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As a soon-to-be university grad from a less than 'prestigious' school. After reading this article. I have asked this question to a wide variety of people I have met. In general, they respondedthat employers don't care. But always with one or two exceptions such as: "After three years of work" or "They care more about what you did in your job".

Admittedly, my selection sample is biased. They were from USC, UCD, and Amherst to name a few. Not the top, but respectable to be sure. Especially from my university's perspective.

With this said, I wanted to open this query to this community with the following questions:

  1. Is "Employers don't care where you went to school" True?
  2. If so, could it then be argued that where one went to school may not matter to an employer. but rather it determines to a large extent the opportunities that a person would be exposed to? Such as alumni networks, or organizations specific to it?
  3. Is this thinking an attempt to rationalize one's choice of school?
  4. As this would be heavily dependent on where one went to school, how would one go about (insert verb here) (finding? Justifying?) a good representative sample to ask this question?
  5. Should someone (like me) go back to school for the express purpose of graduating from a more prestigious school? Taking into account cost, time, marginal cost, forgone wages, etc...
  • Don't schools have job placement statistics? – user8365 Jul 29 '15 at 20:03
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    But you would not have to go back to school for 4 years. Some credits would transfer. Get an MBA from a big name school – paparazzo Jul 29 '15 at 20:31
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    This feels very opinion based. It depends on the organisation, the hirer and the position. – Jane S Jul 29 '15 at 22:02
  • Opinion? I agree. Systematic? Difficult to prove, but does it mean that it is untrue? – Frank FYC Jul 30 '15 at 2:19
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    The answer dpends on the employer, what you study in school, the school,the nature of the job, the location/culture and many other factors. This question is opinion-based and too broad. – scaaahu Jul 30 '15 at 3:29
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I am in Computer Science, and this is what I have seen:

  1. Is "Employers don't care where you went to school" True? This is not completely true. If you take a person who went to a top 10 engineering school (Stanford, UC Berkeley, Columbia, etc.) they will have way more opportunities at big companies like Google, Facebook, etc. I assume it is similar for economics, but just replace the tech companies with Goldman-Sachs, etc. There are many tech companies that only exclusively hire people from these schools (which I think is ludicrous, but that isn't relevant). This is because the teachers are usually top industry leaders or were top industry leaders (for example, the current CEO of Yahoo used to teach programming at Stanford) so the quality of education is much higher. Plus, you have to be really smart to get in (and have money).

  2. Is this mantra an attempt to rationalize one's choice of school? No, it is usually to rationalize not going to school in the first place.

  3. Should someone (me) go back to school (another 4 years) for the express purpose of graduating from a more prestigious school? Excluding cost, time, marginal cost, forgone wages, etc.... Absolutely not, for reasons I will explain below.

After a few years in the workforce, school becomes way less relevant. Many people, upon entering the workforce, either stagnate or get ahead, and this happens regardless of the education you received. So for example, a person who graduates from a good school (but not a top 10) can work extremely hard, get good at what they do, and receive a job at a top company that may have overlooked them a few years back. I have seen this in the CS world at least, and assume it is the same everywhere else.

As long as you have a degree and a few years of experience, the degree loses its relevancy to just a filter for jobs. Whether you have work experience or not, most jobs expect a degree from somewhere. So as long as you have that, keep hustling and you will be fine.

  • Many good points, however I beg to ask what is a interview certificate? Are you referring to degrees? As for your comment on "Top 10 engineering school...google, facebook" My assessment (based on feedback received from respondents is that this is true in terms of economics and political science as well. My concern here is that if one were to conceptualize "hard work" as a quantifiable measurement. Wouldn't each unit of hard work by a top 10 grad > a ~Top 10 Grad? – Frank FYC Jul 29 '15 at 21:19
  • ^ I think that depends on the individual, but I personally see everyone as equals. If two people are putting in the same amount of work, I don't think to myself "well clearly the Top 10 guy is better because he graduated from a top 10 school 5 years ago." – Lawrence Aiello Jul 29 '15 at 21:26
  • Regarding google you might read the following. They don't care where you went to school anymore: money.cnn.com/2015/04/09/technology/google-people-laszlo-bock – NotMe Jul 29 '15 at 22:04
  • @lawrenceaiello I apologize, I didn't mean relative to the employer. I meant relative to one's career goals. I.e. if two identical twins have the same job, but went to different schools, and it comes to promotion time. – Frank FYC Jul 30 '15 at 1:41
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    I also think you're over-generalizing about Bay Area tech. Yes, those in a Bay Area school, whether it's Stanford or San Jose State, will have more internship &c opportunities there, but that's mostly due to proximity. It's perfectly possible to be a summer intern, or get hired after graduation, from a mid-rank state university hundreds of miles from the Bay Area - been there, done that, and know plenty of others who have likewise. – jamesqf Jul 30 '15 at 19:50
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"Employers don't care where you went to school" True?

As written it is false.

Some employers care. In my experience, many do not.

In my experience, unless you went to a very prestigious school and are applying for a job where such school attendance traditionally matters, then most hiring managers wouldn't care much.

Still, there are certainly some managers who attribute a lot of value to the prestige of the school you attended.

If so, could it then be argued that where one went to school may not matter to an employer. but rather it determines to a large extent the opportunities that a person would be exposed to? Such as alumni networks, or organizations specific to it

To some extent, that is certainly true.

Is this mantra an attempt to rationalize one's choice of school?

I'm sure this is true in some cases.

I know of hiring managers who liked to brag that they went to the "school of hard knocks". Perhaps that's just rationalization.

I also know of a hiring manager who graduated from a prestigious school. He didn't need to rationalize his choice, but he sure liked to brag about it.

As this would be heavily dependent on where one went to school, how would one go about (insert verb here) (finding? Justifying?) a good representative sample to ask this question?

No idea.

I suppose you could ask a lot of hiring managers if they care, and then ask where they went to school. That might allow you to draw some sort of conclusions.

Should someone (me) go back to school (another 4 years) for the express purpose of graduating from a more prestigious school? Excluding cost, time, marginal cost, forgone wages, etc...

That would depend on your world view, the field you wish to enter, the value you place on 4 years of your time, etc - not to mention the points you are choosing to exclude.

It's a pretty tough decision to make, particularly financially. In some cases, in some contexts, I imagine it could be worthwhile, particularly if there is a particular employer or field you have your heart set on that has a known bias for "name" schools. In many cases, in many contexts, it wouldn't seem to be worthwhile.

But "should" is something only you can answer.

  • As with all posts thus far, you make very valid points. Especially your response on the bragging-hiring manager. With this in mind, wouldn't such an individual, making hiring decisions for a company, willingly or unwittingly favor graduates of his/her alma mater? Hence, supporting the first question as more true? – Frank FYC Jul 29 '15 at 21:21
  • ^ That's called bias, and it happens everywhere. Yes, a person who graduated from Stanford would be bias towards a Stanford interviewee, in the same way that a programmer with no degree would be bias towards non-degree'd programmers. – Lawrence Aiello Jul 29 '15 at 21:28
  • I acquiesce, I don't believe there is a point in arguing something as subjective as bias. As I don't think it can be measured. However I would like to reorient the line of dialogue towards someone going back to school for the express purpose of that network and the potential earnings from such associations. Given what Adam Smith said about mortality, certainly 4 years itself isn't much in the grand scheme of things? – Frank FYC Jul 30 '15 at 1:53
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Just to take another slant on"it depends" -- it depends on how well they know your school and it depends on your grades.

An excellent student can beat an excellent education out of most schools,and if you're a straight-A's type I think most folks will assume that was the case for you unless the school or your transcript or your thesis lead them to think otherwise.

If you're a notch below that... well, there's a reason MIT uses a 5.0 scale rather than 4.0; a MIT student with a B grade probably would have gotten an A if they took the equivalent course at many/most other schools. Admissions desks, and HR departments, are aware of that. So if you're just good rather than great, the question of "compared to who" does start to become relevant.

But as others have said, after a few years in the real word you're going to be evaluated much more on what you've done recently, for the same reasons that the stuff that was so important in applying for admission to the BS program matters little or not at all after that (unless its very directly applicable and unusual.)

If you want to go back for a Masters' degree, to pick up specific additional skills, that might be worth considering. Redoing a Bachelors --unless your grades show you spent it partying and playing sports -- probably isn't.

  • Grade-wise. I am average. A-/B+. My concern here is that with my given degrees, with the emphasis on (in my opinion) soft skills and theories. I would not be able to compete on an equal footing come graduation for jobs that (I believe) I would excel at, yet are only available (again relative to opportunities available to me) to grads from more established networks. As for CS degree, I understand that this would be something I want to persue. I presume that it will be a very difficult time if I were to pursue something that involves CS as a masters. (Not enough math for example) – Frank FYC Jul 29 '15 at 21:28
  • CS actually doesn't involve a lot of math in the usual senses, t least not at the BS/MS levels. Linear algebra, perhaps. Some set theory. Lambda calculus is technically math. ... – keshlam Jul 29 '15 at 21:33
  • In my case, I had my eye on Financial Software engineering. Although I am hesitant to commit myself to a master's program if it would mean failure on my part because of my unpreparedness when it comes to math and coding in general. I have taken the time to google "how to" when it comes to being such and came across many blogs, articles, etc about how to be. If there was a checklist, what would it look like? – Frank FYC Jul 30 '15 at 1:59
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Speaking from a Computer Science and Math background here. Some of the big companies in the industry (Google, Facebook, MS) say they don't but indirectly they do. This is because their interview techniques end up emphasizing what those elite schools (Stanford, MIT) themselves emphasize in their syllabus. Therefore graduates from those schools who have had a few years of practice using the patterns of thought required to pass the interview end up working in those organizations.

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    Sounds like it is time for me to ask alumni's for their syllabi and get kraken? – Frank FYC Jul 30 '15 at 2:07
  • @Riorank: Yeah. Their CS courses emphasize data structures and algorithms so those students will have developed thought patterns that apply those primitives in useful combinations. They'd struggle with other types of questions, like how to test if a point is in a triangle using primitives like the cross and dot product. But typically Google interviewers aren't asking those questions. – sashang Jul 30 '15 at 2:46
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Up to a point but for Elite schools (Both University and High school) going to Oxbridge, ENA, Harvard or to say the Oratory or King Edward VII (or the equivalent in your country) is going to open doors that going to a lesser institution is not.

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Some employers do care, a lot. But in my experience, most don't. I have made a fine career out of software engineering, and my degree is in history, not computer science. I am completely self-taught. I tell people I snuck in through the back door and I've never looked back.

If you come from an "inferior" background like I did, you have to somehow show that you are as good as any CS grad, and that takes some combination of skill, luck, and opportunity. If you actually have a CS degree, you will probably get in more doors, but the real key is finding the right doors. It's all about networking these days. There are plenty of unadvertised jobs out there, and you need to know people to find them. So do internships. Contribute to open source projects. Do IT work for non-profits. Put yourself into positions where you can meet people who can introduce you to and vouch for you with employers. Personal recommendations will trump school choice every time.

  • Speaking of personal recommendations, wouldn't there be a qualitative gap between letters from different institutions? – Frank FYC Jul 29 '15 at 21:24
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It seems from my experience that when it comes to new hires, certain companies hire for certain positions in top tier schools while the lower positions are filled from lower tier schools.

Something else I have noticed is that certain industries will exclusively hire from top tier schools. One industry that comes to mind is management consulting.

You mention that you are studying Political Science and Economics. I don't know what the job prospects are like for Political Science but I know a little bit about Economics and Finance and it seems like new hires from those majors tend to belong to the first scenario I described.

Should you get another BA? Absolutely not. It will look very suspicious to employers that you went twice for the same level of degree. If you want to go for more schooling, it will have to be at the graduate level.

However, I do not recommend you get graduate level education without at least one year of work experience in your field. Otherwise you will fall into the overqualified under-experienced category.

I would suggest getting internships ASAP. Even unpaid ones will help tremendously.

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Lots of divide in the answers. Let me add some more to it.

  1. Employers do care where you went to school. Some of this is because it makes it easier to justify you if you are a bad hire "well, OP went to xyz, i figured he would be good". Some of this is because of the network effect - a manager at a top company from a good school will naturally prefer to hire people from his/her school. Maybe they just loved the school, maybe to keep the school as a premier institution. Sometimes it is purely political - one top school just brougt on the MD of a big name consulting company... do you suppose that company might hire more from that school? You should.

1a. Yes, true. Your school will give you a network. Also, a better school will have better resources to teach, and often more dedicated class mates. So the overall experience is better. Remember, a better school typically attracts smarter people.

  1. No, the mantra has real world applications. People rarely need to justify going to a better school. Why would you, the school, being better, needs no justification.

2a asking recruiters what they feel about candidates from a school will be helpful. Ofter, school ranking tables do just that, so the running around is already done for you.

  1. Very subjective. Going back might be useful... It depends what you want. If you want to work in a top company (goldman, google, mckinsey) especially in an advisory capacity (consultant, ib) then a good school is Almost. A. Must. You could make it work without, but it would take a lot of effort.

If you dont want to do that, then probably less so. But you will take a longer path than others to the top, because you will not get as good a starting role.

Another option is a masters, mba type. Mba is arguably a "reset", so tou can bypass a dodgy undergrad with one. For an mba especially tho, the perception is the school matters way way more. do not get an mba from dunkly college, even if it is prestigious and online.

If i were yo,pu, i would work for a year or two (tops), with the aim of getting an mba if it looked like your school was dead end. Trick for an mba - many non us degrees are less competitive, but still highly ranked!

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