could I work for a manager with a degree from an online school?

A reader writes:

I just finished a master’s degree and would like to work for a relevant department at a local college in the city where I live. I have a particular job in mind (it’s been advertised). The HR lady told me I should address my cover letter to the gentleman who heads that department. When I Googled his name, I discovered he graduated from a well-known diploma mill and does not have an advanced degree.

Now I’m having second thoughts about applying for the job–I would not respect a manager with such a shady academic background. I don’t think a “degree” from a place like Capella or University of Phoenix should count as a degree. Am I wrong?

You’re wrong to be judging him solely on that basis before knowing anything else about him, yes.

What are his accomplishments? What has he achieved? What kind of work does he do? How does he operate? Those are the questions that matter.

It’s absolutely true that for-profit schools aren’t prestigious or even respected. And no, they aren’t seen as the same thing as a degree from other schools.

But there are plenty of people out there with no degree at all who do excellent work, achieve at high levels, and are a pleasure to work for and with. And there are people with advanced degrees who aren’t that smart, don’t accomplish much, and suck as managers/coworkers.

You’re misinterpreting what a degree signals, and you’re putting way too much weight on one element when you know nothing else about the guy.

That said, if you wouldn’t respect him based on this, then do both of you a favor and don’t apply for the job.

{ 376 comments… read them below }

  1. JB*

    I totally agree with AAM. I know someone with a UOP degree in IT. When he started it was all classroom school work with teachers from the fields of study. While he was there, they started to change to an online school. It frustrated him that his degree is seen as “less” because he put in a lot of work and learned a lot when he was there. He is an excellent manager and excels in his field. I’ve also worked with people from Carnegie Mellon who are complete idiots that I wouldn’t trust to water my plants.

    1. Under Stand*

      Maybe the manager got his degree from Dickinson State…Oh wait, that is a brick and mortar school, so it must be a good degree, right?

      (Dickinson State got busted for graduating 400 out of 410 foreign students who actually did not have all requirements met. But since it is not an online school, that must be OK)

  2. Anonymous*

    I agree. Not everyone can afford to shell out $200,000 plus for a fancy degree, and some of those people are much smarter than the spoiled brats who go to great schools because of Daddy’s fat wallet.

    1. fposte*

      Though online for-profits aren’t a cheap alternative, either, so the money argument’s a little specious.

      1. Liz in a Library*

        FWIW, not all for-profits are that expensive. At the school where I work, the cost per course is higher than that of the local CC, but less than that of the local state university. That’s another misconception I hear a lot.

        1. fposte*

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that. I just meant that a for-profit isn’t necessarily a cheaper alternative.

    2. Anonymous*

      Re: I agree
      The sheer offensiveness and bigotry of this comment does not reflect well on the poster or those who look here for serious and thoughtful comments. Suggest you take this one down.

    3. Eric*

      Some of us spoiled brats are in debt up to our eyeballs. It’s a significant investment to put a 4 year college degree on your resume. At least you acknowledge they are great schools.

    4. Anonymous*

      Or some of us worked incredibly hard to win academic scholarships to great schools. I owe nothing to anyone’s fat wallet and earned my fancy degree outright.

      1. Kitty*

        I depended on my parents’ fat wallets to get through school – and I’m very grateful to them for it! Don’t see why it’s such a shameful thing so long as you don’t waste the opportunity.

  3. Jamie*

    I think OP is going to have a lot of issues if s/he remains this judgmental. If it were this easy to evaluation people based on their data then interviews would be unnecessary – people and their careers are made up of a lot more than what can be seen on a transcript.

    As an aside, am I the only one bothered by the term “lady” in this context? I don’t have a problem with “ladies and gentlemen,” or using the ladies room…but I find the use of the word to describe someone holding a position to be grating.

    This could just be me – I don’t know why it always sounds so crass and dismissive to me, but it does. In my career I’ve been referred to as “the IT lady” and “the IT girl” more than once, and I find them equally off-putting. Well, being referred to as a girl by someone who wasn’t yet 20 and the same age as my eldest child was odd…but other than that I think lady bothers me more than girl.

    It’s probably just me.

    1. Under Stand*

      No, it is not just you. Pretty indicative of a character flaw in the OP to me. Looks down on those s/he finds “lesser”.

    2. KayDay*

      Eh…I’m not particularly fond of “lady” but unfortunately it seems any world for female person upsets someone–it is just a no-win situation. In fact, “female” is often used in derogatory contexts. A lot of my friends get really mad when someone calls them ma’am (“I’m not old enough to be ma’am-ed!”) and just as many would be insulted by being called “miss.” A lot could be discussed about the fact that all terms for female people have some sort of alternative connotation, but that’s a story for another blog…

      HR representative would be a better way to say “person of unknown position in the HR department” but I’m not sure you should read that much into it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “Woman” seems pretty safe to me!

        When people say “male” and “female” as nouns, I always think of police talk for some reason. The same with “individual” rather than “person.” As in, “We have the individual in custody.” I take it out of everything I edit for anyone.

        1. Natalie*

          Using male and female always seems sort of odd to me, but not grating in the way that using “females” and some more common term for men. The latter seems to be more common to me.

          1. Steve*

            My problem with the work “lady” comes from its etymology – the word derives from the Old English words meaning “bread-kneader” So when people use it, I substitute that term internally which really messes me up.

        2. Andrea*

          Yeah, I just use “woman.” And I correct other people, too. I am not prepubescent, so don’t refer to me as a “girl.” I make a joke about it and act like it’s all okay, but I don’t know why so many people are so reluctant to use “woman,” but all of the reasons I suspect are upsetting.

          1. KayDay*

            I think a lot of people (incl. some of my friends) find that “woman” has an “older” connotation to it (similar to ma’am), so it sounds odd when directed at people in their 20s and early 30s. The problem is that, in a social setting, words invoking “youth” or “delicate-ness” (lady-like) are considered more polite for girls/women and words invoking “maturity” (manly) are more polite for boys/men. Of course, in a work setting,IMO, most people would want to use words signaling maturity for everyone. But because we have added so much extra insinuations to words about women it becomes more complicated.

            I don’t think that people are trying to be insulting/infantilizing when they call a woman in her 20s a “girl,” but I do think that the effect that this has (women are girls and men are men) is indeed a problem, so I think it is good when you/AAM/anyone call people out on that (as AAM did other day). Personally, I don’t really care if people call me a girl or a woman, but I don’t like “lady” and I really don’t like it after Steve’s comment above.

      2. A Bug!*

        I’m also fond of “representative” or “rep” in these situations.

        Re: “female”, the use of female as a noun (you used it as an adjective, so the following comment doesn’t actually apply to your use of the word) is disrespectful and problematic because it is not a word limited to people the way “woman” is. When you use “female” as a noun, you’re not even acknowledging that the woman is a person, a human being.

    3. Brightwanderer*

      Jamie – this may be a regional or upbringing difference. I was raised that to say “that woman” or “that man” or “the HR woman” or “the HR man” in a professional/talking to strangers/talking about strangers context was rude. If you don’t know the person’s name, in a context like this or, say, helping someone in a shop, you always use “lady” or “gentleman” – “This lady is looking for red shirts, do you know if we have any?” “I met a gentleman outside who seemed lost, could you send someone out?” “I spoke to a lady in HR earlier but I didn’t get her name…” etc. To me, “The HR woman told me…” would be the phrase that grated.

      I am from the UK and make no claims that this is a universal rule for everyone else in the country – but I’m confident in saying it’s the norm in the professional circles I move in.

      1. Katie*

        I’m from Texas, and I would use lady in the same way that you do. To me, “woman” sounds kind of crass. As in, “Go get me a beer, woman.”

          1. khilde*

            Ditto. I’m from the northern plains states and I say lady most often. That’s the term I use when I want to convey respect. “Woman” just sounds to harsh or clinical.

      2. Lils*

        I agree that it might be a regional difference. In the south of USA, saying lady would be more polite than saying woman. I’m sure this seems odd, just as calling all older ladies (unless they’re your boss) in the workplace “Miss [firstname]”, as many southerners do. :)

      3. Jamie*

        Great point – I think a lot of it also has to do with tone. The OP sounded snotty, so that’s how it read. Your examples are the opposite…lovely and polite.

        Can I just say I wish people would start using the word ‘gentlemen’ more? It just sounds so gallant.

        1. Anonymous*

          This baffles me. You want people to use “Gentlemen” but not “Lady.”

          “Women and Gentlemen, we are about to begin, please take your seats.” weird.

      4. Anonymouse*

        Ditto. From the DC area and Lady is far more polite than Woman. In fact, I didn’t noticed she had specifically used Lady but I would have for sure noticed Woman as being awkward.

        There’s nothing more awkward than a person who is desperately trying *not* to be awkward.

      5. Kim*

        I remember the first time a friend of mine got angry for being called “sweetie” (by a woman a couple of decades older than her — my friend felt it was derogatory). I have to admit, I can’t think of a single one of those that would offend me on its own (girl, woman, lady, ma’am, sweetie, hon, etc.). I think the tone of voice certainly could, but the word? Nah.

        I think you’re right, that it’s regional. I’ve lived on four continents and in six states, and I generally hear woman, lady, and ma’am as respectful, and hon, sweetie, etc. as endearments.

        Frankly, as long as you get my gender right, I’m good. (And my mother even gets a free pass on that one as I’m frequently called by either my brother’s or the cat’s names :) )

      1. Jojo*

        Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with “Lady”, “Woman”, etc. In fact, like Brighwandered said, Lady to me sounds like a polite way of addressing a woman you don’t quite know by name, or to describe the person to someone else.
        Sometimes I feel that in the US, we got so hung up with sexysm, and get overly paranoid over it. I am a woman and enjoy being one, and never feel insulted when someone describes me as: girl, gal, woman, lady, whatever to describe my gender. Guess to me, there really is nothing wrong to be a woman.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I don’t feel OP meant anything by ” the HR lady.” I couldn’t care less if someone refers to me as “lady,” “girl,” “woman,” “ma’am,” or “miss.” I don’t find anything derogatory or demeaning about any of them. “Young lady,” on the other hand, would bug the crap out of me.

      1. Original Questioner*

        You sound more reasonable to me (compared with the other posters), so I’ll respond: If I had spoken to a man in HR, I might have written “HR guy.” No derogatory intention whatsoever.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The other posters don’t sound reasonable to you? I think you’re reading this with a real blind spot and chip on your shoulder, because the commenters are being perfectly reasonable, as this group always is. This blog actually has one of the most reasonable, thoughtful groups of commenters I’ve seen anywhere on the Internet, so I urge you to read what they’re telling you with a more open mind. Disagreeing with you, even vehemently, doesn’t equal unreasonable.

          1. Anonymous*

            Honestly, the commenters are what got me addicted to this blog! I started reading this blog, a long with a couple of others, a while back for job search advice, but the comments section is why I have been coming back since the job search concluded.

              1. Jamie*

                Then you’re missing the good stuff! The comments are great, but without Alison it’s kind of like a bowl of frosting with no cake.

                No matter how awesome the frosting is, without substance it’s just a mess.

          2. Jamie*

            Since there’s been a fair bit of discussion about making sweeping judgments about groups of people it got me thinking. I bet if you could run the comments from the regular posters for the last several years I bet you’d come up with the following hive characteristics:

            1. Vehemently opposed to abuse and domestic violence.
            2. Inordinately biased in favor of hiring smart non-slackers…preferably those who clip their nails at home.
            3. Adamant about meritocracy being applied fairly and restroom courtesy.
            4. Higher than normal percentage of those employed in the tech fields, which is odd for a non techy blog. That has to be indicative of something, but I’m not sure what.
            5. Place premiums on good communication – without the pettiness of the grammar police.
            6. Tends to split on some employee entitlement issues/conditions esp as relates to free market, European nations, and labor unions. Although universally in favor of an employees right not to have their lunch stolen by the boss.
            7. Typically engages in a higher level of respectful discourse than found on most anonymous internet forums…although sarcasm is fairly predictable when sensibilities seem to be offended intentionally.
            8. No rankism – as shocking as that is for a community with people from every organizational level. Universal condemnation of employers who allow bedbugs to occupy workspaces with people just trying to earn a living.
            9. High value on the generosity of knowledge. I’ve never been part of a community so willing to share their own experiences to help total strangers with any given situation. It may keep many of us from giving unsolicited advice to people in our real lives. So it’s a public service in that way.
            10. The biggest divide seems to be among the people who enjoy work related social events and those who would rather undergo a thousand root canals than one cocktail party at the boss’s house.

            All in all I think that’s kind of the culture of this little band of commenters. If this were the culture of the workplace I would totally want to work there.

            You know, as long as the no-social event people won that battle. Other than that though, it’s a pretty awesome. :).

            Yes, I am avoiding driving home right now because the snow is piling up, even though I know the longer I type the worse the roads will be. Why do you ask?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Ooooh, great list. We also have more library science people than most places, for some reason.

              I’m always struck by the difference in the commenters here versus the commenters on my articles when they run on Yahoo. I don’t even read the comments on my stuff on Yahoo because they’re so silly, whereas reading the comments here is a prime motivator in why I keep up the site.

              1. A Bug!*

                I quite enjoy the discourse in the comments on your site. I’ve been reading your blog for a while but I’ve only recently started paying a lot of attention to the comments, because I’m frankly not used to such reasonable, intelligent discussion.

                It’s great that there’s often disagreement and that everyone seems to handle it in a mature fashion. I find that in places like this an “echo chamber” often develops where the regulars reinforce themselves and anyone with a dissenting view, no matter how reasonably-presented, is chased out. It’s refreshing to see otherwise here.

                I’m also really keen on the fact that the comments often focus on something that wasn’t addressed in your initial response. It makes for some very fascinating discussion!

              2. amy*

                the yahoo comments as answers come up when i research something quick like “what’s included on a BLT?” example! The yahoo answer will be like….Bread, mayo, bacon and tomatoes. i love BLTs and I love yahoo!” haha things like that, no help. I changed my email over to gmail from yahoo because an older person not into the email scene asked me what yahoo meant, was it a crazy person email? !

              3. Pamela G*

                Oh my goodness, yes! I used to read some opinion blogs on news websites and the comments were just awful! The vast majority were horribly misogynistic, bigoted and just downright nasty… made me depressed at that snapshot of society, to be honest. I can’t believe the quality of comments you have on this blog – like the others, it’s one of the reasons I keep coming back! You don’t even have a resident troll!

              4. Rana*

                I think a lot of it is that you, AAM, are yourself an active member of the community; you don’t just post and run.

                I find that sites where the blogger is part of the conversation beyond the initial post are almost always more thoughtful and civil than the ones where they are disengaged. I think the possibility of being “called out” by the blog owner discourages drive-bys, and encourages regular posters to care for both the community and the blogger.

                In fact, they’ve shown that active participation and moderation are far more important to comment civility than requiring people to post under their (supposedly) real names. (I love that you allow the use of pseudonyms, for all that conversations between multiple “Anonymouses” can get confusing.)

              5. JT*

                I think the library science people are due to scarcity of library jobs plus those people are good at finding good information resources, of which this blog is one.

              6. ChristineH*

                Ditto to everyone else above me! I’ve seen other boards with exactly what “A Bug” describes. This column is one of the few places I don’t feel so shy about posting comments.

                Additionally, I love seeing the variety of the commenters in terms of their employment and academic backgrounds; makes for really rich discussions with varying perspectives.

                Thank you AAM!

              7. Ellen M.*

                I am late to the party, and not commenting here on the posting or the woman/lady thang, but I am definitely in the “library science people” category.

                I don’t know why there would be so many MLS-types here. I recommend this site all the time to other librarians and info-pros, library school students, etc. but my recommendations couldn’t be the reason, esp. as I am pretty sure the other library science folks were already enjoying this site before I discovered it.

                Maybe it’s ’cause we are smart in the brains, that we like this site?

              8. Laura L*

                “We also have more library science people than most places, for some reason.”

                That’s probably because we’re so awesome. :-)

            2. Erica B*

              lol.. I agree with this list, especially the one about the fingernails and the bedbugs.. for some reason the fingernails at work puts people over the edge!

            3. anon.*

              You are one of the commenters I absolutely love. Thank you for your contributions. They are a thoughtful delight.

          3. anon.*

            “because the commenters are being perfectly reasonable, as this group always is”

            um, “always” – not true. I have actually written in with my dismay when the conversations have been attacking rather than reasonable. That being said, MOST of the comments in MOST of the posts over the last year or so I have been reading this blog are thoughtful, sometimes witty, and a pleasure to read (thanks!).

      2. Anonymous*

        I agree with you I don’t get offended nor do I see anything wrong with those names, and if I call anyone those names I don’t mean to offend them. I didn’t realize it would bother some people, but now that I am aware of it, I will think twice before saying it.

    5. J.B.*

      Eh, I am a female in a technical field and have been known to use “jobtype lady” or “jobtype guy” and wouldn’t be really bothered by it too much. I have been referred to as “that little girl in City” but it was by an older man who had been in the field forever. To be called that by someone younger or of similar job roles to me would definitely bother me.

    6. Anonnn*

      I think there’s a difference between saying “the lady (or gentleman) in HR” and “the HR lady.” The former is polite, and the latter sounds like working in HR is extent of the lady’s identity.

    7. Long Time Admin*

      Ha ha!! I worked with much younger man for a while (I was old enough to be his mother), and I overheard him telling his girlfriend “that’s the girl I work with”. Made me feel 20 years younger!

      Females in the workplace are women; males in the workplace are men. I find that nowadays people generally use the terms “lady” or “gentleman” in a facetious manner, although children will often refer to any woman other than their mother as “that lady”. My sister-in-law is called “the cafeteria lady” at her school all the time.

    8. Scott Woode*

      Can I just say, like many of the “people who comment,” that the OP for this needs to simmer when it comes to the severity of these judgments and assertions? As the son of a mother who put herself through both a BA & MA and a father who has two semesters of college, both of whom worked exceptionally hard at their jobs and have garnered great success through diligence, persistence, and savvy, this poster and her opinions offends me. This is not an acceptable outlook and reeks of ignorance. We all come from different paths and follow different journeys; the OP should know this and should be aware, but unfortunately demonstrates neither in her missive.

      I find it sad that she felt the need to express herself and her negativity in this forum, yet am equally just as proud with AaM’s response and tone. It was a well-deserved smack back-to-reality for the OP. Thank you, Alison.

      Regarding the use of the word “Lady,” I do some-what agree with you, but I find “girl” to be much more offensive and demeaning when it’s used in reference to a female over the age of 12. I worked at the Ritz-Carlton and they have a mantra that “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” which I think is not only appropriate but inspiring. What qualities make up a “Lady”? a “Gentleman”?

      Whatever they are, I want to possess them.

  4. JoAnna*

    My husband is currently working toward a B.S. in software engineering from University of Phoenix, and he works hard. The assignments are tough and rigorous, especially now that he’s in advanced classes (he’s in his senior year). He has straight As at the moment but he works his butt off to earn them. He works 4 10-hour days per week and then works another 4-5 hours on projects and homework, and somehow manages to help with our 4 kids (including a newborn). Believe me, U of P is NOT a diploma mill.

    Also, he works full-time for an extremely large and successful company (rhymes with Mapple) and they do partial tuition reimbursement since he’s going for a degree in a relevant field. When he applied for the reimbursement, no one at his company objected to U of P on the basis that it wasn’t a “real” school. If not for U of P, my husband wouldn’t be able to even work toward a degree; no public university in our large metropolitan city offered a degree program that still allowed him to work full-time with a schedule that’s not really flexible enough to allow attending classes in a physical location.

    U of P is also accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, among others, so I agree with AAM that you shouldn’t make assumptions about his knowledge or his work ethic based on where he went to school.

    1. Anonymous*

      My sister got her BA from UoP online, and I will agree with you that I don’t understand how it’s gotten such a bad reputation. She worked her ass off in every class, and there were no differences in the structure of her classes to the online “flex” classes that my school–a ‘respected’ university–now offers. I feel bad that her degree gets sneered at by people like the OP, when she put in as much if not more effort than students at other schools, and when, at the time she initially enrolled, there were few online options available that allowed her to complete her degree while continuing to work FT.

    2. Original Questioner*

      Fine, but your husband isn’t going to head a university department where he’d supervise people more educated than he is. Universities, above all other employers, should embrace a genuine meritocracy.

      1. Lils*

        Hate to tell you, but the idea that all university administrators are shining examples of merit-based promotion just made me laugh so hard I spit my coffee on my keyboard. Just like everywhere else, some are great and some suck–and that has *nothing* to do with where they got their degree. Alma mater has some influence, but not much, over merit, either. I agree with AAM–don’t waste this guy’s time. I would love to hear an update from you a year from now, after you’ve been humbled by the realities of the real-world workplace.

        1. The Right Side*

          Totally agree with you. She’s going to get that chip knocked off her shoulder very quickly!

      2. The Right Side*

        Not true – I received my MBA entirely online – from a school that has had its fair share of judgement. I worked my rearend off for that degree – it helped that I previous experience in project management but I believe you get out what you put into an education… and I put in a lot. Now I am an administrator at a college – managing state and federal grants and contracts. I am officially an executive here.

        The VP told me that at one time community colleges were judged as “not being as good” as a state university but in time people came to realize their value. Now the tables have turned and that negative focus is placed on the online degree. Not fair but just a fact of our human nature.

        Just about every college has an online degree – even Harvard offers online courses. Frankly, I think an online student works that much harder for their degree plus it takes a lot of self-discipline to obtain a degree online – something ANY employee would view as valuable.

        This OP sounds like a self-righteous twit, in my opinion. She’ll never get far with this condescending attitude!

      3. Anonymous*

        Wait a minute, Original Questioner: a meritocracy would imply that you’re evaluated by what you do and achieve, not what degrees you managed to slog through.

        It sounds as if the school you’re looking at really DOES embrace a meritocracy (the guy with the no-name degree has at least charmed them into putting him into a position of authority) and you want them to give status to anyone who has an impressive alphabet soup.

      4. Liz T*

        Wait, just to clarify: Is this guy a professor? Or is he managerial? Or both? You say “head” a department–does that mean he’s the Department Chair, or is this another kind of position that doesn’t involve directly educating people?

        1. Greta L*

          An important point – is it an academic dept. or administrative? I work in an admin dept. at a large, public university. In addition to a decade of experience, I have a master’s degree, but my supervisor does not. Instead, she moved up in our field because she’s effective at her job and has proven herself at several prestigious institutions. As a manager myself, when I get resumes from applicants whose primary qualification is having an advanced degree, I’m immediately skeptical. Can they actually do the job, or just talk about it? Even in higher education, degrees don’t always mean much outside of an academic unit.

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, Original Questioner. Think about what meritocracy means. It means you judge people for their value and what they’ve achieved –which is actually something your posts here have discounted entirely. I think you’re so determined to be right about this that you’re not seeing clearly.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sometimes. I’ve met people with masters who really, really weren’t that impressive. And there are tons of people without advanced degrees who are. So it’s not all that predictive.

            1. Eric*

              Depends. I admit that I personalize some of these discussions. I’ve known MBAs not smart enough to wear a hat. Most of the MS Electrical Engineers I know are top notch.

              1. Yup*

                Off topic, but I just want you to know that “not smart enough to wear a hat” is pretty much the best thing I’ve read all month. I’ll be using it in project summaries and meeting minutes henceforth.

          2. Vicki*

            I have a Masters degree from a state university on the “other coast”. It’s in Microbiology. I’ve been employed as a computer programmer and/or technical writer ever since I got the degree. I can say that my thesis project got me my first job. After that… first job got me second job, etc, etc. At this point, the degree on the resume makes for not much more than an interesting discussion toward the end of an interview.

            1. Vicki*

              In the sciences, an MS means you can do research and write a thesis. It means you were able to stick to the project. A few years out of school, the MS fades into the background and your work history takes its place.

      6. K*

        OK, I’ve seen University instructors sporting online degrees because that is the option that worked best for them at the time. Do you know anything about why they have their degree there? Were they working their way through the field and getting a degree on top of a demanding job in order to open doors for advancement? Had they already proven themselves in the industry? Don’t judge until you know the whole story. It is very likely that this guy could teach you a thing or two about getting results with the resources you have and making things happen.

      7. Anonymous*

        Fair or not, I also have a background in the wild world of higher ed and I am surprised that this manager got a job there at all. My last university had a blanket “do not hire” policy for people with degrees from phoenix and the like. That even applied to support staff positions! From what I have heard, that’s pretty common in the academic world.

  5. Being Anonymous*

    I agree with AAM on this, too, but I have this to add: sometimes people work their way up the ladder WITHOUT degrees, based on years of experience and being generally awesome, and then come to find out that they can’t make that last step that they want to take without a piece of paper. They may be at a point in their lives where they can’t drop everything and go back to a traditional school, and so an online degree is their best option in terms of time and money. I may not think a degree from an online college is very prestigious, but I would take AAM’s advice to look at his achievements and try to frame them differently.

    I work with several people who don’t have the advanced degrees that they ‘should’ have for their positions, but because they’ve worked here for 10+ years and definitely have the required experience needed to do the job, the educational requirement was waived. Some of them are now doing degrees online in order to ensure some job security in case positions change and then more strictly require the degree, and also for personal growth. They are often bringing up ideas from their programs, and I appreciate that they are now working to get the degree that I had before I got my job.

    1. KayDay*

      I definitely agree with you about the “piece of paper” aspect. Since this is an academic setting, degrees are often non-negotiable requirements–it’s entirely possible that this person was doing great and was told that they just needed to get the qualification to advance.

      1. Anonymous*

        The small institution I attended would hand out MAs to new hires, if their position required it (and quite a few did).

    2. SB*

      This is a very good point. I’ve worked 10 years in my company and in relatively the same position, and it was made clear to me quite a few years ago that a degree was my next step. With a full-time job and a child, I wasn’t able to attend classes in person. The universities in my state claimed to have online programs, but closer inspection revealed some of the classes would require in-person attendance, and I live three hours and a mountain pass away from them.

      I got my AA from University of Phoenix’s associate program, Axia College, and considered getting my BS from UoP as well, but due to financial concerns, switched to a brick-and-mortar private college in my state that had an excellent online program. (I just graduated this December, and since the school is relatively local, was able to march at graduation, only my second time on campus!)

      I do agree that the classes I took at Axia were just as rigorous, in general, as the classes I took from the “real” college, but as with anything, can vary greatly due to the individual instructors. Some were very hands-on, and some were clearly following the same syllabus term after term and basically phoning it in. But the same can be true of a lecture course taken in person, so that’s not unique to online education.

  6. Under Stand*

    OK, AAM was too nice. You sound like an obnoxious, pretentious little snob.

    I do not give a flip that you have a masters degree. There are people who COULD look down on you for the school that you attended, because they may feel it was inferior to their school. You have not met the man and you “would not respect a manager with such a shady academic background”?!?!?! Who the heck are you!!! He may have a “inferior” degree, but guess what, he is more important than you, that is why he is the manager and you are not.

    Sorry, AAM, but crap like that just pisses me off!

    1. Laurie*

      PS. For the commenters pointing out character flaws in the OP for being too snobbish, here are a couple of thoughts.

      1) It is a fact of life that someone that gets into Harvard is in general smarter than someone that goes to podunk university. It is a fact of life that an engineer is more capable of complex mathematical work than a liberal arts graduate. There are exceptions to every rule, and some people that go to Harvard are dicks, but they are also really smart.

      2) Yes, life is unfair, and yes, people make snap judgements based on someone’s race, religion, car, obesity, social class, where they live, who they hang out with, where they work, what they make, what school they went to, where they shop.

      I agree that we are better people if we are able to put aside these judgements and try to understand someone for their unique capabilities, rather than fit them into a box. But, it’s unfair to call this snobbish when in fact we all do it to one extent or another.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        These are all generalizations which are true when you compare groups overall. But you can’t apply them to individuals and be certain they’ll be true.

        1. Laurie*

          I absolutely agree. Your suggestion to put aside the stereotype and focus m0re on this person’s individual accomplishments is exactly on point, and I agree with it. And, that’s also why, I also think it’s unfair to call the OP a snob and a bigot, and instead to say that it may be true in general but you should be more careful about applying it when it comes to individuals.

            1. Laurie*

              @AAM, actually, after you pointed this out, I went back and found the OP’s comments under the name “Original Questioner”. Already my comments are coming under enough fire, so I’ll add to it and say that the OP’s tone is defensive but I actually agree with the gist of his/her (?) comments.

              I am wary of for-profit university degrees as well because admission requirements are not high. That said, I wouldn’t discount a job until I had met the person and had a chance to see what their work accomplishments are.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                For what it’s worth, it actually sounds like you don’t agree with the OP, since you wouldn’t discount someone until you had a chance to see what their accomplishments are — a very different thing (which I agree with)!

              2. Laurie*

                Thanks. But I feel like I can’t stand with all the others that are bashing elite universities and calling the OP’s original question snobbish (subsequent responses notwithstanding). In the United States, we hate being ‘ranked’. Everyone is equal in everything. This is not true. There are some people smarter than others.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Believe me, I’m the first one to say that some people are smarter than others. No one here is denying that. And no one is bashing elite universities; they are correctly pointing out that not every single student at them is there because of merit. And that’s true. And the OP’s original question did sound snobbish, an impression that was borne out by his subsequent responses.

                And I don’t think anyone here has a problem with rankings. The issue — which I think you’re getting muddled — is that the OP was drawing all sorts of conclusions about someone based on a single piece of information that shouldn’t naturally lead him to those conclusions.

              4. Judged and Jury*

                @ Laurie – admission requirements for community colleges are not high yet they are not looked down upon as a stepping stone. I’ve been to both brick and mortar and online schools and have worked 10x harder at the online classes. My peer attended a brick/mortar school and had random online classes. The requirements in one of her classes were to post online once a week and she had two assignments due all semester. TWO. I had to post 9x a week and had a paper due EVERY Sunday. Oh and there’s no “spring break” or “summers off” for online students, you’re required to go straight through continuously. We got one week off at Christmas. And usually online students are doing this while working full-time, so there is no “personal life” to be had. Sounds like a blast, right, really easy? Those who pooh-pooh the online degree should take into consideration the discipline, motivation and commitment shown by the person who completed that degree. I was actually disappointed that Alison didn’t stand up for the online degree programs more.

              5. Laurie*

                @AAM. Totally agreed.

                @Judged and Jury – I agree with you that online colleges are no less hard work, and are in fact much more intensive and rigorous. I went to a small state school myself, and I have the same gripe with the elite universities (that I put in as much effort or more than they do, but I also know that some of that feeling is sour grapes).

                There is a fascinating research study out there that asked recruiters for elite consulting firms what their criteria was in hiring people. Turns out, they revealed under conditions of anonymity that they didn’t care as much what the students did after they got into college, they only cared *which schools they got into, even if they didn’t eventually go there*. How fascinating is that!

                So, when we say elite universities, private, state schools etc etc, we are really talking about what the student achieved in high school in terms of classes, grades, SAT scores, activities, extra curriculars, volunteering and so on. The elite universities are really just a collection of high school students that fit a particular profile. Which seems to correlate with high achievement. Go figure.

              6. Under Stand*

                1. Some people are smarter than others.

                2. I never bashed the elite universities.

                3. Just because you went to an elite university does not mean you are smarter than the guy who went to Whatsamata U.

                4. Just because you went to Whatsamata U. does not make you a worse employee than the guy who went to University of Cucumber on Toast (That is just an awesome name, thanks Anonymouse).

                5. Just because someone got their degree online does not make the degree a joke.

                6. Someone who would dismiss someone else because of where their diploma comes from without so much as meeting and talking with them is a jerk.

      2. Mary Sue*

        I got into Stanford and Harvard as an undergrad.

        My master’s degree is from National University– a for-profit, mostly online school that is nationally accredited.

        And I’m currently attending community college to get an associates degree in a technical field.

        Having said all that, I’m not at all interested in this commenter’s opinion of me, or the validity of my degrees, or my career path. That’s because I am secure knowing I am smarter than 99% of Internet commenter, because I’ve qualified for MENSA membership.

        (And didn’t follow up because people who are jerks about their intelligence are just like people who are jerks about whose degree is better– and I don’t suffer jerks gladly.)

            1. Sue*

              I admit I kind of giggled though because it reminded me of your post on not putting MENSA membership on your resume…

        1. Nichole*

          I work at a community college, and it’s amazing to me to see how the misconceptions about our CC students are proven wrong every day. Yes, open admission means we get lots of people who aren’t ready for college or aren’t as motivated once they realize this won’t be easy (because it’s not-our coursework is difficult, and most of our students have outside obligations as well). But the people who make it past the first few semesters are persistant, resilient, and-yes- intelligent. We, like many of the online schools addressed here, understand that our students aren’t traditional students; they have different goals, life circumstances, and histories than the stereotypical college kid, and they learn better when we support them in a different way. I hope that reputable online colleges will go the route that community colleges seem to be moving along, proving themselves as a way to take students who may never have considered college, who thought their interests and talents weren’t the kind of thing that mattered, and giving them the skills they need to thrive. Every student has a method to their madness, and I agree 100% with the advice to base respect on the person’s achievement and performance rather than how flashy their credentials are. Obviously the degree this person chose got him where he wanted to be, so maybe he knows something you don’t, OP.

      3. moss*

        Laurie, your number 1 point is so ridiculous. Harvard lets in tons of legacies who are usually nowhere near as smart as even the average population. Harvard is pretty much the opposite of challenging or meritocratic. It’s also economically out of reach for most people. I went to a podunk university (state school, known for athletics) and I would bet my house that my IQ is higher than yours.

        I agree that we all make judgements about others. Some of us make informed judgements and some of us allow others to judge us by the stupid things we say. Which group are you in?

        1. Anon*

          Re: legacy learners at Harvard

          George W. Bush has a degree from Harvard…so much for the intelligence argument there!

          1. Laurie*

            Right. And, oh, Obama. Does the Editor of the Harvard Law Review generally qualify as a smart person? I should hope so.

            @moss, you probably missed one of the other comments I made here. I went to podunk state too, and I am proud of my education and my achievements. But, I am secure enough to acknowledge that people that go to (Harvard/MIT/Caltech/Stanford) are in general intelligent people.

            I wouldn’t go around betting my house that my IQ is always higher than that of someone from Harvard. I have seen enough of this world to know that there is always someone smarter than you.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Laurie, you’re missing the point. No one is arguing that no smart people go to Harvard; that would be silly. They are arguing that knowing someone’s school is not a definitive way to determine their intelligence.

        2. JT*

          “Harvard lets in tons of legacies who are usually nowhere near as smart as even the average population.”

          That’s quite a stretch – I wonder where you get your info that overall Harvard legacies are worse than average. I’d speculate that as a group they are average in innate intelligence, but often above average in other ways since, due to wealth, they have had better opportunities than the average American in high school and elementary school.

          Oh, I went to Harvard so have some first-hand observational experience. Not a legacy myself.

          To end this on a non-snobby note, the OP sounds like a total snob to me. There are plenty of wicked smart people that never went to college or went to community college or non-famous college and for-profit college.

      4. fposte*

        Whoa. No. Speaking as somebody at what was formerly termed a Research I university, I’ll assure you that it’s definitely not a fact of life that somebody getting into Harvard is smarter than somebody going elsewhere.

        I don’t think there’s an entirely random correlation between intelligence and university, in that people who are rock-stupid are going to be rarer from a really competitive university (though you can always find some) than from a diploma mill. But if you start thinking the correlation goes the other way–that the alma mater is predictive of intelligence–then you’ll have missed some really smart, capable people. And the value of a university education isn’t that it helpfully brands those who were smart at 18 for the rest of their lives, it’s that it gives the people who attend it education, tools, and opportunities that benefit them in life, and the fact is just about any decent school can do a pretty good job of that for a good number of their graduates. (Have a look at Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating breakdown of where Nobel Prize winners got their undergraduate education. It ain’t all Ivy.) When you get into graduate/professional programs it gets more complicated, as networking facilitation becomes a big advantage, but that’s not a measure of smarts.

        1. Laurie*

          I agree, I agree. Maybe Harvard was not the best example. MIT, Caltech suit everyone? The correlation is exactly what I’m talking about.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think you’re missing the point people are making. As I wrote above (and you agreed with), generalizations that are true when you compare groups overall can’t be applied to individuals with any certainty at all.

            1. JT*


              And also, we can use generalizations to help guide decisions in the absence of other information. But to use them as a final determinant w/o trying to get better information is usually stupid.

              1. Laurie*

                @JT, totally agree. Human beings rely on heuristics to guide their decision-making, and in today’s day and age, the prestige of an educational institution seems to be one.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ah, different situation. The OP didn’t ask, “I have 500 employers who are interested in working me; d0 you think I can make generalizations about some of them to narrow the pool down to something more manageable, with the understanding that some of my generalizations might not end up being correct?” If he had, I would have said yes. And that would be comparable to what you’re talking about.

              2. Sue*

                Sadly, I’m sure Eric is right – I’m sure plenty of employers will choose the prestigiously schooled candidate for an interview over an online or state-schooled student, even with experience.

      5. Anonymous*

        There is a great difference between people who are “book smart” and people who have life skills. Just because you graduated at the top of your class at Harvard does not mean you’ll make a good manager, or even a good employee. Some people have both, most people don’t.

        (In fact, in my experience working at a top University, many of the “smartest” students have zero life skills because all they have been encouraged to do their whole lives is study and achieve high marks while someone else, usually their parents, took care of everything else for them.)

      6. Liz T*

        I would say “better educated,” not “smarter.” Colleges care a lot about standardized test scores, which are notoriously bad at predicting what they’re supposed to predict. (Academic performance in college.) SATs mostly reflect how much you’ve prepped for the tricks on the SATs. I say this as someone who teaches SAT prep; a lot of our math technique, for example, is convincing kids to not do the actual math.

        I’m very smart. I’m also very privileged; my parents were able to give me an incredible private education, in a city where public schools are pretty bad. I’ve met some really smart people who felt intimidated by my education, and they shouldn’t be. A lot of people grow up having their intellectual curiosity actively discouraged at school, and wouldn’t even think of applying to a Harvard or a Yale. That doesn’t mean they’re not incredibly smart, and hard-working, and intellectually engaged.

        “Smart” is something very specific, and accurate measures thereof are few.

      7. Katie*

        I don’t think it’s at all unfair to regard someone who says, without reservation, they couldn’t respect a supervisor who received a degree from a lesser school, as a snob. There are biased first impressions, and then there is out and out stating that ALL people with degrees from certain institutions couldn’t possibly have other characteristics that might merit your respect.

        I also think you overestimate the extent to which an Ivy League education serves as a general indicator of intelligence or ability. Not that there aren’t rigorous academic standards that the overwhelming majority of students meet to attend Ivy Leagues, but admission into an Ivy League university still tends to favor heavily legacies and those from a handful of prestigious feeder high schools (largely private) which primarily serve those with established generational wealth and influence. Which means that it’s not necessarily the smartest people who get in, but more often than not, smart people from the right background. I’m sure plenty of smarter people don’t make it in because they don’t have the right background to bring them to the attention of admissions officers.

        Factors like this impact where people go to college–if they attend at all–to some degree across the board. Whether and where a person gets a college degree are based on a combination of factors including intellect, interest, and class, meaning that a college degree can tell you a lot about a person’s general background, but it will not necessarily be a direct indicator of one’s intelligence or ability.

      8. Jaime*

        Even if you replace Harvard with MIT or Caltech, you are still wrong. There are more factors that go into which college you go to than just your own intelligence level. One of the biggest, of course, is if you can afford the tuition. A friend of mine from high school (crap school, small town) is VERY intelligent and he did eventually get his law degree with Harvard Law School, but his undergrad was from a state school. He qualified for lots of scholarships, but the way Harvard structured (this was 17 years ago, so I don’t know how they do it now) their scholarship package meant that he and his family still couldn’t afford it. So he went to a state school, kicked ass (of course) – won a couple of prestigious fellowships to study in the middle east and then in the UK – then finally circled around to his original first choice for law school. If you were to assume from his undergrad degree that he was less intelligent than an undergrad from Harvard, you’d be doing him and you a disservice.

        There are other factors like if the kid is needed to help at home and doesn’t feel they can leave their city/state to go to a “better” school. Maybe they prefer learning environments that are smaller/larger … or maybe they don’t like the rep of the school as a snob fest …. maybe they’re single/young parents and need a more flexible schedule …. etc.

        And the same is true for your example of an engineering student vs a liberal arts students. I would have agreed with this if you had said that “generally” an engineering student is more mathematically capable. Certainly this is often true, but there are plenty of students out there who were simply happier going a different direction, even though they were highly capable of learning the same mathematical curriculum engineer’s learn.

        Yes, we all make assumptions but it’s such a cop out to cite that as a reason for not at least aspiring to better behaviour.

        1. JT*

          I’m not digging elite school bashing. There are few people at top schools such as Harvard who are stupid. The degree is a signal that they are reasonably smart or well-educated or both, and I think we can take a lot of confidence in that. That doesn’t mean they have common sense or will be a good employee or manager or even friend. But it’s unlikely they will be stupid.

          You can get into Harvard by being very smart or very accomplished or very rich. But the latter won’t work if you’re actually stupid.

          What is certainly not true is that someone having a degree from a “lesser” school or no degree at all is not smart. They might not have had the money or opportunity to go to a fancy school. So they might well be very smart and it’s impossible to know without more information.

          1. Jaime*

            I don’t know if I’m misunderstanding your comment or you misunderstood mine. Totally understandable since I rambled a bit.

            I was responding to this statement: “It is a fact of life that someone that gets into Harvard is in general smarter than someone that goes to podunk university.”

            I’m not bashing elite schools, I’m rejecting the idea that students at the elite schools are generally smarter than students at podunk universities. Yes, students at the elite schools are generally very intelligent and those schools have very high entrance standards. However, this does not mean that students attending schools with “lower” standards are generally less smart. If nothing else, the density of the population in the US (and worldwide) would dictate that many, many more students will NOT go to Ivy League schools no matter the level of their intelligence – the schools simply don’t have the ability to service all of the highly intelligent kids in the world. When you also factor in the other variables – wealth, finaid, scholarships, family dynamics, etc – then that cuts the numbers even more. All of this will reduce the number of students even trying or wanting to attend an elite school.

            That’s what I’m saying. That just because you are generally safe to assume that someone from an elite school is smart, you CANNOT safely assume that generally someone from a non-elite school is not as smart.

        2. Anonymous*

          the same mathematical curriculum engineer’s learn

          Well…. that’s just engineering mathematics ;-)

      9. Oh my!*

        It is not a fact of life that someone who gets into Harvard is smarter than someone that goes to podunk university.

        Many smart people cannot afford to go to Harvard.

    2. KayDay*

      In most contexts, yes, this would be obnoxious…but in an academic setting degrees really do matter (that’s what advanced degrees were originally intended for!) Usually the head of the department would have a terminal degree in that department’s specialty. That said, AAMs advice still applies: the OP should try to find his CV and look at his accomplishments, i.e. peer-reviewed publications and citations.

      Now, if this person is the administrative head of the department (i.e. not a professor who chairs the department, but the person who runs it behind the scenes) OR if this is an administrative department then I would agree with Under Stand a bit more.

    3. Original Questioner*

      Don’t blame me if you get a heart attack…. If true meritocracies existed, this guy wouldn’t have the job he has. I live in a big city–the college couldn’t find a better-educated person to head the department?

      By the way, you should write AN inferior degree, not “a inferior degree.” If an adjective begins with a vowel, the indefinite article that precedes it almost always should be AN (there are exceptions).

      1. fposte*

        Oh, FFS, OQ. True meritocracies would not be based on degrees, let alone degree-granting institutions.

        You got a Groucho situation going on and you don’t know it. The clubs that will have you with your current credentials aren’t the clubs you want to be a member of.

        1. khilde*

          i’m so slow to catch onto the acroynms – can you please tell me what FFS stands for? Took me a long time to figure out what LMAO meant, so this is who you’re dealing with :)

            1. khilde*

              yes, thanks! I also just recently had to ask what FML meant. I should just assume that anything with the letter F has that included in it :)

              1. Emily*

                I didn’t either!

                Also, I went to a small, single-sex, liberal arts college in western Mass. My final GPA was a couple of 1/10s of a point shy of cum laude distinction. While I don’t really have plans to pursue an advanced degree, I’ve received several distinctions of merit in the professional certificate programs I’ve completed at NYU. I still have doubts about sorting laundry when I get to multicolored items that are both light AND dark. If a word that begins with the letter H and has an unstressed first syllable (e.g. historical or hilarious), I know that the indefinite article that precedes it should be AN.

                I wonder if the OP would consider working for me.

      2. Anonymous*

        So far, the only criticism you have of this person is that they aren’t as well educated as you. They most likely have their job because they perform it well and their job experience provided them with the skills required for the position.

        If you’re so offended by the fact that this person heads this department the solution is simple, don’t apply for a job there.

      3. Liz T*

        Wow, you officially just lost. Like, at life. You’re basing your argument on a typo? No one who has ever written “a inferior degree” has something worthwhile to say? I was feeling a little sympathetic about the lashing you’re getting here, but you’ve astonished me with your incredibly naïve sense of entitlement and superiority. You seem to have very little sense of self-awareness. I’d like to say that this kind of egocentrism will do you harm in the world, but we all know that flawed people often do just fine. (And, indeed, this is a good thing.)

        To calm down: I hope you take a moment to put your pride aside and consider the potential merits of the arguments here. It’s a difficult thing to do, but I hope you’ll try. And I hope you’ll realize it’s not a skill that goes hand-in-hand with higher education.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        By the way, you should write AN inferior degree, not “a inferior degree.” If an adjective begins with a vowel, the indefinite article that precedes it almost always should be AN (there are exceptions).

        Okay, now you’re just officially being a douche. Obviously most people past third grade know that rule, so assuming someone needs to be educated about it, as opposed to assuming they made a typo, is ridiculous. This is a blog’s comment section; people aren’t required to proofread every word they write. I certainly don’t.

        People who judge others for this type of thing, combined with the kinds of attitudes you expressed in your original letter and follow-up comments, are generally people who have a strong need to convince themselves that they’re superior to others, usually because they fear that they’re not. Please step back and look at how you’re coming across here. There’s a reason that you have an entire comment section of thoughtful, reasonable people telling you that you’re wrong. Stop digging your heels in and step back for a minute, because you’re looking worse and worse.

        1. fposte*

          To be honest, I have some sympathy for the OP, based on what I’m inferring from his/her posts, which are just the insecurities you’re mentioning.

          I think this is somebody who keenly felt the lack of a graduate degree for a long time, and to whom its acquisition means a great deal. That’s fine when you’re judging the personal merits of an achievement, of course. But, as so often happens with achievements, it’s not so special to the rest the world. I think the OP felt like the degree was the key to some rarefied group, and it can’t be a rarefied group if this other person is in it, so either there’s a mistake in letting this person in or the OP overvalued the degree. And I think that whether or not the first is true, the second definitely is.

          1. Rana*

            I think you might have something there, fposte.

            In academia, people care about my Ph.D. because in my field it’s considered a basic credential, but not because it makes you stand out–when everyone’s a Ph.D., having one is no big deal. Outside of academia, it either makes little difference (it shows I can complete complex, long-term projects and think critically, yay) or is a drawback (because of assumptions about the snobbishness and demanding nature of degree-holders, which the OP is unfortunately reinforcing here).

            So either way, waving your degree about wins no points with me. I know lots of people with doctorates whom I find stupid and difficult to respect, and lots of people who do things like fix toilets and repair cars who are brilliant at what they do. All a degree does is show that you jumped through a specific set of hoops successfully; it doesn’t say anything about your worth as a person.

            A analogy I once came up with is that getting a graduate degree is like climbing a mountain. You learn some skills along the way, and something about yourself, and if the mountain’s a big one, people may be momentarily impressed when you tell them about it. But at the end of the day? So what. They have other things going on in their lives, and your having climbed a mountain doesn’t do anything for them.

            Climb the mountain for you, not to win other people’s respect and approval, because most of the time, you’ll be disappointed if you don’t.

      5. Under Stand*

        You should know that if you are going to quote someone that you should quote correctly. You should have said “a ‘inferior’ degree”, not “a inferior degree”. Since you are going to tell me what I did wrong grammatically, you might want to follow the rules of correct grammar yourself. One of those rules is if you are quoting something that has part of quotes in it, you do not drop the quote marks, but rather use a single quote around that quoted part. Guess you did not learn so much at that fancy school after all.

        -1 for you.

    4. Karin*

      You read my mind. Thank you for posting. Sometimes diplomacy is too subtle, and can’t penetrate the thickest skull.

    5. Karin*

      You read my mind. Thank you for posting. Sometimes diplomacy is too subtle, and can’t penetrate the thickest skull.

      (Pardon the duplicate. For some reason it posted my reply to your comment on a different thread)

      Love the comment!

    6. Anonymous*

      I think the OP’s issue isn’t centered on the fact that the degree in question is an online degree. There are plenty of good, reputable universities offering online degrees. It’s that his degree is from a for-profit diploma mill with questionable accreditation.

      There are many people in the business world who are thriving without degrees. However, the academic world is a different beast. There is a lot of emphasis not only on level of degree attained, but also on where the degree is from. It’s difficult to explain to people in the private sector.

  7. The Editor*

    Sorry OP, but this kind of academic snobbery is why I got out of academics. My father, an accomplished manager of 25+ years, decided to retire from his first career and move into a second career as a school counselor. He did for passion and a love of helping people. Yes, he has a masters in counseling from University of Phoenix. To even suggest that he is somehow less capable or diminished by that is ludicrous on its face.

  8. Laurie*

    Difficult decision! I’ll give you two perspectives on that –
    I went to a regional state school that no one knows outside of the immediate county-level area. I faced the “must not be that smart” a lot, until I fought my way into a top-10 public school, at which point I’ve effectively managed to remove the negative effects of going to the state school, while retaining the benefits of excellent teaching, small class-sizes and learning that comes directly from professors (instead of TAs). I had a very good reason to go to the state college (new to the state, couldn’t afford other college, missed out on test-taking deadlines). So, on that count, I would give this guy a pass and at least meet him.

    On the other hand, I recently interviewed with a firm where the lady who would be my immediate manager went through the whole interview with long, awkward pauses, unable to meet my eyes and then finally asked me if I was nervous (huh?). Then, was ecstatic that I could teach her and her manager Excel. I realized I could never respect this lady if I already knew more than her on day one.

    So, yes, if you don’t feel like you can look up to your boss and/or learn something from him/her, then I would be wary of accepting a position there, regardless of how good the pay or position is. But, you can’t really know what this person’s story is until you meet them, right? I presume you are not cashing in any favors or burning bridges by interviewing here, so what’s the harm? You can always say that the job wasn’t a great fit.

    1. Jamie*

      “Then, was ecstatic that I could teach her and her manager Excel. I realized I could never respect this lady if I already knew more than her on day one. ”

      Really? You knew something that she didn’t.

      So there’s no possibility that she could have known more than you about her job, and the job to which you were applying? You just couldn’t respect her because your wealth of knowledge eclipsed her by such orders of magnitude, all because you knew more about the functionality of a piece of office productivity software?

      So Excel is the litmus test to separate the superior keepers of knowledge from the masses? And here I’ve just been using it for spreadsheets.

      1. Laurie*

        Excel is a simple tool, that as you put it, you’ve been using it for spreadsheets and is a piece of office productivity software. A department whose bread and butter is doing Excel work ought to know it at a medium-to-advanced level *at least*. From talking to her, it sounded like my knowledge even in a small thing as Excel would “eclipse her by (several) orders of magnitude”. But, I was also basing this on a lot of factors that I gauged from discussing the position with her. The overwhelming sense I got was that I would be training her from day one, not just in Excel but in her own job. If I am, I’d like to be paid accordingly.

        Compare that with the job that I accepted and am joining next week – I know significantly more than my manager in one area (by several magnitudes – :) sorry I love that phrase), and she knows significantly more than me in another area. How do I know this in advance? By talking to her about the role, about her department, about her vision, about the knowledge gaps she needs me to fill in, about her thoughts on things that I need to learn etc.

        I personally don’t thrive in employment that is one-sided in terms of learning. AAM has had plenty of posts here that insist that a job search is a two-way process – I am interviewing my future employer as much as they are interviewing me. I as an employee should get to learn something new while being able to contribute something I know.

    2. Anonymous*

      I think I heard somewhere that good managers hire people who are smarter than they are, and who make them (and their department/company) look good.

      But then I like teaching people things.

    3. Vicki*

      I don’t know what it’s like for you, but in my world (tech, programming) it’s often assumed that the individual contributors know more about their job than the managers. The manager’s job is to _manage_, not to write code. A good manager understands that his or her direct reports most likely know a LOT of things better than s/he does. Managers delegate and set priorities.
      For what I do, I have usually known a lot more about my area than my manager. That’s why they hired me.

  9. Natalie*

    I think there is a big difference between University of Phoenix and Capella, which are fine in a lot of areas, and the scuzzy for-profits that heavily advertise on TV in the middle of the night and largely prey on the poor and ignorant.

    AAM, one note about accreditation – it’s a bit counter-intuitive, but in higher education the regional organizations are considered more reputable. Almost universally, regional accrediting bodies don’t accredit for-profit schools. Quite a few non-profit colleges don’t accept transfer students from nationally accredited schools.

      1. Natalie*

        It’s an incredibly common mistake, sadly encouraged by some for-profit schools to beef up their credentials.

    1. ThatHRGirl*

      Oh god… the girl who dances around on TV singing “If I get a degree, I will make a bigger salary” and the commercials with Shannen Dougherty!

      1. nyxalinth*

        I recall a very obnoxious commercial that ran here in Denver for one of the local diploma mills. It had this poor guy working in a coffee shop getting run ragged by very snotty people. One lady kept snapping her fingers, going “Excuse me?” in a really grating tone, and this other one belittled him saying “Do you even know what a latte is? Laaah-tay. Laaah-tay.” Whenever I’d see that, I’d think “Bee-yotch!”

        The implication, of course, was had he gone to Diploma Mill X, he’d have a great job and a cute girl would serve him lattes instead.

    2. ChocMoose*

      While it is true that regional accreditation is sought after by all institutions that want access to Title IV funds (federal student financial aid), it is not true that some for-profit schools do not have regional accreditation. University of Phoenix, Capella University, and DeVry University (to name a few) are all accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools which is a regional accreditation organization.

      It is also misleading to say that non-profit colleges don’t accept transfer students from nationally accredited schools. It is more complicated than that. (I have worked in transfer admissions at a state university.) Usually the classes are not transferred, but whether they accept the student is based on a whole series of information. Attending a nationally accredited school does not automatically bar you from attending a regionally accredited school.

      1. Natalie*

        “It is also misleading to say that non-profit colleges don’t accept transfer students from nationally accredited schools.”

        I actually wasn’t intending to be misleading – I completely mis-typed (meant to say the credits don’t usually transfer). Thanks for catching that.

    3. Anonymous Registrar*

      It’s actually not a matter of which is more “reputable,” they are just different. National accredits programs or schools based on focus, typically employment. This can include anything from a traditional trade school to a nursing or MBA program, so long as it leads towards employment in a specific field. Regional is based simply on geography. Regional schools won’t accept credits from nationally accredited schools because they have a different focus, not because one is meaningless and one is not. The opposite is also true – most employment-focused programs won’t accept regional credits. Capella and UPX actually held both regional and national accreditation, last time I looked.

      There are also numerous non-profit, nationally accredited, affordable schools. The scuzzy ones unfortunately are the ones getting all of the attention, but there are plenty of non-profit schools getting some scrutiny, too.

  10. Dawn*

    I agree with Jamie, the OP needs to check her ego. Degrees often mean little to nothing in “the real world”, and are by no means a mark of how smart or not smart someone is. My boss is one of the smartest people I know, and he’s among many geniuses at my company who either graduated from “less glamorous” schools or had a non-traditional school experience (my boss went two years, took two years off to work, then went back and finished his degree).

  11. Crystal*

    I know it seems backward, but national accreditation is mostly for trade schools and regional accreditation is what places like Harvard have.

    1. The Right Side*

      Okay, this made me go look at the home of my degree – and surely enough it does have a regional accreditation! I never knew the difference – and actually I had heard that national accreditation was more important but thanks for the clarification!!

  12. Satia*

    I don’t know that a degree is a guarantee of anything anyway. In this job market, having a degree won’t immediately open doors and not having one won’t result in someone being fired and replaced with some recent graduate who has not yet proved him/herself.

    But perhaps a reminder is necessary so here are some links for the OP of highly successful men and women who have no college degrees:

  13. Liz in a Library*

    A couple of thoughts from a university educator at one of these “diploma mills”…

    First, AAM’s comment on regional/national accreditation is misleading. Traditionally, *regional* accreditation has been the standard for research institutions of higher learning. Generally, you’ll find that most respected private and public research universities hold regional accreditation. For example, Harvard’s regional accreditation.

    National accreditation has traditionally been more the realm of technical colleges, trade schools, and (sometimes) community colleges. Because of this difference, standards for regional accrediting bodies are typically more stringent in research areas. Both forms are respected, but it is often more difficult for the average institution to earn regional accreditation. So the idea that online schools can “only get” regional accreditation is weird for me.

    To the OP, please be careful about judging these online schools and lumping them all together unless you actually have experience with the school in question. I work for one of the larger for-profit universities (you guys have probably heard our commercials!), and my experience has been that there is a huge quality difference between some of these brands. Each of our programs is fully accredited (SACS, and we also have many state and national programmatic accrediting bodies), and my students work every bit as hard for their degrees as traditional college students. We are an on-ground campus with in-person classes, but I work with students who take online classes every day. Earning a degree from us, or from Phoenix, or any of the others is NOT the same thing as buying one from a diploma mill.

    Immediately prior to taking this job, I worked for a top-tier research institution. What do I see different here? Sure, there is far less focus on primary research (for the undergrads at least), and more job-based training. But there are faculty here who actually want to teach and who care about their students more than about research. There are smaller classes. The president has an open-door policy for students and means it. Our last graduating nursing class had a higher pass-rate on their NCLEX than either the local state school or the local community college. I’ve taken classes here myself and found them to be challenging (and I do hold two graduate degrees from a traditional research institution).

    It absolutely drives me crazy when I see these sorts of stereotypes about the industry as a whole. Just like any other industry, we have good guys and bad guys. Lumping us all together just hurts the students who have worked really hard for a degree, only to meet derision afterward. I’m not suggesting we should be seen as equal to the Ivies, but to suggest that all for-profits are diploma mills is a terribly unfair assumption.

    1. Liz T*

      Hear hear! (Here here?) I reacted to that immediately–a diploma mill is a place that will give a degree to a cat. (Literally. It’s been tested.) A school with lower standards of admission is not the same thing; it still involves work.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        My cats can get degrees? That’s awesome! I can send them to school for their degree, then put them to work so they can pay for all those cans of food and bags of treats I have to buy every month. :) LOL

    2. Eric*

      There seems to be a theme of “working hard” prevalent in the defenders of these schools. “Working hard” is not the same as “being smart” or “getting results”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re right to point out that they’re different things, but I think that’s coming up here to combat the idea that online schools are all diploma mills. Diploma mills wouldn’t involve anything rigorous.

      2. Liz in a library*

        I did mention direct results in my comments as well. My nursing students are being licensed at higher rates than our traditional competitors.

  14. Cara Carroll*

    AAM makes a good point when she says there are several successful people out there without a degree. I believe education is what you make of it. I am surprised at how many people obtain a college degree and then still have no idea what they want to do. In some fields being self-taught and having experience can be just as good as a degree. In this case, I think the OP has already made up their mind they wouldn’t be happy in that environment.

      1. Under Stand*

        Good thing OQ did not apply there. She could never respect him. I mean, come on, he might not know the difference between ‘a’ and ‘an’ without her telling him. LOL

      2. Laurie*

        Yeah, and he also got into the super exclusive Reed College. Every famous “drop-out” story we hear got into a super exclusive higher education institution, then dropped out after relying on his network in that college to start his business.

        1. Rana*

          Heh. As a Reed graduate myself, I can tell you that there were a lot of drop-outs from that school who ended up doing nothing much. (Hell, the same could be said for many of us graduates!)

          Honestly, based on my classmates, we were a pretty good sample set demonstrating that intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as smarts.

          (Don’t get me wrong; I loved being at Reed, but it’s delusional to think that everyone who came out of there is now a Fortune 500 CEO with two mansions and a yacht merely because Reed has high admission standards and makes high demands for excellent work. Actually, we’re far more likely to be doing things like working at nonprofits and raising goats, which I suspect for the OP would be a sign of failure.)

          1. fposte*

            Oh, this is funny–I went to an alternative program in high school that sent a lot of folks onto Reed (and Hampshire, and their ilk). Creative and interesting folks, but hardly money magnets.

    1. Natalie*

      I think it’s pretty common to finish college and not know what you want to do. A liberal arts college education is not supposed to be job training.

    2. JT*

      I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do when I finished college. That’s not that bad – a liberal college education is supposed to make good citizens who can learn more in the future. If you can afford it, I think that’s a great thing in itself.

      I might have gotten more out of it if I had been more directed, so perhaps I should have waited to go to school later.

      1. Liz T*

        Yeah, my high school chemistry teacher majored in Philosophy, and my mom bounced from job to job until she stumbled into what she excels at.

  15. J.B.*

    I am proud of my degrees but don’t look down on those without them. I am even prouder of my certification. At the same time, I know someone who has the same degrees and certification who is not particularly impressive at work, and know many who learned in the trenches and who are much more impressive.

    Education is great, what you do with that education is more important.

  16. Original Questioner*

    I know very little about this young man (the picture attached to his online profile tells me he’s in his early thirties). His online profile clearly shows limited work history in academia. How could he have risen so quickly through the ranks to head a university department without even a master’s degree? I just don’t see how he could have leaped from the job he held previously within this department to director of the department. Am I missing something? Can we trust him to fairly judge the credentials of applicants presumably better educated than he is? Wouldn’t he feel threatened by applicants with real degrees (as opposed to his questionable diploma)?

    A few years ago, it would not have occurred to me to raise these questions about a director of a department at this college–it was a tiny school, and nearly all faculty were high school teachers and local business professionals moonlighting as lecturers. Back then, you could count the number of PhDs on the faculty on one hand. The school offered only bachelor’s degrees. Today, there are many PhDs on the faculty, the main campus has expanded (with shiny new buildings) and its academic programs have multiplied. It now offers master’s degrees in several fields, as well as PhDs. I assumed that these changes would have been coupled with higher standards.

    Regarding for-profit schools, I view them as a shortcut for those who can’t work their way through a regular school (and probably can’t be admitted in the first place). The schools, with their open admissions policies, take in just about anybody who can pay. They have contributed to the glut of bachelor’s degrees out there and have helped dilute the value of higher education.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author


      “I know very little about this young man.”

      Exactly. But then you go on to completely disregard that.

      “How could he have risen so quickly through the ranks to head a university department without even a master’s degree? I just don’t see how he could have leaped from the job he held previously within this department to director of the department.”

      Possibly because he was great at what he did? This makes me think that you don’t have much real-world work experience, which makes your whole take on this all the sillier.

      “Can we trust him to fairly judge the credentials of applicants presumably better educated than he is?”

      Wow. Really? And right after acknowledging that you don’t know anything about this guy.

      “They have contributed to the glut of bachelor’s degrees out there and have helped dilute the value of higher education.”

      No, they haven’t. Grade inflation and the relatively new sense that everyone must get a bachelor’s degree have done that.

      1. The Editor*

        I was hoping the OP would reply and confirm all of our suspicions.

        Glad to see the OP so willingly complied.

        To the OP–You’re going to have a very rude awakening one day. Hopefully you get over whatever it is that’s afflicting you sooner rather than later. You’re coworkers will greatly appreciate it.

        All that education, yet no actual wisdom….

        1. The Right Side*

          HAHAHA! That last line “All that education, yet no actual wisdom…” – so true!

          God, I hope this PERSON is not coming to work at this college. No thanks!

        1. Karin*

          I was asking myself that same question. When I read OP’s first few responses my first thought was… TROLL!

      2. ThatHRGirl*

        “How could he have risen so quickly through the ranks to head a university department without even a master’s degree? I just don’t see how he could have leaped from the job he held previously within this department to director of the department.”

        Clearly he slept his way up? :)

    2. Charles*

      OP – As one who has a master’s degree from a nationally known state college (especially known for the department that I was in) and a BA from a nationally known private school I can tell you that degrees and what school they are from, sometimes, can matter; but even more important; it matters what one gets out of them.

      Yes, there are in fact folks who glide through some of these for-profit schools (and some who glide through other “traditional” schools) and than there are some folks who work their butts off and learn a lot more than someone who went to an Ivy League school. But, if you really “earned” your master’s degree you would have known that, wouldn’t you?

      So, back to some of AAM”s original advice – do everyone a favor and don’t apply!

      P.S. Why did you, OP, let us know what school and what degree you have so that we can “question” your credentials?

      P.P.S. as far as online school go, not sure about the total statistics, but just because they give a lot of folks a chance at higher ed doesn”t mean that they graduate everyone that they take in – do you homework before you judge!

      1. Nichole*

        “…just because they give a lot of folks a chance at higher ed doesn’t mean that they graduate everyone that they take in…”

    3. fposte*

      The short version: I think you’re overfixated on weird things and have a skewed view of academia. And I think maybe you’re projecting some as well.

      The longer version: what I’m missing from you is any understanding about what actually drives this institution and how that fits into the world of academia. If you’re a viable and not unusual candidate there for a teaching position with a master’s as your terminal degree, the place, whether it be your department or the institution as a whole, is geared more towards professional, adult, or community education than to research. It sounds from your description that that may indeed be the institution’s history, and that it’s benefited from additional resources recently that have allowed to expand some from there, but that’s still its core. I think it’s one of the strengths at a place like that that prestige often depends on how well they serve their constituency, not on name educational brands. So who are you serving in your department and what do they want? Why would the dean’s degree interfere with that?

      1. KayDay*

        I totally agree with your “longer version.” I was initially a little more understanding about the OPs situation, as advanced degrees do matter in the world of academia–particularly at a research university. But the description of this college indicates that, even though it is growing, it is probably still predominately focused on teaching as its mission. In that case, people with “real world” experience are often more valuable than people with terminal degrees and CVs full of peer reviewed publications. I had some great adjunct professors (as an undergrad) who provided a wealth of information about how things actually work.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah. I mean, good places of this kind are the cornerstone of post-high school education in the US these days. But they’re doing something different than research universities, and you need to judge them by what they’re aiming to achieve, not by what you want them to be. I think the OP has underinvestigated or underappreciated the mission of the place.

          1. Liz in a Library*

            This times 1000. There are so many schools that can’t meet the research institution standard, but it doesn’t logically follow that they are bad schools because of that.

            Community colleges have been trying to beat this reputation for decades.

    4. Katya*

      I feel like it’s not been highlighted that this is an academic position *at a university* which to me makes it a bit different situation from any random managerial position that doesn’t involve academia at all.

      1. fposte*

        Sure, but it’s a particular kind of university. Honestly, the difference between a research-focused university with PhD-predominant faculty and a teaching-focused institution with local clientele and a masters-predominant faculty is a lot greater than the difference between the latter with a dean who has a UOP diploma and one without.

        I don’t know if this is a good dean or not, a good department or not, a good school or not. But the OP’s concerns about the school don’t really seem to relate to the actual ways you’d measure that.

    5. nuqotw*

      Wow indeed. I will answer OQ’s first question.

      How could he have risen so quickly through the ranks to head a university department without even a master’s degree?

      Here is how department director/chair (they are the same thing, just called different names at different places) selection works, with typically slight variations among departments and institutions. (I just sat on such a committee – this is how I know.)

      (1) The director slot is or will imminently be vacant.
      (2) A committee is appointed to select a new director. This committee usually consists mostly of senior faculty, with fewer junior faculty. There may be a grad student and / or departmental staff member as well. There will usually be some non-voting members as well to observe, run the meetings, or some other such thing.
      (3) The university department announces the criteria required for applying for the director job. There can be a lot of variation in the criteria here, but the basic requirement is that you be a member of the permanent faculty already. (Though even this is not always true. I knew of one department populated by faculty who did not want the bother of being director, and so hired a new faculty member, which they would have done anyway, contingent on that person’s willingness to be director. This was an institution that only hired Ph.D.s as faculty.) Colleges and universities however do not internally discriminate based on one’s prior academic credentials. Once you are a permanent member of the faculty, you are a permanent member. Faculty members interested in being considered submit their respective applications to the committee.
      (4) The committee and dean(s) meets with all candidates who have submitted their credentials.
      (5) The committee votes after all the meetings are done. Sometimes the faculty have a separate vote as well.
      (6) The dean makes the decision in consideration of the committee’s vote / recommendation.

      Based on OQ’s description, the university to which s/he is considering applying is heavily teaching oriented, rather than research oriented since it does not require a Ph.D. to be a permanent faculty member, and is quite content to hire faculty based on real world experience who can teach and pass along the wisdom of that experience. So, if this “young man” finished college at 22 and is now in his early 30s, he has approximately 10 or so years of experience, which is plenty of time to become permanent faculty, and thereby be a candidate for director.

      Finally, being director is very different from being regular faculty. Being a good director is about running the department effectively, developing junior faculty, and maintaining the department’s reputation and relationships inside the university. There are plenty of people who are “average” faculty members (measured by some combination of teaching / research /service, exact mix varying by institution) who are terrific at running a department, and plenty of “star” faculty members (again, measured by some combination of teaching / research /service, exact mix varying by institution) who can’t run a department to save their lives.

      OQ, you didn’t ask, but in most university departments of any size at any caliber institution, it is the staff who make things work. They know whom to contact to resolve administrative snafus, will remind you how to work the finicky copier, get paperwork together for you, find you a classroom for a last minute review session, etc. They may not have college degrees at all, yet they make the department run smoothly. Without them, the department is lost and wise faculty appreciate the tremendous job the staff do. Treat them well, remember their birthdays, ask how they are doing, be sincerely interested in the answer, and apologize profusely when you drop something in their laps last minute and need them to fix it.

      1. Anonymous*

        OQ, you didn’t ask, but in most university departments of any size at any caliber institution, it is the staff who make things work

        Indeed – I know of one case where, when the offices were reorganised, the assistant got the head’s large office, while he got her old broom cupboard. Running an academic department is mainly a matter of being an excellent cat-herder – and very few of the cats themselves are.

      2. Anonymous*

        Thank you for pointing out that the skills that make a good director are not necessarily the same skills that make a good professor! My husband works in academia, and recently served as a temporary department head when the current head took a sabbatical. None of his new duties had anything to do with his previous experiences.

        I always stress to my son that you can learn something from everyone. Maybe this director does have less education than you, but I guarantee he knows how to do something that you don’t. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have knowledge or skills I was missing. The biggest jerk I ever worked for taught me a ton of information about his field and indirectly taught me how to stand up for myself to a bully. Neither of those skills were related to my education, but have both served me well through the years. My last boss had far less education than me, but was brilliant at office politics. I continue to keep in touch with him because there is still so much I can learn from him. There can be reasons why one doesn’t want to work for someone with less education–I certainly did NOT want to work for the idiot who could not even perform the basic functions of his job (the result of office politics taken to the extreme), so I left that job. But those reasons can only be determined by MEETING the person, not googling a LinkedIn profile or other list of achievements.

    6. Under Stand*

      I am confused. You say first that you live in a big city. Then you state that this college was until recently “a tiny school”. Are you telling us someone with your incredible skill and all encompassing knowledge is unable to find a spot in your venerable alma mater??? I am shocked!!!!! Maybe you threaten the professors there and make them feel that they cannot compete with your obvious intellect.

  17. T*

    1- You asked at the end of your question “Am I wrong?”
    2- You were kindly told you were wrong
    3- This is your response?… I would do the guy a favor and not apply. You need to do some serious re-evaluating on what is important. There are commenters on here who either work for or have gone to these schools and you still feel the need to throw them under the bus? not nice.. shame shame

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This seems like a case of someone asking a question just in the hopes of having his opinion confirmed, not actually seeking input.

      And I agree with The Editor that there’s a really rude awakening in store for him. Education doesn’t entitle you to respect; wisdom and accomplishments do.

  18. Sarah*

    Completely agree with your last point about grade inflation and degree dilution, AAM. I work in a field that currently requires a PhD for entry-level positions, but it hasn’t always been that way. Some of my colleagues resent working for people with ‘worse’ educations than we’re now required to have, but those of us with newly-minted degrees simply can’t compete with their wealth of experience. It is dangerous to automatically assume that education equals on-the-ground competence ( and I’m speaking as someone with two Masters’ and a doctorate!)

  19. Original Questioner*

    I was hired to work for a small publishing company before I even graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a well-known public university. I worked there six years. Then I taught high school English for three years. Then worked for two years as a bibliographer for a famous publishing and information services company (while taking graduate classes). I left that firm to edit encyclopedias and scholarly journals for a company that serves the pharmaceutical industry. I have recently edited two books as a freelancer. This work history doesn’t include the many odd jobs I have done since the recession began (including driving a forklift and processing X-Ray films) just so I can put food on the table. But the original question wasn’t about me, was it?

    1. fposte*

      It kind of was, though, because it’s about your view of what academics means and why this person doesn’t fit into it, and I think the problem is your view of academics.

      1. Original Questioner*

        I don’t recall ever working under anyone with a “degree” from a diploma mill. And diploma-mill degrees are a new phenomenon in our universe–or maybe we’re talking about them more now because of the media’s renewed focus on for-profit schools.

        1. ChocMoose*

          Actually diploma mills have always been around. It’s not a new phenomenon at all. That term got started around the 1830s and was referring to medical colleges, actually, that had the power to grant degrees but usually had no faculty, curriculum, laboratories, or campus. John Thelin (who is well respected and well known historian of higher education) gives a good overview of diploma mills and how the public thinks this is a recent phenomenon. It is not!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It has actually turned out to be very much about you, because you’ve made it clear that you didn’t write in looking for advice. You wanted to have your opinion validated, and when that didn’t happen, you shut out other input.

  20. Katya*

    I think diploma mills discredit the entire establishment of higher education. I think that you should judge individuals based on their performance and capabilities. I feel like I would be slightly taken aback by somebody with an online degree too. Not because I think they would be lesser intellectually, but because it would be indicative that they didn’t share my opinion on online degrees, endorsing instead of disapproving of them. I have friends who went to my (“good”) college who are getting online masters’ and I really, really disapprove. Louis Menand wrote a great article about this subject in The New Yorker a while ago.

    1. Katya*

      Ultimately, I just don’t think any kind of degree that you get online without actually being in a classroom can reasonably be compared to a school you attend in person.

          1. Vicki*

            > The four for-profit colleges found to be engaging in fradulent practices were:…
            not a comprehensive list of online universities.

            You can’t claim that “any kind of degree that you get online without actually being in a classroom can reasonably be compared to a school you attend in person.” because it’sa generalization. You can’t say that all online universities are bad because 4 such “universities” were involved in a fraud controversy. You cannot generalize.

        1. Katya*

          You don’t get the same interaction with your classmates and professors, experience of being a student, having a shared cohort, access to facilities of a university, etc. that is at the heart of everything higher education is supposed to embody. It’s not that I think people who can’t afford a fancy education don’t deserve to have a degree. It’s that I don’t think online schools should exist, I think more accessible, traditional model community colleges should step in to fill the role that they fill.

          1. Vicki*

            Right.. You miss out on those 400-person lecture halls, lab sessions run by a TA (not the professor), a library that is likely not anywhere near as well-equipped as the Internet. Interacting with classmates over the web is nothing like interacting in person (we’re not really interacting her, I guess).
            I thought, personally, that higher education was supposed to embody _learning about a subject_. I had no idea that it required dormitory life, late nights in the library, and bad cafeteria food (many peoples’ “experience of being a student” (not mine)).

            1. Under Stand*

              Now see, in my profession (one where they are pushing more and more for a 4 yr degree requirement), the argument is always made that the degree teaches you how to learn rather than teaching you the actual subject.

            2. Sue*

              @Vicky – +1! My friend went to *elite college* and was very frustrated that the majority of her classes were taught by TA’s, students just a couple of years older than her, and that kind of teaching cost her boatloads in student loans.

              1. Anon*

                Actually, there are advantages to online education (if quality) over classroom settings from a pure learning standpoint for discussion based classes and I think forums like this exemplify why. In a classroom setting, You have a 2 hr period in which you get a particular lecture and then discussion. You may have had reading to do before class. This in essence puts several restrictions on the discussion. 1) there’s a time limit to make comments, so if this were class we probably couldn’t have verbalized this much in an hour, 2) the thought you have an hour later as you think about it more but its too late because class is over, 3) the thought from you or your classmate who had 12 other papers due and didn’t get the reading done in time for class, and 4) people who wouldn’t speak up in class (although I’d argue they need the opportunities for public speaking) but as a classmate you are losing out on their thoughts because they shy. Think about the comments here as an example, how much richer has this discussion been for having the ability to have it over an extended period of time? From a pure educational perspective, online classes can be more effective than classroom for topics that require discussion and can be more interactive rather than less, but you do miss other facets of the college experience. (BTW I have three degrees all at reputable institutions done in classrooms, so this is not a defense of my education).

            3. KellyK*

              I absolutely agree with this. It’s the quality of the classes and teaching themselves that matter.

              Admittedly, I wouldn’t trade my undergrad experience (at a little liberal arts college) for anything, but I’m pretty sure I learned more *related to my profession* through my online master’s degree (from Utah State University, which is most definitely not a diploma mill).

              1. KellyK*

                Anon also makes a really good point about the quality of interactions in an online environment.

                I actually think that, in a good program, online students work *harder* than students in face-to-face classes because discussions, which are usually part of your grade, last for weeks rather than minutes.

              2. anonymous*

                The only drawback, I would think, to going online to Utah State is being distanced from the Aggie ice cream.

                Or maybe that’s a good thing?

          2. Under Stand*

            “You don’t get the same interaction with your classmates and professors, experience of being a student, having a shared cohort, access to facilities of a university, etc. that is at the heart of everything higher education is supposed to embody.” Hallelujah, where do I sign up!!!!

            Seriously, there are some of us who actually detest those very things. I don’t like to deal with people. That is why I do not do customer service (OK, those who know my comments here will be saying hallelujah on that one). People wear me out. I have taken courses for work online, and it was wonderful. It takes a heck of a lot more discipline to pass. Oh and for your unintelligent comment that online schools should not exist, you are insane. My profession has guys who collectively graduate about 20 people a year at the state school. They graduate about 4-5X that in the next state over where they have online. The reason: the guys with a family can do their studying at 2 AM after the kids go to bed and work a 40 hour week because their selfish family actually wants food on the table and a roof over their heads. Go figure.

      1. Emily*


        A lot of people share your opinion which is unfortunately based in “feelings” rather than data. I’m in a MEd program for Adult Education right now, and as a requirement for the program took a semester course on Ditance Education, since it has provided access to learning opportunities to adults for over 100 years. Evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies show NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE between online and face to face programs, and, when a pre-test is involved in the analysis, show that online learners may make GREATER gains than students in face to face settings.

        Face to face students report that they enjoy their classes more, but time and time again, especially in meta-studies covering large bodies of research, these face to face students are not learning more than online students.

    2. Emily*

      Your ignorance is showing. Online schools and degrees can be just as rigorous (if not more so) than their in-person, traditional counterparts. They’re especially helpful for non-traditional students who got nothing out of traditional education. I got both my degrees at a prestigious private university, but I worked at an online, not-for-profit, regionally accredited university that is doing wonderful things, especially for people who never thought they could earn a traditional degree. We worked very hard to make sure that the education our students were getting was top notch, and we had the accreditation to prove it.

      Diploma mills are bad, yes. But not all for-profit schools are diploma mills, and not all online schools are, either. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      1. Karin*

        So, true! I actually prefer online classes, as opposed to traditional classes. I’m attending a community college right now, and their online classes really are top notch.

  21. anonymous*

    FYI, proprietary schools often have national accreditation–it’s regional accreditation they struggle to get. In higher ed, regional trumps national.

  22. YALM*

    It’s confirmed. The OP is an ass. At least he’s an academy ass, so he’ll never waste my time. My sympathy to whatever poor boss winds up hiring this fool.

  23. Joey*

    I think the op just feels cheated that the young man took a non traditional route to success so he’s trying to make himself feel better by belittling his qualifications.

    1. Joey*

      This happened at a library I worked at. The librarians who got their masters from universities that have online programs are looked down upon by those who got their masters from the same schools before online programs were around.

      1. Anon*

        I sat on a mls advisory committee at a top 10 library school and we discussed the fact that our online students came in with higher test scores than our bricks and mortar. Many mls students, but not all, are getting the degrees while holding down full time jobs and go to the school closest in geographic proximity to them, whereas the online students can apply anywhere, hence the applicant pool for online turned out to be more competitive, not less.

  24. Jamie*

    “To the OP, please be careful about judging these online schools and lumping them all together unless you actually have experience with the school in question. I work for one of the larger for-profit universities (you guys have probably heard our commercials!), and my experience has been that there is a huge quality difference between some of these brands. Each of our programs is fully accredited (SACS, and we also have many state and national programmatic accrediting bodies), and my students work every bit as hard for their degrees as traditional college students. ”

    This. A couple of years ago I picked up a couple of extra classes from a college that does have a brick and mortar campus and satellite classrooms, but if more known for it’s online offerings. I got a lot out of those classes…I just wanted a better foundations in some specifics of my job – not a degree – but I think I got more out of it because the teachers were working professionals.

    The fact that in their day jobs they were practicing what they teach allowed them to bring more to the table than someone who had never worked in the industry.

    It’s just not smart to make sweeping judgments about people or institutions. There are just too many variables at play.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I totally agree with this. I just finished up school and I can honestly say that my online classes were actually MORE challenging that the ones I attended in person. Also, I found that the adjunct professors had more to offer than those who hadn’t actually been in the industry.

  25. Amy*

    I am about to graduate with a masters degree in instructional design and one of my focuses have been designing online instruction. That said, I have a pretty good idea of how much work can go into designing a proper online course – much more, sometimes than a face-to-face course. Face to face courses are often designed by professors who have no experience in curriculum design. A (reputable – which admittedly not all distance colleges are!) school such as UoP will hire instructional designers to work with Subject Matter Experts to design a course that is efficient and effective. Distance learning is actually MORE focused on learners because so much of it is individually based. The learner is more in control of their learning and that allows them to learn more effectively – especially if they are a mature student who has the motivation and discipline to keep up with an online course. I have taken about 50% of my masters courses online (although my program is face to face) and my online courses have been MUCH more demanding.

    I would not hesitate to hire someone or work for someone with a degree from an online university or a distance program, especially if they had valid work experience to go with it. One of the best things about online education is you can work to gain that experience WHILE in school.

    OP – you have no idea what you are talking about.

    1. Charles*

      I, too, work in instructional design and TOTALLY agree with everything that you have said here! (Now, you’re someone whose degree is showing. cool!)

      It should also be added that traditional schools, especially those with a good rep, don’t have to work as hard to prove their reputation; and as a result, often provide less than stellar results.

      Many online schools know that they have an uphill battle and are much more diligent about the quality of their classes than many traditional schools.

      One last thing to add is the issue of tenure; many, far too many, traditional schools are bloated with deadweight, burnt-out educators who are just waiting until retirement and are protected by tenure. Online schools generally do NOT offer tenure. When online educators get burnt-out or are incompentent they are usually gone. Can or will anyone argue that this is not good for the student?

      P.S. Amy, good luck with your Instructional Design degree!

      And as a side note, studies show GPAs rose when classes had more mature (i.e. older) students in class, and it wasn’t just the older students who had higher GPAs raising the class GPA, it was everyone in the same class with the older students had higher GPAs. We, older folks , tend to bring a more serious, more focused level that impacts the whole class. And the studies show that online or face-to-face doesn’t make a difference in this older-student-higher-GPA issue.

      1. Nichole*

        Agreed-I was a traditional age student a satellite campus of a state university (though I was both a single mom and got married during my time there, so wasn’t technically a traditional student), and I loved being in classes with older students, they bring a ton to the table. Now as a community college support staff member, I Love (yes, capital L) working with them.

  26. khilde*

    I haven’t had time to read through the comments yet (but am excited to do so), however I wanted to comment before I let any other thoughts influence my response to this.

    I have two master’s degrees: one from an on-ground traditional university and one from the University of Phoenix. Because of these two different experiences, I feel confident in saying that the education I received from UoP was vastly superior to that of the traditional campus/format. Before I did the UoP route, I used to think that those degrees were hokey. However, it kicked my ass. It was academically rigorous, required us to focus in and hit the topics hard because of limited time, and required intense amounts of collaboration and intereaction with learning teams. The instructors I had during this program were experts in their field (and often still were employees in that field) and, thus, had relevant experience to share. I’d also say the required discussions each week really deepened my learning. So anyway – I’m not a paid spokesperson for online schools, but I have become a believer. Definitely do not judge a person based on their school. Judge them on what they can do.

    *disclaimer: my experience was in the graduate program and the undergraduate programs may be different.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’m glad to hear this. I’ve been contemplating looking into UofP to finish up my degree. I was discouraged by some of the comments at first, but now I think I will look into it.

      1. khilde*

        I’m glad to hear it! I feel personally compelled to tell people that it really exceeded my expectations – mostly because I think they get an bad rap. If you have anymore questions, let me know and we can figure out a way to exchange our contact info.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Thanks! If it’s OK with AAM, I can send her my email address and she can forward it to you.

  27. Liz T*

    Yeah, but people really need to stop saying, “Just be like Steve Jobs!” (Or, implying it at least.) A college degree may not be necessary for anomalous world-changing genius self-starters, but it often is for, say, regional managers.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Even though I now have some college under my belt, I definitely do not believe that everyone needs to go to college to get somewhere in life. Obviously if you want to be a doctor or lawyer, etc. you do, but you can work your way up the ladder in many careers. I became a senior officer at a small community bank with no college whatsoever. The only reason I decided to go to school was for personal fulfillment.

      1. Liz T*

        I totally agree. This is just a pet peeve of mine. I saw Thomas Friedman speak at a commencement ceremony, where he talked about how Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t need college degrees. I thought that was a strange thing to say to people who, as he spoke, were literally receiving college degrees.

        1. 448*

          Tom Friedman is a superficial thinker. No logic, no questioning the status quo in a meaningful way, just platitudes that he tries to make deep or insightful. It’s easy to be him – go to some far-away-city in an emerging economy, ask the cab driver something as he drives you from the airport, and report it as deep insight that Americans just don’t seem to understand. Almost everything he says is wrong or obvious.

      2. AnonY*

        I agree The Other Dawn, but after a layoff with 12+ yrs experience, I’ll be damned if I can get an interview w/o the BS degree – the computers are pre-screening me out

  28. Erik*

    Online schools have been getting hammered in the press for both good and bad reasons. Some companies won’t even cover anyone who goes to UoP, as it was seen as a diploma mill. Intel did this a couple of years ago.

    I can see why their program would work for many people, as I looked in their MBA program out of curiosity a few years ago. Most of the students are working professionals and the courses are taught by adjunct faculty from industry, so the bar is considerably higher that a strictly academic program.

    1. Sue*

      I concur about the working faculty – their current, relevant experience as well as the opportunity to professionally network has been invaluable. I’ve had an excellent experience at DeVry U Online, as recommended by my brother, who completed his MBA there, but chose a mix of on-campus and online courses.

  29. Jamie*

    Because I was more directly snarky than usual, I’d like to share a cool link which has to do with online learning, which is the only tie in to the topic.

    MIT has a cool offering of Open Course Ware. No degree, no credits, not cost…but over 2000 classes with videos, material, exams, lecture notes, etc.

    Just a free way to learn some stuff – I’ve found them to be really great. I recommended their Sloan management series to someone who couldn’t swing tuition for classes, but wanted to do something toward a promotion. Her boss liked her initiative and she got enough out of it that her company ended up paying her tuition for a couple of night classes per semester so she can finish her degree.

    Just anecdata – but they are pretty interesting.

    1. Under Stand*

      Those classes are no good and you cannot learn anything out of them, they are online.

      Sorry, still feeling snarky because of the arrogant little twerp.

    2. Keli*

      MIT’s Open Course Ware looks fantastic! Thank you for posting their link. I just clicked around and am very excited at some of the material they offer. Wow! I’m always looking for new ways to learn new things. And free too! Thank you again!

  30. Jennifer*

    I think OP is either having a great time sitting back eating popcorn and watching the fireworks, or perhaps has some sort of degree version of a Napoleonic complex. Maybe the fancy degree isn’t getting OP the job he or she feels is deserved as quickly as it should, maybe the fact that all of the loans are finally kicking in is making he/she scramble to attach true value to piece of paper, who knows.

    If the OP is serious, I he or she does decide not to apply, because if he or she happens to secure the job, I can’t even imagine the headaches in the future for the manager. I’ve seen what it’s like to have subordinates with a superiority complex, and it’s not pretty.

    1. Jennifer*

      Ooops, typo (oh no, I made a typo – good thing I am not hiring OP!). That should say, “If the OP is serious, I hope he or she does decide not to apply…”

    2. Anonymous*

      This is exactly what I thought! I think OP is jealous that this person, who has what OP perceives to be a lesser education that didn’t take as much work as their own, has such a high position and is now in charge of determining whether or not they get the job.

  31. Heather*

    Usually a job interview is a two-way street. Not only are you deciding if you want to work for or with your interviewer/s, but they are deciding if they want you working for or with them. If you are interested in this job, I suggest you give it a chance and apply. Could be they will spot your superiority complex right away and the question of whether or not you should accept the offer to work for folks who don’t value education will be moot.
    Heather, PhD

  32. $.02*

    We can’t lie to ourselves, we judge others everyday. Most employers/people judge others according to the school they went to, why is it different now that we are judging an online school. Deep down in your heart u know u get judged by your appearance, jus my $.02

  33. Eric*

    I was totally gonna trash for-profit degrees, but I think it would get lost in the noise.

    Degrees from 4 year Universities far outweigh anything you can get online.

    1. Jamie*

      It really depends on the person.

      I went to college on my dad’s dime – never worked, school always came easy to me so I got very good grades without much effort. I went to a academically challenging private high school and graduated early. My biggest challenge was managing hangovers.

      I’m not trying to out myself as a entitled little douche – but I totally was. And thought I knew a lot. And I knew nothing besides a foundation of theory. Which was important, but very little effort went into that. There is nothing to admire in that education. There are people for whom school comes easy – we aren’t special or superior – everyone has gifts and ours allow us to skate through a lot easier than most.

      I’m not proud of that – it cost me nothing in terms of effort or money. I’m really proud of the three accounting classes I took online when my job expanded. My company may have paid, but I put in the time while simultaneously keeping up my 55+ hour a week job and my responsibilities to my family. I got more from those 9 credits than in my entire BS because I sacrificed for that…and if I’m going to sacrifice I’m sure as hell going to get as much as I can out of it.

      I’m not proud of having a good education. I’m grateful – but if not for the luck of being born into a family with the resources and the mindset to insist on college, I wouldn’t have it.

      Now, the person who’s working full time and goes to college, either online or locally, to get that degree? Carves out time away from family and friends to improve their careers…make a better life rather than settle for the status quo? That’s worth talking about in an interview.

      Of course some schools are better than others – but I would wager that some people get a better education out of a lesser ranked school than those with prestigious degrees who didn’t want it as badly. Generalities work to a point, but if you don’t look at individual circumstances you’re missing the biggest part of the picture.

    2. fposte*

      You’re lumping a few things together that don’t go together, though, and the landscape is even more complicated than the terms you use. There are two-year schools and four-year schools, online only schools and b&m schools with an online presence, for-profit schools and not-for-profit schools, undergraduate and graduate programs. And institutions turn up under all kinds of combinations of those categories.

      I am, to be honest, less enthusiastic than some on this thread about for-profit schools, but I think dismissing them outright is a mistake. I also think there are some not-for-profits that don’t do a particularly good job. There’s no substitute for researching an individual school’s record. That’s especially when you’re examining a particular program within it, since often a single institution will have wildly different success rates from program to program.

      1. Diana*

        Researching the school’s record could be less solid in light of the recent articles showing schools that have fudged their SAT numbers in order to get a higher ranking.

  34. AccidentalRecruiter*

    As a Canadian who doesn’t really understand the American University/College/Private University/State school hierarchy I find this debate a very interesting read.

    1. A Bug!*

      In Canada, you can think of it along the lines of a community or career college, against an actual college, against a university.

      For a comparable institution, take a look at “CDI College”. That place makes a lot of money by taking advantage of people on government retraining programs.

    2. Anonymous*

      I agree!

      And the Canadian system seems much more simple in terms of the admissions process. For those that are interested…in most programs being a “legacy” just means you might get special treatment on your campus tour, but it doesn’t influence whether or not you get into the school.

      While you get the occasional person who is elitist about where they got their degree, the rivalries tend to be based more in joking stereotypes then whether or not a degree from one school is better than the same degree from another.

      In terms of degrees from different institutions (ie. University vs. college) it seems to be more accepted here that certain degrees are better for certain things. For example: a University degree is where you learn theory while a college diploma is where you learn hands on skills. One isn’t better then the other, you just head down different paths. It’s also interesting that, as a recent University Grad, many of my fellow students have gone onto college graduate programs because they have better job prospects then Masters degrees.

      With that said, I have friends in the States and could not be happier I didn’t have to deal with the same amount of stress they did when I applied to schools!

  35. BlueGal*

    I can see OP point of view, but I think he/she is being judgmental. My boyfriend was attending an online college and I was absolutely against it. For this particular school the work he was doing was completely irreverent to his field of study. It was nothing but busy work; papers and assignments about nothing! Luckily he’s decided to transfer (aka start over) at one a state school. Depending on which university the manager in question attended, I could see where OP’s apprehension comes from. That being said, I know what it’s like to be harshly judged based on the college you attended. I work at a very large research university. My degree is from a HBCU (Historically Black College and University) that’s known within the state, but in general HBCU’s don’t have the best reputation. People have always said to me “you’re so smart, why didn’t you attend (the university we work at or another one of the more ‘prestigious’ colleges in the state)”. I worked very hard education and am proud of it. Also my manager attended a less that prestigious state school and just started working on his advanced degree. However he’s been in this field for 10+ years and is very well known and respected. The OP doesn’t know this manager, his experience or work ethic. He’s wrong to judge him.

    1. A Bug!*

      I agree with your sentiment! It would be incredibly rash to issue such a snap judgment based on something like that.

      My husband was basically forced into a “career college” program while on a government retraining program. Because this career college was able to start him on a course within two weeks, and the real schools were not able to start him for a couple of months (both for programs that would have ended at exactly the same time, mind you), the government required he enroll at the career college.

      The whole course was a waste of time, but my husband was required to complete it or else owe the government fifteen thousand dollars (!) for the one-year program (!) which had to be paid in advance and couldn’t be refunded (!).

      He would never consider putting that program on his resume, because it was totally useless and more likely to be a red flag than a benefit to him. If someone were to somehow find out he completed that program and judge him poorly for it they would be missing out on a person who is extremely capable within his field.

      1. Natalie*

        Given that for-profits are usually quite a bit more expensive, this is enraging. The federal government is trying to rein in abuses while, apparently, local government or some other branch of federal government pushes people into these worthless programs?

        1. A Bug!*

          It absolutely was enraging, and I still get angry thinking about it.

          There were two institutes with highly-regarded programs that would have had him graduating at exactly the same time, with the actual industry certifications rather than just “preparation”, at a quarter of the overall cost to the government. But no, we can’t have him wait two more months before he starts school! Much better to flush a bunch of money down the toilet so we can keep up appearances.

          This particular for-profit school understands this and takes advantage of it by offering constant rolling intake. It’s enough to make a person cry.

    2. bradamante*

      Blue Gal,
      In praise of HBCUs–I know a professor from a prestigious liberal arts college who’s done visiting gigs at most of the Ivies — and who says that far and away the best group of students he/she has ever had were at Spelman.

    3. katinphilly*

      Hi Blue Gal,

      I work on programming with quite a few HBCUs. They have all been some of the most professional and socially conscious institutions I have worked with (and I have worked with dozens and dozens of colleges and unis), really dedicated to serious academic events for their students that are challenging and enlightening.

      Having said that, this is making my blood slowly boil. I work with a very disenfranchised population (former offenders and exonerated prisoners), some of whom are now attending UofP because that is the option open to them. They all have the intention of transferring to the state universities at some point, but for now this is it for them. And they are whip smart, starting their own non-profits, very civic-minded and very active in community organizations of uplift. I only wince a little about it because I know that there are too many judgmental, classist, entitled jerks out there like the OP.

  36. Steve Mahoney*

    A degree and experience as a manager is how you want to view things. For example, you can get a PMP certificate from PMI but it does not mean you are a good manager. Yes, you are better than a manager with no PMP but experience is what counts and what others say about you.

    After about 7-8 years out of school, it’s what you did in your career that counts.

    Yes, a Harvard degree is higher than a UOP degree but you still have to put in the work to get a degree from any college or university that involves the reading of textbooks, writing papers, and working on class projects. If the basics are not done, then yes the degree is useless.

    In this regulatory world, useless gets in trouble very quickly….

  37. Anonymouse*

    Oh youth! The sweet, heady ignorance of youth!

    I predict:
    You use your alma matter as your email.
    You’ll use every chance to refer to your school, “Well, back at University of Cucumber on Toast, we blah blah blah.”
    You’ll say “But I have a Masters!” every time you are passed-over for a promotion.
    You do – or soon will – affect an accent somewhat tonier than your geography supports.

    And, number one:
    You’ll still be telling people your SAT scores when you’re 30.

    Your problem is not one of academics; it’s one of bad manners. You don’t need a degree; you need charm school.

      1. fposte*

        I spent a weekend in Cucumber-on-Toast when I was in Britain. So quaint! And such a selective institution!

        1. Jamie*

          Thank you for the inspiration…this comment and the original cucumber on toast from Anonymouse inspired me to have “As Time Goes By” on in the background as I sit in my office alone trying to gather the courage to tackle a mountain of work with deadline for Monday.

          Jean would totally make cucumber toast for Lionel. She made watercress sandwiches once – they were so cute and I wanted to make one, until I googled what watercress is.

          I wonder if I could get a cucumber on toast sandwich from any of my local take out places today?

            1. Suzanne*

              Now that is crazy. I know the people who do this food blog! I’m friends with the husband’s mother. I guess it is indeed a small, small world.

      2. Cruella*

        What am I supposed to say again…oh yeah…THIS!

        Cruella Da Boss
        School of Hard Knocks
        (graduation yet to be determined)

    1. Liz T*

      Hey, not all us 30 year olds who tell people our SAT scores are douches! Some of us teach SAT prep and have no choice :)

      1. Jamie*

        Don’t post it here! Then all of us midwestern folk will have to find some kind of ACT to SAT conversation to see if we’re exactly equal in ability and achievement.

        Although, if we posted that we would know if we should respect each other. I mean here are a bunch of people engaged in discourse without ever having vetted each others academic and professional credentials.

        The definition of anarchy.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I would love to! I haven’t been able to find one that lets you like individual comments (like on Facebook), just ones for the post itself. (If anyone knows of this functionality for WordPress, let me know!)

        1. Anonymous*

          Get Rich Slowly uses something like that, but not sure of the coding behind it. I’ve also seen ones that highlight comments that get more than a certain number of likes.

        2. rachaelgking*

          Installing either Disqus or Livefyre commenting systems (just go to their website, create a free account, and then install the WordPress plugin) allows people to comment anonymously, from their Disqus or Livefyre account, OR with their Facebook or Twitter profiles. They can also “like” individual comments, and the comment system will track reactions from around the web as well (e.g. whenever someone tweets a link to one of your posts, that tweet will be tracked at the bottom of the post in the comments section, which I love seeing on my own posts.

          I personally like the more social functionality of Livefyre better, but it can be a bit complicated for the non-tech-savvy to use. Disqus should be easy enough for anyone to figure out! (Also happy to help you set it up if you want – it only takes a few minutes.)

    2. Nichole*

      Hahaha! Where I work, there are some pretty impressive credentials, especially considering the barriers the people with them had to overcome, and we regularly tease each other for referencing our undergrad GPAs and other accidental acts of academic snobbery. When I read the Chronicle of Higher Ed comments sections, it’s almost like a foreign language to try to comprehend how some of them take themselves so seriously! Don’t believe the your own hype, university folk!

  38. Anonymous*

    The great take away from this (for me) is that the original ridiculousness rests on the assumption that the internet is always right!

  39. amy*

    the OP must not have much life experience. I think that’s what it really boils down to. I think while working through college, living arrangements (i.e. your neighbor in an apartment complex you may get to know, or the mail deliverer) and having any sense of adventure one will branch out and meet people outside of their realm of qualifications. My Dad’s best friend operates a factory that makes cars, I don’t even think he has a degree but he’s been working there for 40 years and he is to be respected, I know his 50 employees sure do. When I go in for interviews I find it best NOT to google to interviewer or manager because situations like this in your little brain arise. Prejudging is toxic! Get out and socialize with other people, volunteer at a local school if you can, learn the value of people, not their piece of paper degree. sheesh!

  40. Anonymous*

    I didn’t read through all of the 211 comments, so I will apologize in advance if my posting is redundant. First, it is important to remember that the dividing line between institutions of higher learning is whether they are regionally or nationally accredited. All institutions must have either or in order for their students to receive financial aid from the federal government. Secondly, a regionally accredited institution like Capella or UOP grant credits to their students that can be transferred to a nonprofit institution, such as U Mass, Georgetown, etc.

    Most often for-profits offer accelerated degree programs that can be taken online. However, UOP also has campuses on the ground. It’s really a matter of convenience. Usually their students are already employed, but need the ‘paper’ for advancement purposes.

    As someone who teaches at a regionally accredited university for-profit and graduated from a regionally accredited non-profit, I would say that education is what you make of it. The OP is entitled to their opinion…

  41. bradamante*

    OP, I assume that this is a teaching job?

    OK, I know that you probably really, really, love books, writing, the English language, the academic life, and so forth, and it really, really sucks that there are not a lot of jobs now for people like you.

    But . . .
    If this is not a research university the main job of these professors is to teach.
    I would bet my bottom booties that this guy got where he is because he’s a good teacher. Maybe he’s got some real-world experience in some other field (tech writing, journalism, songwriting, etc) that a lot of students are interested in. Maybe something in his background gives him an advantage in knowing where these particular students are coming from. Maybe he’s the only person willing to teach 6 sections of remedial English comp at any time of day or night. Maybe he’s just a really, really, good teacher!! What does it matter where he got the letters after his name?

  42. Karen K*

    Hi Alison,
    I might have missed where someone else pointed this out but there are a lot of comments (ooh boy!).
    Anyway, actually, FYI (respectfully) regional accreditation is more prestigious than national accreditation, as long it’s with one of the major regional accreditation groups and not a “made up” one. I work for a very large public university, and we are regionally accredited, as is Harvard.

    1. khilde*

      I know! I always check the number of comments and if there are a lot, I know I’m in for a good read so I totally grab a snack and drink to entertain myself while reading. It’s good stuff.

  43. Anon*

    Please watch a few episodes of the Big Bang Theory. You’ll notice the PhD physicists all make fun of the MA in Engineering. Your post is quaint, but by the standards of Academia (not my standards), you aren’t worthy either. This post is like reading a rat whining about how much better they are than a cockroach.

  44. girlinthemoon*

    OP is a prick. Master’s degrees do not inherently mean someone is bright, nor is it predictive of performance.

    I work with many recent grads who think like him and I fear for our future… they all think they can waltz out of school and manage people with a lot more direct experience and practical knowledge of the industry.

    I hope the manager he’s speaking of reads this, recognizes him, and calls him out on his bullshit.

  45. Anonymous*

    I do agree with AAM that there are some people with advanced degrees from prestigious colleges who suck at management and there are those who have worked from the bottom – up and those are in my experience usually the best managers b/c they have gone through every aspect of the organization’s hierarchy.

    It’s ashame that people view online degrees as being worth less than a classroom setting, although I think there is some truth to that. I’m hesistant to pursue a mba from an online class.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would be hesitant to get one because of the perception issue more than anything else. As far as inherent value (perception aside), I suspect that you get out of ANY course of study what you put into it. Looking back, I didn’t get much out of my (traditional brick-and-mortar) college classes because I was a little snot who didn’t think I needed to try very hard … but I’ve gotten a ton out of experiences since because I grew up and cared more. And I think someone determined to get value could do that anywhere — even on a self-directed course of study not affiliated with any university at all.

      1. Malissa*

        Late to the party here. But the attitudes about online degrees get more positive the further you get away from large cities. In my area online degrees are the norm. But that could be because the nearest Brick and mortar school to offer degrees is 70 miles away, and nobody wants that commute.

    2. KellyK*

      One way to avoid the negative perception might be to get your MBA through a nonprofit school that has an online degree program. Someone who sees “University of Phoenix” and thinks “diploma mill” may not think anything negative about an MBA from Wherever State University, even if the address on your resume is 2000 miles from Wherever.

  46. Anonymous*

    I have a masters degree from an elite private university.

    My supervisor has no degree whatsoever and has simply worked her way up from the bottom of the agency to the managerial position she has now.

    I have learned more from her than from any other boss I’ve ever had, because her abundance of real world experience and on-the-job training made her one of the most knowledgeable persons about the work we do and she had so much to teach and offer me in ways of learning.

    I also personally know of stories like someone acting as Budget Director for a state agency managing over $1.3 billion dollars of money annually . . and she only has her associates (in architecture!), but she’s damn good at her job.

    So seriously. Stop with the degree snobbery. It means nothing.

    1. Cruella*

      Thank you for the positive comments about those who’ve worked their way up and earned their position rather than feeling entitled to one once they graduate.

      Cruella Da Boss
      School of Hard Knocks
      (graduation undetermined)

  47. Another Emily*

    Original Questioner, I might not agree with you about the importance of your boss’s degree, but if it’s really that important to you then it just is, and you shouldn’t apply for this job. An element of the job that is very important to you is not there, and I don’t think you would be a good fit.

    You might want to think about why you feel this way, and whether you are even right about which online universities or colleges are diploma mills, but in the meantime I don’t think this is the job for you.

  48. I'llDoItTomorrow*

    While I am not at the point where my college experience can make or break me professionally (I am nineteen and still in school) I have found that online learning seems to work for me and my lifestyle (I have a young child and job). I am about to start a new job that I was able to get largely because of the skills I have picked up through my online courses, and the schedule flexibility they allow.

    While others in my class will be entering full time jobs somewhere between 2014-2015, I will have been working full time, networking, and further building my skill set for four years as well as having a degree of my own.

    At the end of the day I will have put in exactly as much hard work into my degree as my peers, with the added responsibility of full time employment. I think it’s safe to say that any work environment/people that would look down on my degree as, “not real” would not be a good fit. Do this guy a favor and don’t apply!

  49. Lauren*

    OP, I think you should reverse everything in your letter and see if you don’t think it’s inappropriate. What say this hiring manager saw on your CV that you graduated from the Cream Cheese Application program at the University of Cucumber on Toast (props, earlier commenter!) and rejected you out-of-hand because they’d met a few nitwits from that program? You’d probably be more than a little bit miffed and put out because you’re an *individual* and your experience and knowledge base is unique. So is this person’s – and, in this case, more so, because an organization which you admire enough to want to be a part of saw fit not only to hire him, but to promote him at least once.

    I love that AAM is a huge proponent of the “two-way street” interview, but it sounds like you think you’re quite the catch in a market that that is almost universally very competitive.

    Furthermore, and this is something of a non sequitur, you sound like a person who wouldn’t be particularly nice to those that you see as being “below” you, like maintenance staff and administrative personnel.

    All of this reminds me a little bit of Psych 101, I think – ‘correlation does not equal causation’. People who have Masters degrees may be respected, and have well-paying jobs, but having one does not guarantee that you will be respected or paid decently, and many people without any degree whatsoever are both respected and well-paid. Just because you have a Masters degree does not *entitle* you to anything more than to put your qualifications on your resume and, perhaps, to speak in excruciating detail about Chaucer (or insert amusingly obscure topic of choice here).

  50. TracyB*

    I have never posted a comment prior to this, but found this line of comments so interesting I forgot about my coffee and it turned cold – and coffee is important this early on a Saturday.

    I have been in middle/upper management for 10 years and I have been thinking about what lessons I learned during my formal education (BA and MA from large state university) that have been the most helpful in my management role.

    In all honesty what I learned in the course of my university degrees as not been that fruitful. What has allowed me to be a good manager, and hopefully occasionally a great one, are the lessons my teachers taught my in elementary school and Sunday school. Be nice to other people. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Everyone has value. Learning to share is important. Don’t worry about the speck in your neighbor’s eye when you have a log in your own. Hard work towards a goal is rewarding. You might think that is simplistic, but I have been successful for a decade using those lessons as my guide every day.

    Maybe Robert Fulghum was right about those things we learned in kindergarten…..

  51. Piper*

    RE: Regional versus National Accreditation
    Regional is actually the one that’s considered better overall and it’s what most state schools and elite schools have, although it’s good to have both. Regional accreditation is the one that is the most easily transferrable. If you have credits that are only nationally accredited, they may not be accepted at other schoosl.
    A few links:

  52. Jamie*

    “I still have doubts about sorting laundry when I get to multicolored items that are both light AND dark.”

    For the first 5 or so washes put 1/4 cup of salt in the water with the soap. It will keep the dark colors from bleeding onto the light. Like when you have a sweater with navy blue and white stripes and after a couple of washings the whites isn’t as sharp? This prevents that.

  53. Anonymous*

    There are diploma mills out there, and in the state where I live, a school district superintendent was caught up in a diploma mill scandal a few years back. I do not recall the outcome of that – whether he was forced to resign or was fired or if he stayed in office.

    While I can see this perspective if the school was unaccredited, I don’t believe the two online colleges the OP mentions are in that category. I have heard nothing but good things regarding University of Phoenix. I can’t say the same thing about Capella, but I haven’t heard anything negative either. I guess UoP is just more popular?

    I look at it this way – a big university will do what it can to hire the best with degrees that are accredited. That’s what I would trust in those institutions. Therefore, instead of worrying what your potential new boss (your interviewer) who already has a job, worry about your own credentials.

    And yes, many of us with higher degrees have to work jobs that aren’t in line with the degree we went for. You are not the only one to do so.

    1. Anonymous*

      You’ve heard nothing but good things about phoenix? I’m interested in this because I’ve heard nothing but bad things…and worked for a company that would not hire people with UoP degrees. It’s also been all over the news here. Maybe this is a regional thing? I’m in the northeast.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m in the northeast too. But I haven’t heard anything bad about the University of Phoenix. That doesn’t mean I have heard tons of stuff on it, but I haven’t been given any reason to think negatively on it. Does that mean I would get a degree from them? No. I’m a brick and mortar person so I’ll sit in a classroom instead.

        When you say northeast, what’s your metropolitan city? Mine’s NYC.

  54. Anonymous*

    With most major business firms (Fortune 500), you really need to have a degree from an AACSB (nationally accredited) institution to be seriously considered for initial employment and upper management positions.

    1. Piper*

      There are different kinds of accreditation. You’re referring to business school accreditation, which goes beyond the standard regional (with the 6 main accreditation agents) and national accreditation for standard education. Accreditation for art and design is also national (NASAD), but you still want the school itself to be regionally accredited (same for B schools).

      You are correct that the business accreditation for MBAs is AACSB.

      1. Liz in a library*

        Very true. There are many programmatic accrediting bodies that are national and are absolutely the gold standard for their fields.

        For example, ALA is the national accreditor in my field. It would be held in addition to the regional accreditation my alma mater holds.

  55. Random*

    This is a random fun comment to try to wrap up this M degree craziness. My husband is a nerd. He teaches at a University and he is super smart and obsessed with his job. When we started dating I was getting my MBA. I told him I didn’t think I’d want to go back for grad school, and this jerk had the nerve to tell me he didn’t think he could marry a woman that didn’t have a master’s degree. Years later I said again, honey, it’s important for you to know that I am never going back to school and I feel quite content where I am in life! I did not want to waste eachother’s time if he was still set on marrying into higher ed, or an equal, as he put it. He came back at me with “Let me rephrase that….I equate a masters program with life experience and that it makes someone different, positively after grad school. You do and will make a great this, that, the other, mom, wife. etc. LOL” Now we’re married. Give this guy a few years, once he grows up he’ll realize what is really important in life. :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Opposite of that story where your husband wanted an equal: I once dated a guy who told me he couldn’t see himself marrying someone who already owned her own home (he did though). I didn’t own at the time so I guess he thought that wouldn’t offend me. That didn’t last much longer.

      1. Anita*

        Does he figure it’s easier to persuade renters to shack up with him? What other advice does he have for women on how not to intimidate men?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          He is now happily married to a fairly traditional woman who indeed did not own her own home before they got married, so I suppose it worked out for both of us!

  56. AG*

    I know this topic has been done to death, but I just wanted to mention that as the graduate of a large state school, I once visited a friend of mine at an elite, selective, east coast private school. There’s a reason these schools do interviews: its not enough to be smart to get in you have to be the right “fit.”

    Plus, once you’re in, they will do everything they can to make sure you graduate and get a good job so you can puff their rep and kickback some donations.

  57. RunGirlRunLA*

    I am a high school teacher in a l-a-r-g-e school district in southern California (taught English for over a decade, then switched over to Special Education this fall). Many of my colleagues used to take salary point classes at night through UoP and enjoyed them because they were easy to fit into a teacher’s schedule. But I’m impressed at how Phoenix has risen up in quality the last couple of years (pun intended?) and become a viable choice to obtain a degree. I received my B.A. from a state school, and my first credential from a private university. I definitely would’ve considered UoP for my second credential if it offered my program at the time. Since public school teachers are mandated to have a bachelor’s and a credential, it generally matters less which university the teacher attended, as long as the university is appropriately accredited.

    At the very least, I think the OP can assume that the gentleman with the “questionable” degree is smarter than a fifth grader.

  58. Under Stand*

    Too funny. Here we are talking about diploma mills and Dickinson State got busted on Friday (the day this was posted) for being a diploma mill.

    But it is a brick and mortar school. So it must be OK.

      1. Under Stand*

        yup. They physically went there for one year and got a degree mailed to them in their home country. Pretty sweet, one year degree in return for paying out of state tuition. Seems pretty sad that DSU did not do the same for people in South Dakota, bet it would have increased their student body size.

        1. Anonymous*

          The North Dakota students must be po-ed. They have to work for four years at in-state tuition rates to essentially get the same degree.

          Granted I would want to put in the 4 years of workk because then it would be worth its value, but it’s definitely a WTF moment.

        2. khilde*

          Ha! I live in South Dakota and have not heard of this. I’ll have to do some reading about Dickinson State. Huh. Just when you think all the riff-raff lives on the coast…’s going on right under your nose. :)

          1. Anonymous*

            Careful there about all the riff-raff living on the coast. There’s usually one in every crowd – from the coast to Middle America!

  59. Random*

    AAM- Yes, these men we associate with, must be our friends first… therefore understanding our abilities…as Super Woman. :) hehe

  60. Editor*

    Here’s a link to a definition of “diploma mill”:

    Over the years of reading investigations of diploma mills in the Chronicle of Higher Education and various national newspapers, I’ve seen the term applied to places that basically sell degree paperwork without requiring course attendance. The pdf above says that if the educational institution grants a degree or substantial credit through a resume review, for instance, it is likely to be a diploma mill.

    An online degree program may seem superficial to critics (I don’t know enough about University of Phoenix or Capella to say), but it isn’t in the same category as a diploma mill, which is essentially a fraudulent degree.

    As a person with a bachelor’s degree from an Ivy League university and the parent of an adult child who graduated from a prestigious state college, I would say that academia is more complicated than nonacademics realize. The value of a degree in academia is colored by the prejudices of those who are doing the hiring, the actual academic and nonacademic success of the applicant, the reputation of a particular department (which often is independent of the reputation of the institution), and the mission of the academic institution.

    When I was in college, my husband was having trouble getting a job because he hadn’t learned Cobol (I know, this dates us right away). I told one of my computer science professors the department should be offering a course in Cobol and he informed me in no uncertain terms that the department wasn’t a job training business. I didn’t know at the time what a research 1 institution was and that my professors thought they were preparing me for graduate school.

    College is a matter of good fit. Find out what the goal of the department or college is. A person who wants to leave college with a bachelor’s degree should find out if the place they want to go is geared toward producing bachelor’s candidates who will eventually become doctorate holders, or bachelor’s candidates who will graduate and take full-time jobs.

    While the OP is judging the department head based on the degree, in my experience working at a large university, the healthiest departments were those where all the employees, academic and nonacademic, were respected for their skills and not solely rated on their degrees or publications. Departments that were toxic almost always had cultures that were judgmental about petty issues, including accent, personal appearance, popularity, or the source or attainment of advanced degrees.

    The OP may find it offensive the department head has an online degree. I knew of a department at another American university where advancement depended on having a British accent — so a Jamaican who’d gone to Oxford got a better office than a popular and effective teacher who was a Southerner.

    Academic politics can be byzantine, and if OP feels so strongly about online degrees, I would suggest that OP not interview. If OP doesn’t want to be told his or her prejudices are wrong, fine. But be warned — concentrating so much on the degree difference may blind OP to other, real undercurrents in the department.

  61. Antony from Australia*

    OP – If you submit your resume and get an interview, I hope you act like this during it, and then the interviewer can make an informed decision that you are not the right fit for the role, regardless of where your degree is from.

  62. Chris*

    OMG I love it. Higher ed bubble! Gettin’ ready to burst.

    Why are people jumping down OPs throat? There are entire industries that only hire from a set of about a dozen different schools (think consulting, financial services etc.) Its total academic name discrimination and no one thinks twice about that.

    I don’t agree with the ancient wisdom that you should go to the best school you can get into (though earnings for those elite grads are usually higher due to network effects.) I spent a year doing research on the higher ed industry not too long ago. And I can tell you that on-line schools are mostly open enrollment and will give degrees to people who are functionally illiterate. That is NOT hyperbole either. Though the same can be said for certain brick and mortar schools – even state universities with high acceptance rates. But even there, most of the regionally accredited schools won’t transfer credits from a diploma mill. That’s not a market protection thing either – state unis have a long history of taking community college credits. Its usually because the quality of the online school really is THAT bad.

    I’m assuming that the U of Phoenix department head is one of the literate ones. But still it’d be worth knowing if he got hired from the outside for that job or internally promoted (maybe the LinkedIn profile can tell.) Because I probably wouldn’t work for any business that hires a diploma mill grad as a department head! Then again, I’m in an area highly saturated with good educational institutions that provided valid economic signals. If you are in the middle of nowhere – and the choices are the local CC or UofP, then that changes the equation.

  63. Anonymous*

    Wow, this has to be on the list for highest comments on a single post.

    If it hasn’t already been said, here are a few thoughts:

    1) Do your research. If the school, regardless if it is for-profit or not, has a less than notable reputation, don’t attend it.

    2) Do your research… again. Making assumptions about anything are dangerous in of itself, and this example that the OP wrote about is no exception.

    3) Take in the whole picture instead of nitpicking parts of it. Even if a candidate went to a less-than-reputable school, if there are other factors on the resume that talk to the job’s needs, then that resume is going in the “in” pile. Conversely, even an ivy league degree on a resume is useless if there isn’t anything on the resume that talks to the requirements of the job.

    4) Intelligence is a relative thing, and is highly subjective. I would rather look at what a person can do or has done before I weigh in on its intellectual merit.

  64. Patty*

    I think the OP needed to provide a bit more context for the question — if it’s a traditional “academic” discipline, then perhaps the U of P degree is a bit questionable, but — the for-profit schools tend to specialize in practical degrees, and as such they seem to do a decent job on the MA / MS level.

    I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy from a university that isn’t highly ranked — some would say I wasted my time, but it’s served me well so far. Academic snobbery is ugly and, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to have someone working under me that didn’t at least respect my degree.

  65. SLC*

    AAM, your response mentions how some schools can only get regional accreditation, rather than national. That is actually not quite accurate. Most traditional schools obtain a regional accreditation, and non-traditional obtain national.

    “Regionally accredited higher education institutions are predominantly academically oriented, non-profit institutions.[11][12][13] Nationally accredited schools are predominantly for-profit and offer vocational, career or technical programs.” -

  66. Elyse*

    Your ignorance disgusts me! First, inform yourself before you go slamming an on-line degree. E-learning costs more than an in classroom learning environment because it is also based on convenience and just to better inform you, almost all on-line universities are accredited and have campuses for in classroom students. Here in Kansas, we have KU, MU, University of Saint Mary’s and Baker University, to name a few, that offer on-line learning and I attend one of those schools; furthermore, Harvard University offers on-line learning. The difference here is that we, e-learners have to be very disciplined and pragmatic in obtaining our degrees and any non-compliance with the structure of e-learning, could expel you from a class. I am working harder on my MBM that I did on my undergraduate, and personally, if I had an ignorant applicant like you applying for a job, I wouldn’t hire stupid.

  67. DeNic*

    Yes, regional accreditation is much more important than national accreditation. I am also shocked by the ignorance of this question and if this person has these types of ridiculous standards for employers, they are going to have a difficult time finding any job they can deem acceptable.

Comments are closed.