Degree or School Reputation: Which Matters Most?

Deciding to get a college degree is a small but important step on the path to the rest of your life. Once you decide you want one, you may be wondering which degree you need, where you should go to school, and which of those decisions will weigh more in your favor when it comes time to seek out career opportunities down the road. Is it all about getting the best degree, or does an elite education matter more?

Attending an elite university has benefits beyond name and brand recognition. It certainly opens doors when it comes to employers. In some cases, simply invoking the name of an elite school could guarantee more job opportunities even than having an advanced degree.

Why is this? Because elite schools have a reputation for excellence, many employers will assume you met and continue to meet that standard. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it matters more in every case.

Possible Benefits

Obtaining an elite education might mean you’ll have a better chance at securing a higher salary directly out of school. Of course, this benefit could balance out somewhat when you factor in the likely higher rates of tuition you’ll pay to obtain your degree in the first place. Truthfully, there are pros and cons to both sides, but the data does show an elite education typically pays dividends over a lifetime.

You shouldn’t dismiss the importance of picking a solid degree, though, even if you go to an Ivy League school and graduate magna cum laude. A post-graduate education, such as a master’s degree or doctorate, certainly could give you stronger qualifications than someone holding an associate or bachelor’s degree.

So, we now know that the type of degree you have does matter, but to what extent?

Other Considerations

It turns out that what’s most important is having a degree, period. While having an elite education or advanced degree will almost certainly give you a competitive edge in your career, many employers are most concerned that you’ve completed an education program at all.

Other considerations that can work in your favor include having been a good student, getting a major in a relevant field, gaining experience and other qualifications, or showing initiative in your position.

Whether you carry a degree from an elite university or an online college, employers seek intelligence, integrity, and ambition when selecting candidates for positions. In fact, many are more interested in a good fit than in nitpicking the specifics of your school life to death. They want to make sure you have the skills you need to do the job more than the fancy credentials that only look good on paper.

What does sometimes matter is accreditation. Not every school is accredited, and thus, degrees from some private schools may seem less reliable than others. Still, even this isn’t necessarily always the case. A private art school may turn out intensely talented students equipped for success, even without accreditation.

So, does it matter where you go or what degree you get when you get there? Well, of course, it does! Consider your long-term career objectives and do your research. While some fields might choose more heavily from pools of candidates from elite colleges, many may require more advanced or specific degrees. Know the requirements of the field you’re choosing, and then make sure that you’re learning the skills you’ll need to go from being a star student to a valuable member of the workforce.