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Submitted by JoeThornton on


Hello Everyone!

I invited a Future-Link advisor to speak to my team about career and education opportunities offered by the company/union. He took a few minutes to give my directs an overview and a list of the benefits offered by Future-Link, as well as explained to them a little bit about the history and goals of Future-Link. After his presentation, him and I had a discussion about career and education. None of my directs were present during this discussion. He asked me my current level of education, and I told him I have a BS in Business Management from University of Phoenix (UOPX), and I am currently three classes shy of finishing a Master’s degree program in I-O Psychology from Capella University. Both are accredited Universities. He said to me that he earned his Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. He stated that he went to Johns Hopkins because he was told that most companies will not hire employees with degrees from anything other than Ivy League Universities. I asked him why? His response was “because students who graduate from colleges such as UOP don’t have the proper education, they only have the degree.” Are there any hiring-managers here that share this philosophy? If so can you please share why?



svibanez's picture

I have a BS in Business/Information Systems from Phoenix (Online Campus).  Most folks I discuss it with recognize the challenges of completing a degree program while working full time and give me a lot of credit for having the persistence to see it through.  There are so many "traditional" universities now offering online degree programs that I believe the stigma has all but disappeared.  In my mind, earning the degree was just "checking the box" that satisfies the requirement for having a degree; having a history of delivering excellent results is the key to success.

I haven't worked in info systems since graduation, but my degree helped me get a promotion less than a year after I was hired on with my company (which originally hired me on one step higher than they were recruiting for).  The degree and the school are clearly shown on my resume.  I have had a number of interviews over the years and none of the potential employers ever even mentioned the school I attended.

I've never heard of anybody being denied an interview or a job because their degree was from "the wrong" university, but I recognize my experience is limited as I've been with the same company for over 10 years now.  Has anybody else seen this happen?


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stenya's picture
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"Proper education," indeed. Forgive my eye roll - I've never heard of Future-Link, so I may be misunderstanding their disdain for those without an Ivy League degree. Guess it's obvious that I disagree with his philosophy! :-)

In my experience, Ivy League seems important if you're planning a career in law or politics or academia... but for those of us just trying to build a team in an average American company, it doesn't matter. Seems short-sighted and snobbish to set aside a resume that's otherwise compelling just because the candidate's degree is from an online university or technical college.The name on the diploma doesn't matter as much as the person's attitude, drive, ability to learn, willingness to contribute, commitment to self-development, etc.

My BA is from a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin (I was an English major, still loving those long-dead monks and mystics) and yet, somehow, I managed to find my way into technical writing, business analysis, and IT management roles over the past 20 years. Learned everything I know about business and management AFTER I got out of college, and I don't think that's terribly unusual.

All the best,


GlennR's picture

I hope he didn't sound as arrogant face to face as he did in your description.

Here's what I think. I believe there are certain professions and certain organizations where having a prestigious degree will trump one from a "lesser" school. The thinking being that the better schools are better because they attract better professors, other employees and are more discerning about who they admit as students thereby enhancing the overall college experience and thus delivering a better "product."

However, there are other professions and organizations where the alma mater is not that important. And many of us have gone on to be successful with a degree from somewhere other than the Ivy League or Stanford.

I'm going to speculate and say that in professions such as law and accounting where you went is important if you want to work for a large firm. But let's say you're just wanting to go from your firm's bookkeeper to CFO. Does it really matter where the degree comes from as long as you are provided with the necessary knowledge AND you master it? Also, how many times will you be competing with people from these prestigious universities?

I believe that one of the factors to be considered when pursuing a degree is how well thought of that institution is. First the quality may in fact be better. Second, because there will be times when there will be two or more candidates of equal qualifications. If that's the case, the hiring manager may choose to make the decision based upon which degree has more prestige.

Specific to for profit online universities, because they were all created relatively recently  (compared to Harvard which has been around for what, 400 years?) for many the jury is still out on the quality of the degree. I don't think it will be settled once and for all until you find senior managers with degrees from those programs. And that'll take a generation or two if they are competitive. (BTW, who has graduated more jerks, ignorant asses, con men, and incompetents--Harvard or the University of Phoenix?:-)

Please finish your masters degree. There's nothing you can do about the other person's perceptions or biases. Rather, focus on proof that you are a continuous learner and down the road a year or two, show how your degree made you more effective.

Good luck and congratulations on getting this far.


BariTony's picture

I've heard this sort of thing before in my field - that such and such pharma won't hire anyone without a PhD from an Ivy League University. I've seen no evidence of it. In fact, most of the people I worked with in big pharma didn't have Ivy League degrees. (Some didn't even have a PhD, even though they were a Principal Scientist.)

I think of universities like Mark talks about the positive effects of having a big company like IBM or P&G on your resume. There's a selection bias. They're good companies, so they presumably hire good people. However, any good hiring manager knows that IBM and P&G make some bad hires from time to time, and small biotech or internet startups manage to hire quality people. 

That being said, think of the delta, the difference from where you are without the MBA to where you will be with it. Sure, getting and MBA from an Ivy League might increase your marketability dramatically, but most of us aren't able to attend an Ivy League university. So, consider Capella University. Is it improving your skill set? Is it improving your marketability at all? I would guess it almost certainly is. Your delta may be smaller by getting an MBA from Capella than an Ivy League school, but you're still improving.

Anyhow, this guy seems to need some serious work on his communication skills! You can't go to an Ivy League school to improve those. Just worry about improving yours, and he might be reporting to you some day!



mrreliable's picture

If he really said that, the most likely scenario to me would be that you two were already butting heads. I can't imagine someone who is trying to promote something offering an unsolicited comment like that unless there's some other context. Are you sure you weren't the one coming across with an attitude?

There's nothing wrong with being proud of a degree from a prestigious institution (not me for the record). I do sense defensiveness from some folks who have degrees from lesser-known colleges and universities. An Ivy League degree will score real brownie points with most employers (unless the person doing the hiring has a degree from somewhere else and has an attitude about it). But I don't believe it's "Hire" or "Don't Hire" stuff for most positions. More like arriving for the interview in a late-model SUV compared to a clean, older compact car. You'll probably have a better first impression from the SUV, but it's not going to dominate the hiring decision in most cases (unless the position is related to fancy cars).

SuzanneB's picture

As Baritony said... there can be a "signaling effect" of a brand-name university.  I wouldn't limit that to the Ivys.  Many non-Ivy's attract the same "positive association" depending on what field/geographical location. Universities like Northwestern, Notre Dame, Stanford, USC, Georgetown, , USMA, USNA, USAFA are going to be well thought-of almost anywhere. And if you are an engineer in the Midwest having a degree from Purdue is a bonus.  Brand-name universities get much of their prestige from their admissions process - in which the # of applicants far exceeds the number of admitted students.  The implication to the employee is "if only 10% of students who apply to the school are accepted, then you must need to be smart to go there"

So, yes, there can be some *slight* benefit from a well-known, long-standing institution.  But it's not a slam dunk. And much of the benefit can be derived from the alumni network.  But like everyone else, maintaining a strong network as M-T recommends will work regardless of your pedigree.

Having said all of that, the person you spoke with completely missed the mark if he were hoping for some benefit only given to the Ivies.  Johns Hopkins, while an excellent school (especially if you're planning a career in medicine) is NOT in the Ivy League. So the joke is on him.

JonathanGiglio's picture
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Congratulations on your accomplishment in completing your degrees.

That said - cost/benefit analysis is everything. I think Mark said it on a podcast - "I chose West Point/P&G because it would never hurt me.".

I believe the market, and realize that higher education is a market, recognizes the skills and quality of online education. This in turn has created incentives for Universities to protect their brands, product, and reputations even more. Wait until you have to compete against students with online degrees from Standford and MIT.

Another MT piece of advice: own your education. Never dodge a question, promote the positives, and use those experiences to your advantage. Just like your GPA, where you went to school is a fact. And if you're interviewing with someone who won't hire you because of where you got your degree, then there's nothing you can do about it - breath in, breath out, move on.



BZOpportunityManagement's picture

I would agree with the cost/benefit analysis point of this thread. In some fields, it is definitely worth having gone to a certain school. Another advantage is networking - living in the Washington DC area, I have noticed there are a lot of opportunities to develop a network around alumni organizations (something I know I have to get better at, especially for my undergrad degree).

I am surprised no one made this comment yet - as great a school as JHU is, and it may be on par with Ivy League institutions in many ways, it is not part of the Ivy League.

SuzanneB's picture

I said that! :-)

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williamelledgepe's picture
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As a hiring manager I look for experiences the individual had while at school and professor references. I have hired people from Arizona State, Univ of Utah, BYU, UC Irvine, Berkeley, George Mason, VA Tech, Cornell, and a number of universities in Africa and Asia that I wasn't able to judge based on reputation. Based on the North American universities you might expect Cornell to stand out as positive, but it was quite the opposite.  In my area of work, Berkeley and VA Tech should stand out, but they were par with the others. This has all led me to search for experiences the individual experienced while in school - and only if they graduated in the last 4 years. 5 years on, I don't even ask school questions.  I should add that in the African and Asian universities, as I was asking around for people who knew the different universities, it seems that in those cultures the different university does still have a bigger impact on quality of personnel - which kind of has some correlation with better employees - relying on the reputations of the university as defined from someone from that country and the quality of employee as defined by me.  I still ask about experiences though and don't skew toward a certain Technical Institute in Asia. I do pause when I see an online only degree.  

tbfee's picture

As a JHU alum, I hope it's obvious that not all of us are arrogant fools. I should also point out that MOST Johns Hopkins master's degree programs are part-time (and many of those are nowhere near as academically rigorous as their full-time programs; they're cash cows for the university - this is common, if unfortunate, in modern academia). In my experience, elite schools and work ethic are only marginally correlated. There's a lot of privilege in those institutions - people who went to $40k/yr elementary schools, had incredible advantages, never had to scuffle.

Association_Manager's picture

Do I have a bias against U of P and other for-profit universities in terms of how "good" I think the education is? Yes. I probably wouldn't advise someone looking for a good, general education, or looking for something that will look good on their resume, to go to one of these universities. On the other hand, if you're "ticking off a box" or looking to learn specific skills, they may be a great choice.

Would I factor that bias into a hiring decision? Unlikely. Everything else on the resume matters much, much more. I will weight your actual experience, how persuasive you are about your interest in the job, and how you've presented yourself over whether you even have a degree, much less where it's from.

Is going to UoP or a similar school any reflection on your work ethic? Absolutely not! That's just ludicrous.

Do I judge the Johns Hopkins guy for saying something rude about UoP *to someone he knew was a UoP graduate*? Yes times a million! Shows terrible manners and judgement, and certainly doesn't help the case for a "selective" university teaching you anything about how to function in the real world!