Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community polls, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

College vs Grad School

macace3macace3 Posts: 8Registered User New Member
edited August 2008 in Graduate School
This may seem like an obvious answer, but which is more important in the world today, a prestigious college or graduate school?

I've heard that the name of the college doesn't matter so much as that of the graduate school for a successful career.
Post edited by macace3 on
«134

Replies to: College vs Grad School

  • RacinReaverRacinReaver Posts: 6,598Registered User Senior Member
    Once you're in grad school, nobody will care where you did your undergrad.

    And even then, it's not so much prestige of the school, but the reputation of the department and your particular advisor that matter the most (besides your own research, of course).
  • WilliamCWilliamC Posts: 785Registered User Member
    This is, of course, entirely dependent on your field.

    Also, it is important to distinguish graduate school per se from things like MBAs, MDs and law degrees, i.e. "professional" degrees. In those cases, the "prestige" of the school can make a significant difference in things like starting salary and the number of initial opportunities available.

    And most important of all - the college, graduate, or professional school you go to will NOT make or break a "successful career". That's entirely up to you.
  • Laura1013Laura1013 Posts: 153Registered User Junior Member
    I agree entirely with what Racin and William said.

    It appears to me (a current grad student) that a successful career depends highly on your research (what projects you're involved in, publications, talks, how much you put yourself out there to gain recognition and network, etc.). The name of your grad school is relatively unimportant, and the name of your undergrad school is nearly forgotten.
  • jmilton90jmilton90 Posts: 561User Awaiting Email Confirmation Member
    As a grad student. I think if your grad school is known (e.g. top 20-30 or so), I don't think it is the "name" per se which gets you a spot in a high impact research job. Definitely, I agree that it depends on your publications and technical knowledge in addition to your exposure to people in your field.. That is why the majority of this graduate board doesn't recommend "prestige" as a main criteria for going to a particular school. Fit and comfort with your research area and a good advisor are about 100 times more important. And also because research emphases vary a lot from university to univeristy.

    And yes, if you get a PhD, your undergrad work almost doesn't matter. I know several people who just leave their undergrad off their bio like we leave off high school, simply because they don't have enough space to put it on a very short 1-2 page CV/resume.
  • Blah2009Blah2009 Posts: 1,255Registered User Senior Member
    It is disturbing to see how misguided some posters are though when they post threads on their chances on ivy league grad schools.
  • creolancreolan Posts: 176Registered User Junior Member
    This is what I have been told from professors I've spoken with.

    Yes,your undergrad doesn't matter once you obtain your PhD. Yes, there's less focus on your institution and more importance to your individual program and research in graduate school. However, once you obtain your PhD, the importance now lies within the post-doc positions you acquire (assuming you're going that route).

    The consensus is that once you complete one level of eduction, and move on to the next, your previous education loose its weight. It's similar to the saying "No one remembers how you start, they only remember how you end".
  • newmassdadnewmassdad Posts: 3,848Registered User Senior Member
    In general, the above posts are on target. A big part of the problem is that the OP posed a simplistic question without enough information to give a coherent answer. Consider the following:

    - Institutional prestige refers to what? U. Texas, a well known regional school? Harvard? Most would agree that there are advantages to going to elite colleges. Whether the advantage is in the name, the resources or the peer group is the topic of much debate.

    - Grad school (i.e. PhD training) is different from professional school (MBA, MD, LLB etc) in just about every way imaginable. Graduating from an elite professional school will matter for initial job placement (for MDs, residency?) but the value fades quickly. For grad school, as others have said, what matters is the "prestige" of your advisor. More importantly, what matters is whether that well known prof will go to bat for you.

    - Here's another problem with "prestige": While we can rank most schools on a continuum, especially with the use of ubiquitous rankings, once you move beyond the elites, it does not make much difference, IMHO. MBA from Texas or U Dallas? Who cares (outside Texas :) ) ? MBA from Wharton or Texas? This could matter in some circles.

    IMHO, the real issue is that if you can get into an elite program, be it undergrad, professional school or PhD mentor, it will help sometimes. Otherwise, focus on what fits the best.
  • sakkysakky Posts: 14,759- Senior Member
    And even then, it's not so much prestige of the school, but the reputation of the department and your particular advisor that matter the most (besides your own research, of course).
    Definitely, I agree that it depends on your publications and technical knowledge in addition to your exposure to people in your field.. That is why the majority of this graduate board doesn't recommend "prestige" as a main criteria for going to a particular school. Fit and comfort with your research area and a good advisor are about 100 times more important. And also because research emphases vary a lot from university to univeristy.
    However, once you obtain your PhD, the importance now lies within the post-doc positions you acquire (assuming you're going that route).
    For grad school, as others have said, what matters is the "prestige" of your advisor. More importantly, what matters is whether that well known prof will go to bat for you.

    I agree with all of this...if you are going to have an academic/research career. However, these days, that's a rather big 'if'. Many PhD grads end up in industry, sometimes by choice, sometimes not, sometimes immediately and sometimes later (i.e. those assistant prof's who don't get promoted to tenure). I think this is especially true if you are pursuing a PhD in a field like the humanities in which the competition for academic spots is fierce and hence some grads from even the best schools will not get an academic placement.

    Hence, if you end up in industry for whatever reason, then, frankly, your research doesn't really matter, your advisor doesn't really matter, and your publications don't really matter. The prestige of your school matters.

    I'll give you one specific example. I know a guy from Turkey who is getting his PhD at Harvard. He has already confided to me that he has no intention of staying in academia afterwards, but instead he's just going to go back to Turkey and run for office and otherwise attempt to build a political career there. Regular Turkish voters don't know anything about publications or advisors or what are the best programs in his field. All they are going to see is that he has a PhD from Harvard and that is going to give him instant technocratic credibility.

    Nor is he a particularly exotic example. I know a bunch of guys who got their PhD's in engineering or science from MIT and then took jobs in elite finance or consulting firms. Again, those firms don't know who the best advisors/publications are, and don't care. They just trust the MIT brand name. Let's be honest. You're probably not going to get an offer from McKinsey if you get your PhD from Wayne State University no matter how good your research and no matter how much your advisors are willing to back you.

    Now, granted, one might legitimately ask why somebody would get a PhD if he isn't going to enter a research/academic career. To that, I would say that much of it comes down to the fact that there are more PhD's granted than there are research jobs available.
  • jmilton90jmilton90 Posts: 561User Awaiting Email Confirmation Member
    Hence, if you end up in industry for whatever reason, then, frankly, your research doesn't really matter, your advisor doesn't really matter, and your publications don't really matter. The prestige of your school matters.

    Highly inaccurate. Most industrial PhDs are first hired because of their technical knowledge specific to your publications, research and projects they have worked on.

    Sakky, I know you love using examples where PhDs join investment banking or financial consulting firms. But I think the vast majority of investment bankers have taken the traditional business/economics route with MFEs or MBAs, not a PhD in humanities or engineering. And the vast majority of the people pursuing PhDs do not hold investment banking/financial consulting as the highest standard of a career as you seem to always imply.

    And stop saying:

    Look, blah blah blah.
  • Blah2009Blah2009 Posts: 1,255Registered User Senior Member
    Everyone needs to preface their argument with the fact that its their opinion. Sakky cites examples but he never cites figures. I know 10 people off of the top of my head who intend to go into academia after getting their PhDs from either harvard, mit, or stanford but that doesn't indicate the vast majority of phD students either will or will not stay in academia.
  • sakkysakky Posts: 14,759- Senior Member
    Highly inaccurate. Most industrial PhDs are first hired because of their technical knowledge specific to your publications, research and projects they have worked on.

    Again, sure, if you are going to enter an industrial research job. But what if you don't? Do you think McKinsey really cares about your technical research?
    Sakky, I know you love using examples where PhDs join investment banking or financial consulting firms. But I think the vast majority of investment bankers have taken the traditional business/economics route with MFEs or MBAs, not a PhD in humanities or engineering

    Sure, the vast majority of Ibankers and consultants are MFE's or MBA's. So what? What does that have to do with anything? That doesn't mean that there aren't some PhD's who go to banking or consulting.
    And the vast majority of the people pursuing PhDs do not hold investment banking/financial consulting as the highest standard of a career as you seem to always imply

    I have never once stated that banking and consulting are the highest standard of anything. I am simply relating the fact that some PhD's do in fact go there. Is that my fault? Did I tell them to do that? No, they did that out of their own free will, for whatever reason. Hence, whether we like it or not, they seem to think that it is a desirable career goal.
    And stop saying:

    Look, blah blah blah.

    Why? I have the freedom of speech to say anything I want. What gives you the right to tell other people what they can and cannot say?
    Sakky cites examples but he never cites figures

    So let's put some figures out there.

    In 2007, of the 133 new MIT PhD's who reported in, at least 20 of them chose what I would consider a non-research job (management consulting, finance, or, interestingly enough, law). This can be seen on p. 31-32 of the following pdf.

    http://web.mit.edu/career/www/infostats/graduation07.pdf

    Now, it should be noted that I think this 20 figure is the bare minimum. Of the others who joined, say, industrial firms, some of them may have joined in non-research roles (i.e. sales, marketing, etc.) To be sure, I agree that most of those people probably did take a research role at their firm, but I have a hard time believing that all of them did.

    Furthermore, like I said, the above data is only talking about what jobs people took immediately after their PhD's. My viewpoint, however, is far more expansive than that. Many people who enter academia/research won't stay. For example, many people who get post-docs can't or won't stay in research after their post-docs are done. Many people who got assistant-professor jobs right after graduation will not pass their tenure reviews. For example, I see that some new MIT PhD's took academic positions at schools like Harvard, Caltech and MIT, and these are schools where winning tenure is quite difficult. If you don't win tenure, you have to find something else to do, and that something else is often times simply to live academia entirely.

    Yet the reverse is rarely true. For example, it is quite rare for a new PhD to enter management consulting or some other non-research industry job and then decide later that he wants to enter academia/research. That's a rare occurrence. The upshot is that many of these new MIT PhD's will probably eventually find themselves no longer in a research role.

    Heck, even if you do take an industrial research role and do well in it, you will eventually find yourself at a career crossroads where you have to decide whether you want to stay technical, or whether you want to move into management. Many will opt for the latter. Yet rarely does the reverse happen: few managers decide that they'd rather become pure researchers again. So we have yet another source of 'leakage'.

    And keep in mind: this is MIT we're talking about here. MIT is clearly a top-notch research school, which means that you are far more likely to get academic or research placement somewhere. What if you're a PhD from a mediocre school? I would imagine that many of them won't get a research or academic job offer and hence will have to find something else to do. Like I said, there aren't enough research jobs for all PhD's.
    I know 10 people off of the top of my head who intend to go into academia

    The operational word there is 'intends'. I too know lots of people who intended to stay in academia. But they couldn't, because they didn't get a decent offer (and they weren't willing to teach at some community college or other low-ranked place).
  • jmilton90jmilton90 Posts: 561User Awaiting Email Confirmation Member
    I was just joking brother.
  • newmassdadnewmassdad Posts: 3,848Registered User Senior Member
    Hence, if you end up in industry for whatever reason, then, frankly, your research doesn't really matter, your advisor doesn't really matter, and your publications don't really matter. The prestige of your school matters.

    Sakky, please. We've heard this palaver before. You are certainly entitled to an opinion. But your "standard of proof" if that's what one calls it, is just loco.

    If I follow your reasoning, it goes something like this:

    MIT is a prestigious school
    Some MIT science PhDs go into business such as management consulting
    Therefore, they got these jobs because of the prestige of MIT.
    Again, those firms don't know who the best advisors/publications are, and don't care. They just trust the MIT brand name.
    Trust me, Sakky, we got it. Harvard and MIT are great places. So what?

    Sorry, this does not cut it as inferential logic in anyone's book, much less for a grad student of an esteemed institution of higher ed on the banks of the charles river.
  • VectorWegaVectorWega Posts: 1,872Registered User Senior Member
    MBA from Texas or U Dallas? Who cares (outside Texas ) ?

    I'm not sure what your point is. U of Dallas doesn't post avg starting salaries but based on the salaries of other (better) schools in the DFW area, I would guestimate that the avg starting salary for U of Dallas MBA is 35 to 40k less per year than that received by UT MBAs. So who cares? Well, anyone applying to the programs should care.

    Furthermore, you mentioned that noone outside of Texas cares..which I agree about U of Dallas. Even in Dallas, most people don't realize there is a University of Dallas (they barely realize there is a UT-Dallas). However, like students from other top 20 schools, UT MBAs are recruited by companies across the country including I-Banks in NYC and high-tech companies in California.
  • happyentropyhappyentropy Posts: 162Registered User Junior Member
    So I think we can roughly divide academic fields/Ph.D specialties into three kinds:
    1)Those in which academic research is (more or less) closely connected to industrial interests and other commercial activity: eg many types of engineering, computer science, statistics, finance.
    2)Those about which no one outside of academia cares directly, but a degree in which suggests to employers outside of academia that you are very smart/ you probably have exceptional skills in areas they find useful: eg pure math, many basic sciences.
    3)Fields a Ph.D in which makes you no more employable outside of academia than a random college graduate of comparable intelligence and age: eg most humanities fields.

    Fields of type (1) generally have plenty of job opportunities for BS-level graduates and therefore don't have a huge glut of Ph.D's. In addition, they have plenty of opportunity to do research outside of academia at least tangentially related to your Ph.D work, so many Ph.D's in these fields choose to work in industry where they are, as jmilton90 said: "first hired because of their technical knowledge specific to your publications, research and projects they have worked on." This makes the academic job market less competitive- in many fields most any decent Ph.D graduate from a top program or with rec letters from famous people can get a TT job at a research university. Everyobody is happy.

    In fields of type (3) there is typically a huge Ph.D glut and most graduates can't find any non-academic jobs that require, or even prefer a Ph.D. If you want to get an academic job the influence of your advisor is more important than where you went to grad school per se. Otherwise, choice of grad school will not help your employment prospects- finding a job teaching high school is equally challenging whether your comparative literature Ph.D is from Yale or Wayne State.

    That leaves fields of type (2)- about which I think Sakky is dead on. If you look at data on pure math Ph.D graduates from the very top programs (Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Chicago, Stanford, Berkeley), five years after graduation, about half are in tenure track positions at research universities. Most of the rest are about evenly divided between those working in financial industry or similar jobs with absolutely no connection to their past research (quants, option trading) and professors at undergraduate colleges. If you look at similar data for graduates of "average" programs, the vast majority of them are professors/teachers at non-Ph.D granting colleges, with an occasional superstar at a research university. You'll hardly find any working as quants. If your goal is to teach at a liberal arts college, then to a large degree neither the place you got your Ph.D, nor the stature of your advisor, nor the quality of your research matters very much- in interviews you'll be judged on your teaching credentials, and you'll have an opportunity to develop them whether your Ph.D is from Princeton or the University of Idaho. If you want to work, say, as a quant for Goldman & Sachs, how famous your advisor is or even the quality of your research doesn't matter to prospective employers-they haven't heard of either. However- they recruit almost exclusively at top programs. This makes perfect sense- at both top and average programs the best students want to go into academia and have no interest in working for them. On the other hand, the worst students at Princeton or Chicago tend to both have stronger general mathematical background and be smarter than average students at Kansas State. The people with pure math Ph.D's who go on to work in these kinds of jobs thus by and large tend to be the weaker students from top programs.
«134
Sign In or Register to comment.