IT as much as management) requires a Bachelor's Degree (of some kind) or anywhere from 5-9 years experience.

Recognize that no where in that last paragraph did I say anything about where the degree is/was from.

1

It's worth noting that by early 2014 Google had stopped seeking top grads from the best universities, because Google's own internal research concluded that top grads made poor employees. Their new stated preference was for self-taught individuals, who were consequently better at problem solving, more humble, and more accountable than their prestigious peers.

I don't know how far that idea has spread, but as it has been two years since this became public knowledge, it seems likely that anyone worth their salt will probably be aware of this when they look to hire new graduates.

Also, many employers do simple programming tests like Fizz Buzz, to weed out the weakest candidates; so it doesn't matter what university you went to unless you can perform or evidence your competence.

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    There's a saying in the financial industry. A students work for B students at companies owned by C students. Since IT is half art and thinking out of the box, A students aren't usually equipped with the kind of rebellious, non-standard thinking that is required. Sometimes poor grades is more indicative of a resistance to conformity than it is to ability – Retired Codger Nov 2 '16 at 15:52
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The value of attending a prestigious institution is not in the diploma. It's in the process. Expectations are higher. Courses move faster and consequently go deeper. Classmates are more passionate and better-prepared. There is a higher level of discourse both in and out of class. Consequently, when graduates seek employment, they generally perform better in technical interviews and are better prepared to do professional work.

I was fortunate to attend Carnegie-Mellon in the 1970's. By the time I graduated I had written thousands of lines of code in a dozen different languages. In the early 80's I took graduate classes at a public university branch campus and found that their graduate courses were covering only half the material the I had learned in my undergraduate work at CMU.

Of course there are also many outstanding graduates from less prestigious institutions, and they also get hired. They tend to be a bit behind unless they have done a lot of coding outside of class.

  • I can't agree with your description of these more elite achools, I did my graduate work at a top private school. I dare say the work was easier then my undergraduate at a average public college, graduate work, was in an entirely new subject matter – Donald Nov 2 '16 at 1:05
  • @Ramhound: of course your mileage may vary, and not every elite school has an elite CS department. Sadly, it's possible to obtain a CS degree from many universities while being completely unable to program. – kevin cline Nov 2 '16 at 21:37

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