short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Why are employers asking about gaps between jobs?

I have noticed a lot of job applications and interviewers ask a question like “Please explain any time you have lost in the last year.” Is this a way to find out information that’s illegal to ask for directly? For example, someone who says they lost time for their spouse/child’s illness, to recover from a serious injury, or a family event in another country may have inadvertently revealed their marital/family status, disability, or national origin without the interviewer asking. Am I over-thinking this?

Yes, I think so. Employers don’t usually sit around thinking up devious ways to get illegal information. The ones who are so ridiculous as to consciously want to discriminate illegally generally don’t go to huge lengths to hide it. The question you’re talking about really means what it says on the surface; they want an explanation for work gaps — could you not get a job? Were you caring for a family member? Were you in school? Etc.

(And if you encounter this question, your answers should be broad, not specific — for instance, “traveling abroad” not “visiting family in my home country,” or “caring for a family member,” not “helping my child recover from Teapot Disease,” or “attending to a health issue,” not “in an in-patient program for my drug abuse problem again.”)

2. Is there a black hole for online applications?

Do online applications go into some black hole never to be seen again? I have done so many of them and have never gotten a response. I have two master’s degrees. Could that be a deterrent?

Could very well be, if you’re applying for jobs that don’t require masters. But it could also be all sorts of other factors — you have a boring cover letter, your resume isn’t great, your experience isn’t great, or just simple math (far more qualified applicants than openings).

3. Dealing with a chilly coworker

I’ve stepped into a senior financial role for a 15-month assignment, covering a leave of absence. After 3 months, it’s been going well. The only issue is the accounts payable clerk. She’s become quite chilly toward me, and I fear that this will put a damper on a very small administrative office. I suspect she may be feeling loyal to the employee on leave, therefore in her mind I’m “the enemy.” Note that she doesn’t report directly to me. Do I speak to her, or just let things work themselves out? The other employees have completely welcomed and accepted me, so I do feel this a problem only with her.

Meh. If it’s not affecting your work, I’d just continue being professional and nice to her and ignore the chilliness. However, if it crosses over from chilliness into downright rudeness, then I’d definitely speak to her about the rudeness.

4. Salary expectations for a recent grad

I recently had one of my first real job interviews (recent college grad), and things went pretty well. However, toward the end of the conversation, the recruiter asked about my projected salary. (I wasn’t expecting this on the first interview with the company, but stranger things have happened.) My problem is, I’m completely clueless about salary demands. The jobs are in much larger cities in another part of the state, and I’m completely oblivious to things such as cost of living and expenses. I’m worried that I’ll ruin my chances by severely under- or over-shooting my salary demands. I’ve heard that online salary calculators can be unreliable and probably shouldn’t be trusted. Is there any way to tactfully ask the recruiter what the budgeted salary is for a position so I can get a rough ballpark figure as to what is normal for the area? Or would showing my naivete to this severely undercut my chances and kill my opportunity to negotiate later?

Yeah, those salary calculators are often awful, but here are some suggestions on how you can figure out salaries in your field. Also, if you’re talking to an external recruiter (as opposed to one working within the hiring company), you can really just say, “Can you give me a sense of what I should expect salary-wise? As someone right out of school, I’m still figuring that out.”

5. How can I describe this on my resume?

The department I work in used to provide support for a product. Certain design aspects of the product resulted in more time than should have been necessary being spent supporting it. In other words, if ABC were changed/improved, we would be able to get more customers and it would require less of our time to support.

While my team supported the product, we submitted to the product manager our suggestions for improvements. During that time, no changes were made. Fast forward to a couple years later, and a different team has taken over supporting that product. In addition, nearly all of my team’s recommended (and researched) improvements have been implemented. The product is improved and revenue has substantially increased (in my opinion, due to the improvements along with a minimal marketing push).

What is the best way to describe my contribution in my annual review contribution or on a resume? Or am I over-thinking this? 

This would be easier if this weren’t team-based, since it’s hard to convey (and on the hiring manager’s side, to know) how much of a role you had in the team’s recommendations. However, you could say something like this:

* Part of team recommending improvements that, once implemented, led to X, Y, and Z

(Make sure you could defend this claim if questioned about it, though.)

6. Recent grads with significant work experience

We often see posts about how it is harder for recent grads to get new employment than it is for people who have been in the workforce for a while. When I see this, I usually am thinking about kids that went to college straight out of high school and don’t have any significant work experience. I am attending night school for my bachelors in business administration right now and was wondering if the same hesitation that managers have for hiring recent grads usually extends to recent grads who have several years of experience in the business world. By the time I graduate, I will have about 7 years experience in a mid-level office job. In your experience, would you treat a non-traditional student like me the same as that recent grad with no real experience, or would you take into account that I have worked on real world projects and just got my degree late? I’m just hoping that most employers don’t see that my degree came after or at the same time as my experience and discount the experience because it was in a job that didn’t require a degree.

Nope, very different. The reason recent grads are struggling is because of their lack of experience; they’re competing for the same jobs with people who do have experience. Your situation is different; your degree came later, but you have seven years of work experience. So while you’ll be a “recent grad,” you won’t have the work history disadvantages that often come along with that.

7. Should I teach at a for-profit school?

I am currently unemployed with an MS in Physics. I noticed that there is a position for physics instructor at ITT Tech. I am not a fan of these “get a bachelors in 2.5 years” schools, but as the job search takes longer, it just becomes more appealing. The concern I have is this: if the graduates of these schools are not taken seriously, what would they think of faculty? Would I actually hurt my career more than any benefit of teaching experience would bring? I think that the answer is yes, but I would like to hear your opinion as well.

This is a good question, and I don’t know the answer. So readers who do know more conclusively, here’s the question for you: While teaching at a for-profit school clearly isn’t seen as the equivalent of teaching elsewhere, would it be better or worse than not teaching at all?

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. Aja*

    #2 – If the question is why you aren’t getting any response/acknowledgement for applications submitted online (as opposed to why you aren’t getting any positive responses), the unfortunate reality is that many employers don’t bother to acknowledge the receipt of applications. It’s frustrating because getting an acknowledgement lets you know the process worked correctly and your application was submitted. Not getting an acknowledgement doesn’t mean your application wasn’t received or reviewed, just that the employer only contacts those people who they want to move forward with. It’s rude but par for the course these days.

  2. Jill of All Trades*

    On #7, how would this teaching job align with your career goals? If you’d like to end up at State U someday, and you got your MS at a state u, maybe you could ask one of your past professors about it. If your goal is to work for a corporation, could you tap your alumni network to get a contact at a company for which you’d like to work that you could run this by?
    One option, that may not be at all appealing, is to tutor high school and college students in your area. Physics is a tough subject for a lot of people, and it would pay the bills while building your resume and keeping you busy and building your resume with helping students turn around their grades. Just a thought.

    1. JPT*

      I do think it depends on your ultimate goal (for #7). If you want to end up teaching at a large, public university, it might not help you out in the long run (but I’m not sure it would hurt). If you plan to look for jobs at community colleges, it’s probably a great addition. If you’re not planning to teach at all, you’d be better off looking for a researcher/lab position either at a university or a corporation.

      1. Anon*

        Right, but let’s say the OP has zero other options. I think what they’re asking is, would that be detrimental for them in the long run?

        1. JPT*

          Right… I don’t think that it would be, given the state of the job market. But again, depends on what that person wants to do. I do know that anyone in academia is going to know how hard it is to find a job with a master’s in physics… I can’t imagine they’d look down on someone for doing all he or she can to make a living.

  3. Anonymous*

    I have hired both contract teachers and staff teachers for a university.

    Experience tutoring individuals or teaching at companies is not at all the same as teaching in a classroom, so classroom teaching experience is a big plus. However, teaching the same age range as the students in my institution or teaching at the same type of institution or teaching similar courses are also important.

    I can’t see how teaching at a for-profit school could be a minus. I guess I might make sure that such teachers do not see the students as their bosses :-)

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I agree. Teaching experience is teaching experience, and if you do a kick-ass job at it, you’re increasing the value of the degree students are getting. Lots of those schools do have some seriously shady practices, but I think that ITT Tech is one of the more respected for-profit schools. I say go for it.

      1. Anonymous*

        I wish there was a way to “like” comments as I agree: teaching experience is teaching experience. And I agree–if you can teach a similar age group (adult students, for example) at the for-profit, that would help in getting other teaching positions at local CC’s or even public U’s that cater to working adults. Not just that population, for-profits may also have a diverse population of students. All bonuses for teaching!

    2. Dan*

      I’m an adjunct instructor at the local ITT branch, and I know several of the other adjuncts have day jobs teaching either high school or college. In fact, one of my college instructors started teaching there a year after I did.

  4. Anon*

    #7. My experience is that the places who will hire people with Masters degrees to teach (e.g., community colleges, non-flagship state schools) are not the same ones who look down their nose at anyone who didn’t get a tenure-track job right out of school (which is a problem in some prestigious academic programs, and highly unfair to most graduates). So I’d go for it.

    1. Clobbered*

      Agreed. The reality is with so many PhDs looking for jobs, you would be lucky to get a college-level teaching job with your MSc (I hope that wasn’t your entire career plan). So there is no downside to taking such a job.

    2. Rana*

      That’s my sense of it too. Based on my husband’s (and my own) job-searching experience in higher-ed, if you’re aiming yourself at teaching-focused institutions (rather than research-oriented or a mix) being able to talk about how you negotiated the challenges of dealing with students (especially non-traditional ones, that is, ones who aren’t your usual 18-22-year olds supported by their families) is a real plus.

      Also, given the job market, I’d imagine most search committees (or at least the younger members of them) would be sympathetic to an explanation that you took the job because you needed to eat and thought that this way at least you could continue to work on your teaching skills.

  5. Brett*

    For #4, Glassdoor can be really useful. If it’s a big enough company you might be able to find some salaries for the entry level title at that specific company in the city you’re applying for. Otherwise, you can figure out equivalent titles at other large companies as a benchmark. It’s better than and the like.

  6. bradamante*

    #7 — First of all, you are probably overthinking this, as there’s going to be a lot of competition for any kind of teaching job.

    Second, + 1 to Anon above.

    I do understand your reluctance, as there have been some ethical issues with the for-profit sector and in general I think these classes are a rip-off. But that’s precisely why you might want to get in and see it from the inside. There are a lot of people working on fixing K-12, and Harvard and Stanford generally don’t need fixing, but we’re finally starting to wake up to the fact that we need to direct the nonprofit sector to do a better job with vocational education.

    1. For profit instructor*

      I agree with the above posters that the only time there is a big downside to this kind of teaching is if you are planning to apply for tenure-track jobs at someplace other than for-profits. There are a number of discussions on the Chronicle of Higher Ed forums about this and there is a fairly big bias against these schools.

      That said, make sure you feel OK ethically doing this. I do teach adjunct occasionally at a for-profit and have been struggling internally. They will often set your syllabus and curriculum and you have little to no ability to change it. Your students are going into big debt usually for these programs and I sometimes struggle looking at the amount of learning they are getting in their 6 week courses for this amount, compared to what they would get in a semester course for a lot less at another school.

      1. Anonymous*

        Yes, please make sure you are ok with this ethically. Many of these schools are not accredited and what is happening to many of the students is just awful. most of them have completion rates under 50% … *sigh*

  7. Sara*

    I have never heard of schools referred to as for-profit or non-profit….can someone explain why ITT tech/TCI etc graduates aren’t taken seriously? and how does one know if a school falls under that category? (like if it’s marketed on subway/buses and geared towards immigrant students etc?)

    1. KayDay*

      Most colleges and universities, public and private, 4-year and 2-year, are non-profit, tax exempt entities. Their mission is primarily to educate students, and while they need to bring in lots of revenue (including through tax-deductible donations) to meet that mission, they aren’t giving that revenue to owners or shareholders.

      Some colleges–ITT Tech, for example–are businesses. They exist to turn a profit, and aren’t tax exempt. Because their goal is to turn a profit for the sake of profit, there is a lot of controversy that they will admit students who won’t be able to graduate so that they can take in as much tuition money (largely through government loans) and/or won’t provide much value in terms of education for the money. (Whether the bad standards are true or not is a matter for debate; the fact that they exist to turn a profit is not.)

      1. Rana*

        One thing you can look into, with these things, is to see if they’re following state laws regarding the placement of graduates. In California, for example, vocational schools are required by law to show that 70% of their graduates are hired in jobs related to their credentials within a year (and, oh, boy, is that a pain to track down). A place that does that is going to be viewed as more reputable than one lacking similar accreditation. A non-vocational school is under less restriction as an institution, but some of its degree programs (such as nursing or criminal justice) may be. Some places are genuinely meant to offer education to students who can’t manage more “traditional” institutions (for whatever reason); others are scam machines. Research before getting involved with one is pretty important.

  8. Mary*

    Sara, I’m not an expert but many online schools and some brick and mortar schools operate as for-profit businesses (University of Phoenix, ITT Tech, Capella, Walden Univ.), unlike state colleges and other traditional universities, which do not exist primarily to turn a profit. The for-profit schools have been criticized for simply taking money and providing substandard education that leaves graduates unprepared or not as hire-able as other college graduates. Returning veterans have been targeted by the for-profits and some are saying they didn’t get what they paid for.

    1. JPT*

      +1 to Mary. These types of school seem like a good option for people who can’t afford college, or have kids and can’t be in class all day, etc… But you get what you pay for. Sure, it’s cheaper, but you’re not as prepared and rushed through the process just to be able to put the bachelor’s on your resume, without much regard to the real benefits of an education. Many state colleges offer grants/scholarships for nontraditional or returning students, so that might actually be a better option for some.

      1. perrik*

        It’s not cheaper. Quite the opposite. My local community college offers the AS in nursing, tuition roughly around $7300 for the full program (excluding lab fees, books, etc). Nurses who want to move up the ranks need to get their bachelor’s at the least, and the master’s is highly desirable. Those community college credits will transfer to state universities and other regionally accredited universities, no worries. The AS in business administration or accounting is about the same cost, and again, those credits will transfer to a 4-year university.

        ITT tuition for the 2-year nursing degree is nearly $54k. A 2-year degree in business administration is a bit over $38k. ITT Tech is not regionally accredited, so those credits won’t transfer elsewhere. They do explain this (in bold ALL CAPS text so you can’t miss it) in the catalog, but I do wonder if students take note of this rather important fact.

        One advantage – possibly the only advantage – of the for-profit nursing programs is that you can get into those nursing programs. It’s tough to get into a community college nursing program now; only the very best pre-nursing students will be accepted into the full program due to space limitations. For-profits can just hire more teachers and classrooms.

        The 4-year degrees from other for-profits aren’t always quite so overpriced, and some of them do have regional accreditation. Still, the quality varies from campus to campus and instructor to instructor. Then again, you can say that about any college. The worst teacher I ever had was a tenured professor of economics at a university renowned for its econ program.

        Good experience for a teaching career? Certainly, non-traditional students are a growing clientele for universities, and knowing how to communicate and explain complex information (like, say, physics) is a useful competency in many fields beyond teaching.

        1. JPT*

          I assume they can be cheaper, comparatively, since they are shorter-term programs (but comparing credit for credit, you’re probably right about them being more costly).

          1. Natalie*

            They usually don’t end up being cheaper, either in total or per credit, than a community college. I’d bet the average student at a for-profit either doesn’t know community college is so cheap, has been misled as to the total price of the for-profit, or can’t get in to a community college.

            1. JPT*

              Agreed… Around here, the community college is way cheaper than the university AND the credits transfer. Good option to get grades up if they aren’t accepted, or just to save money while taking core reqs.

    2. Henning Makholm*

      Here in Europe, we get the impression that the best and most prestigious universities in the USA are all private commercial entities, while the public ones are looked upon rather derisively.

      Thinking ill of a for-profit school would make perfect sense over here, where the big old prestigious universities are run by the governments and private institutions purporting to offer an education in exchange for for money are generally fly-by-night operations that one does well to be wary of. But in America all of your top-tier universities (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cornell, etc.) are private-sector, aren’t they?

      I’ve certainly seen AAM posters worry about whether going to a state-funded school would hurt their prospects.

      1. Henning Makholm*

        (Note that I’ve seen entirely up-to-standard research in my own field being done by people at Kansas State University, State University of New York, and Penn State, so it’s clearly not as if state universities can’t be the proper stuff — but still it sounds from over here like private universities are in general regarded as more prestigious, not less).

        1. Z*

          I can see why this is confusing. Yes, Harvard, MIT, etc., are private rather than state-run, but they’re not run for profit. They were established (perhaps by wealthy philanthropists, or…I’m not really sure who established schools like Harvard 400 years ago) to provide the service of a good education. Consequently, they provide things like need-based aid so that poorer individuals can afford to go to school there. (A friend of mine got to attend Princeton for free because his family was needy and because he of course did very well in school.)
          For-profit colleges are a whole different animal. Generally, my understanding is that they don’t give need-based aid; they view each student as a source of revenue, and as such, they aren’t interested in discounting the price of the product. (I’m not certain of this, but it’s what I’ve been led to believe.) Also, they tend to have lower admission standards because they’ll take anyone who’s willing to pay the tuition – at least for the first semester. (That is, if you take one semester of classes but then have to drop out, hey, at least they’ve gotten that much money out of you.)
          So that’s the difference, basically. The prestigious private institutions you’re thinking of are private in the sense that they aren’t controlled by the government, but they’re generally philanthropic institutions whose main focus is providing an excellent education. For-profit schools are actually run by corporations for the purposes of making money.
          (Anyone else is free to correct me on this.)
          And I’m glad you recognize that state schools can provide a great education as well! I did my undergrad and grad school both at state schools, and I think my education wasn’t sub-standard.
          By the way, none of this response is intended to influence the OP for #7 one way or another. On VersatilePhD, I’ve read postings by people who have had a very positive experience teaching at for-profit colleges. Of course, I’ve heard the opposite, too.

          1. Data Monkey*

            FYI – The colonial colleges (which includes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, William and Mary, etc) were founded (1) to educated religious leaders for the colonies and (2) to convert the Native American population to Christianity.

              1. Data Monkey*

                It sure is! Rutgers is the other public colonial college out of the nine. The other 7 colonial colleges are schools in the Ivy League (excluding Cornell which wasn’t founded until after the colonial period).

        2. KayDay*

          That’s a really common misconception, but it exists over here as well. Many of the flagship state universities (i.e. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of Virginia) are top tier research universities. There are also plenty of mid-level, not so great private universities. Yes, the top 10 ranked universities are private, but there are still many public, top 100 universities. So never assume that private is automatically better than public.

          (On the small liberal arts college side–the Swarthmores and Middleburys–the best schools do tend to be private)

        3. Elise*

          I think a big difference is where the majority of the money generally comes from for the schools:

          Public schools – money comes from the state
          For profit schools – money comes from current students
          Private schools – money comes from alumni

          Thus, public schools educate to meet the demands of their state (different states have different requirements), for profit schools educate to make their current students happy, and private schools educate to ensure that the alumni will be successful and be both willing and able to donate money.

        4. Laura L*

          Z has a great explanation!

          I just wanted to clarify one thing:
          In the US private (non-state subsidized) colleges and universities can either be not-for-profit or for-profit.

          The vast, vast majority are not-for-profit, including all the prestigious schools you’ve probably heard of (Harvard, Stanford, etc), plus many more you probably haven’t. :-)
          This means that they are not run for the benefit of shareholders and that profits (money earned after expenses) need to be funneled back into the institution, not doled out to shareholders.

          Not-for-profit (or non-profit) status is a legal status that is determined when and organization incorporates. They get certain tax benefits and donations from individuals can usually be written off on their income tax forms, lowering the amount of taxes owed.

          The for-profit universities and colleges are incorporated the same way Target or the Gap are incorporated. Their profits go to their shareholders and are generally not funneled back into the organization. This means that they have to maximize their profits to keep the shareholders happy and to get more people to invest in their company.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Henning, you’re confusing a couple of things.

        a Private university/college DOES NOT EQUAL a for profit university/College

        From wikiepedia: Private universities are universities not operated by governments, although many receive public subsidies, especially in the form of tax breaks and public student loans and grants. … This is in contrast to public universities and national universities. While many prominent private universities are run by charitable or non-profit organizations, a subset are commercial for-profit universities which are run as business organizations.

        In US public/state universities are funded in part by their states from states taxes. And that is why they cost less than private school because they’re getting this subsidy. (That’s also why in-state students pay less for public schools. They’re already funding the school through their taxes,) In reality school like Yale, Harvard, etc are private because they don’t get funds from state taxes, but they’re also non-profit. They still cost lots more that public/state schools. OTOH University of Phoenix is private (not stated funded), but is also a for profit business.

        A for profit university is not bad per se, but it’s mission to educate can be compromised by the need to make money. And some bad apples (and outrageous marketing claims) give them a bad name.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Henning, an easy way to look at it is that there are 3 categories of schools here:
        1. private (nonprofit)
        2. public (nonprofit)
        3. for-profit

        There are tons of great, prestigious public schools (like U-Va, for instance), and also plenty of not-so-impressive private schools, so whether a school falls into category #1 or #2 isn’t definitive info about its quality. The real divide is between the first two and #3.

  9. bradamante*

    My original advice to OP #7 was actually based on the perception that ITT was one of the better for-profit schools. But upon doing a little research I am wondering about that!

    See; follow link “You can read the committee report here” for individual school reports.

    I don’t have any direct experience with ITT grads — maybe someone else can chime in?

    1. JT*

      I had the same impression about ITT simply because it has been around for a long time – I thought I was decent for skills in blue collar jobs. But that’s an impression I realize is only based on ads.

      My impression of newer for-profit schools, especially ones trying to emulate liberal arts or business programs is that they’re generally bad news, though I’m sure there are exceptions.

    2. V*

      All of these for-profit schools are required by law to publish their completion rates. The completion rate for ITT Tech is only about 30%, which is one of the worst (compare to Kaplan at a still troubling ~50%). ITT Tech is not accredited and it says right in their commercial that most courses are not transferrable.

      1. incognito*

        Most of these places are accredited, but they’re accredited nationally, so the credits still don’t transfer. The public has learned to ask for accreditation from schools, but the accrediting bodies are different.

        The big universities and community colleges that we usually think of are accredited regionally.

        So if you take your generals at ITT Tech, you cannot transfer them to State U. If you take your generals at Community College, you can transfer them to State U.

  10. JPT*

    That’s a really good point… it’s not the same internationally. A couple of my employees studied in South America and said something similar about their public vs. private colleges.

    Here there are private universities that are harder to get into and have more prestige, and large state universities that can be just as good of an education because they bring in top faculty researchers from around the globe. Then there are McSchools that kind of prey on nontraditional/low income prospective students.

  11. NewReader*

    In the same vein as OP#2- I just recently found out an application of mine never reached its destiny. The person making the hiring decisions never received it. Worse, the hiring person exclaimed “I do not get any of the online applications- they never reach me!”

    Now, what would be the point of having an online application system?

    So my question is, how can we even be sure our intended recipient gets our resumes and CLs?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can’t always. That said, the situation you described is quite rare — definitely not the norm. And it says something about that manager and that company that they’re willing to be blase about that situation.

      But the bigger point — you can’t ensure anything along these lines. It’s not in your control.

      1. NewReader*

        Brand new location for the company and a brand new manager. Lots of balls in the air on that one. The manager has a huge reputation for being a square shooter. I figured that was why he let me know what happened.
        Thanks for the reassurance that it is quite rare. I was starting to worry about other applications. I won’t worry, now.

  12. KayDay*

    #2 Black hole application system: I’ve never used an application system from the hiring side, but I tend to think that within the application system, keywords tend to matter a lot. So if the posting asks for “chocolate teapot making” and your resume says “candy kettle producer” your resume won’t be pushed through to a real person.

  13. Nichole*

    #7- I work at a not-for-profit community college, and the general attitude towards hiring people who work at for-profits at my institution tends to have a lot to do with whether the for-profit in question is accredited and reputable. There’s an assumption out there that for profit=not reputable, which isn’t necessarily true. I actually have a friend that works at a for profit that is taken just as seriously in this area as we are. Also, as someone mentioned above, having actual teaching experience with a diverse population could be a plus even if it is at less prestigious school. However, there’s a lot of snobbery in higher ed, especially at the 4 year and postgraduate level, so if your big goal is “teach physics, be happy,” this might be a better career move than if the goal is “be the head of the physics department at a nationally ranking university.”

  14. Soni*

    Some interesting and somewhat disturbing “behind the scenes” info that may be of use to #7

    Reddit AMA (ask me anything) by a teacher who works for a for-profit university (warning: it’s Reddit, so there will be adult language, etc).

    Most notable (to my mind) is the fact that the colleges will order teachers to give passing grades to students who can barely write, let alone produce even minimally literate work. Failing out of a for-profit is nearly impossible if your payments are up to date. So people are “graduating” with expensive degrees, but without being able to construct basic paragraphs or understand basic math. And if you won’t do it, they’ll just fire you and hire someone who will. You’re overhead, the students are profit.

    1. Jessica*


      I spent two years working at a for-profit university, and I completely understand why OP #7 has ethical concerns about teaching at one. Although I wasn’t a professor, I did work in academic support (I’m a librarian), and I saw many, many professors with good intentions get chewed up and spit out by the system. For-profit schools are run like a business, and although I can’t speak for all of them, the one I worked in offered virtually no support for professors. Academic freedom was nonexistent, and professors were encouraged to maintain low academic standards and “push students through” even if they didn’t understand the material. The reason for this is because financial aid is tied to academic achievement. If you fail all your classes, you won’t be eligible for financial aid, and the for-profit college won’t get paid. Virtually ALL of their profits come from federal student loans and GI Bill funding. For-profit schools prey on non-traditional students who might not have as many options as their peers, and they force them to take out obscene amounts of loan money to fund a sub-par education. It’s disgusting.

      That being said, I had the opportunity to work with many wonderful people there. Most of the professors also taught at other (non-profit) schools, and they were legitimately good professors who were doing this because they needed the extra income. They had good intentions, and they wanted their students to be successful, but they had to fight the system every step of the way. The burnout rate was astronomical, and most professors only lasted a few months because the conditions were so terrible. The money was slightly better than what they would make teaching a comparable class at a traditional university, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t worth it for them.

      I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T take this teaching job, but if you decide to do it, make sure you go into it with your eyes open. Good luck!

      1. incognito*

        I was also a librarian at a for-profit university. I saw students admitted into expensive programs that weren’t sure what they wanted to do with their lives, and change from one program to the next. It was very sad.

  15. ANB*

    Around here, the UK, its more to get you to admit if you’ve missed a job off that you got fired from or if you were “at her majesty’s pleasure”. I’m seeing it more and more that people who I know on forums are being asked for proof they signed on for Jobseekers (unemployment benefit) to ensure they weren’t actually in prison during that time. Slightly demeaning unfortunately!

  16. Danielle*


    I worked at a for-profit school in their library for a short while and I agree that those schools often don’t care about really producing top-notch graduates. I often proctored exams, and once I got the score reports, I’d see several failing scores, and after the instructor signed off on it, I would notice that there were none. This particular school did place a high number of graduates in their field, and it’s scary to think that a my dental hygienist may have failed basic oral health, but graduated anyway.

    Now I work in a large academic library, and I do hear that the overwhelming belief is that these schools are “less than”.

  17. Katie*

    While for-profit education might more egregiously exploit its students, non-profit colleges and universities aren’t immune at all. Higher ed is big, big business, and even public universities have to do all sorts of unsavory things to meet their bottom line that have nothing to do with providing excellent education, as some here have said (the recent kerfuffle over Theresa Sullivan at UVA being a very public example of this, but the crazy mid-semester tuition hikes in the UC and CSU systems are just as bad).

    To the poster, I would probably advise to take the work if he or she can get it, because we can’t put food on the table waiting for an idealistic world. But to everyone else, I think it’s important that we don’t reify the purported value of non-profit universities. Just because they teach ethics there doesn’t mean they practice it (and they’ll probably shut down the philosophy department in the next few years anyway).

    Sorry if that was a little OT – we’ve all got topics that get the blood boiling. This one is mine.

    1. Non Profit Student*

      I agree. I’m currently going back to school as a non traditional student at a private, non profit university. If I said I felt completely prepared and like I was getting the grades I should be, I’d be lying. Some profs are tougher but most are phoning it in.

    2. KayDay*

      …and don’t forget all the well respected universities that offer professional programs as cash cows! Some of those programs are quite good, but others are not, and it can be hard to know which is which since they are all out of a well respected school.

    3. For-Profit Schools*

      Be very careful associating yourself in anyway with for-profits (as a student, faculty member or administrator). Generally, for-profits have a negative stigma that come along with them.

      You may be selected for an interview as a newly graduated student or for a faculty placement at a more reputable institution, but be prepared to explain why you attended/worked at a less reputable institution. I find the difference between someone with a solid traditional education and a for-profit (online or otbherwise) education is that it will be more of an uphill battle to shake the cloud that follows.

      Also, consider advancement opportunity. If you look at the make-up of most executive management teams, in any industry, it’s rare to find someone with a for-profit education (although many for-profit degrees are awarded each year). It’s tough to say what this means. Are the students necessarily less intelligent? Probably not. Are they less prepared? Maybe. will they find it harder to reach higher level positions? Very likely.

  18. Job Seeker*

    #1. I understand the concern about gaps, I have some. For a long time I was home with three children volunteering in schools, activities, being a mom. Then I worked part-time for a year and half, then went back to school for a year and volunteered at a hospital three days a week. Now, I am having another gap of a few months helping a family member. I recently flew 2000 miles to bring back to my home my mother to stay with me. This family member is older and has some health concerns. I am looking to find another part-time job again, so I can also be here to help with doctor’s appointments. I hope whoever interviews me will understand my gaps.

  19. Anonymous*

    Regarding #1 about employers asking about job gaps…

    In my last interview that I had, my prospective employer seemed to be focusing on all the gaps, which were all from 10 years ago when I was a student! I had gaps from studying abroad and from taking breaks from working and focusing on school. Other than that I have no gaps and my work history is solid. I just found it so odd that the prospective employer was focusing on my part time starter jobs and gaps from again 10 years ago.

  20. Jeff*

    #7 – I think based on the responses I’ve read here plus what I know of for-profit schools, the answer to your question is yes, it will probably be detrimental to your future career. Regardless of whether the school is actually reputable or not, the impression among most academics is that they aren’t serious schools and aren’t really preparing you for other higher education teaching positions. It might be something you can address in a cover letter or in your CV, but it will probably be something you’ll have to address, whether it’s fair or not.

    Keep in mind too, if you are planning on becoming a tenure-track professor at a college or university, there will most likely be the expectation that you are researching and writing along with teaching (with the former maybe even being put as a higher priority over the latter). A for-profit school will not prepare you for that. If you are only planning to be an adjunct prof or instructor, that’s not as big a deal. But as someone who has looked into pursuing a Ph.D. a teaching at the college level, you will be expected to contribute to your field in some way through research in order to get tenure. It may be different in fields of science, but I would imagine that the requirements for tenure-track positions are the same. Just something else to keep in mind. It might be better to find some type of assistantship or teaching aide position where you are shadowing a professor in your field and assisting them with their research. That will look better on a CV. If your close to the school you attended, I would check with former profs to see if there’s anything available. I was able to get some opportunities doing that by connecting with old professors. It also helps with networking; I found out about some opportunities by connecting with old professors as well.

  21. Anonymous*

    I worked at an ITT Tech. My opinion: Yes, it is a job and will pay a salary. However, it is run differently than a non-profit university and the job duties are not always defined the same. As others have mentioned, there is not as much academic freedom, you do not have as much control over course content, teaching methodology, book selection, etc.

    This means you will not be gaining the same type of experience as you would at a non-profit university. Is that important to you?

  22. Jill*

    #7….I’m working on my MBA at an accredited college. My school specifically hires instructors who have “day jobs” actually working in their field. The rationale is that by working in your field during the day, you’re far more equipped to teach today’s students because you’re getting current experience yourself – as opposed to a professor with a PhD who hasn’t actually worked in their field in years.

    I say go for it. As others have said, as long as it’s an accredited school, teaching your field can only help you in the long run. And you’ll probably be a great teacher since yuor on the job experience is so current!

  23. Physics Girl*

    Thank You all for the helpful advice. My degree allows me to cast a wide net in my job search but it has been very slim pickings (as for a lot of people).

    I would love to teach but I doubt I would enjoy these types of institutions and I was very concerned about what it would do to a career that has not yet begun.

    1. JPT*

      Have you thought of maybe doing a transition to teaching program? You might just need a few classes to be certified to teach junior high or high school, depending on your state’s requirements. (Of course, MORE school isn’t always ideal!)

  24. Anon*

    #7-The issue isn’t necessarily for profit vs non-profit but accreditation. UofP/Capella/Walden are all accredited. That means their credits can transfer to other institutions. ITT Tech and the like all have disclaimers on their commercials “credit unlikely to transfer”. That should be read as “credit will never ever transfer”. No school worth its salt will accept credit from a non-accredited institution except under really strict circumstances.

    So, while teaching at ITT Tech will give you experience, what other schools might question is the rigor of said instruction and material. I would suggest starting at a community college or other accredited school. My major issue with the ITT Tech type schools is that they are basically a waste of money when you can get it cheaper somewhere else. If you do two years there but can’t transfer any of those credits to a BS degree from state U, you’ve just wasted major time and money.

    Many universities offer bachelors completion programs in about two years. Time should not be a considering factor in validity of programs.

    1. Natalie*

      This may seem nitpicky, but it’s fairly important as rip-off schools us their accreditation as a way to seem legitimate.

      ITT Tech and their ilk are accredited, but they’re accredited by a national accreditation organization, rather than a regional one. National accreditation is a bit of a default for “for profit and low standards”. The other schools you mentioned are all regionally accredited by the same organizations that accredit non-profit colleges.

  25. starts & ends with A*

    re #4 – Try glassdoor as well. assuming the company is big enough (and it may not be) they may actually have salaries for the position you’re looking at listed. Take it with a grain of salt of course. Why I say the company may not be – many large companies hiring for entry level positions know exactly how much they pay for that position and flat out tell you there is no negotiation (do they mean that? I always assume they did).

  26. Suzanne*

    I worked at a for-profit college, so I speak from experience. Shady, very shady. There is no requirement for entry other than a h.s. diploma, GED, and breath in your body. They really go after veterans because vet benefits don’t count in the stats of how much overall money the school can get from government aid (loans, Pell, etc.)

    Many of the students I dealt with were semi-literate, could barely use a computer, and had no clue how to function in school. Students with drug convictions are allowed to enroll in medical programs even though they will never get hired in that capacity because of their past. But administration didn’t care because they came with government backed aid so they brought in $$. If they failed, oh well, it was their fault for not trying hard enough or being lazy.

    I’m not sure how other employers look on these colleges, but hopefully, they understand that you do what you have to do to earn a paycheck.

  27. JT*

    “There is no requirement for entry other than a h.s. diploma, GED, and breath in your body.”

    I don’t see what’s shady about this aspect of for-profit colleges. It’s the same for community colleges.

    1. Suzanne*

      Except, JT, that Community Colleges cost about 1/3 as much as the typical for-profit and the credits you earn there will transfer to most state universities. This is true of few for-profits. A diploma program at most for-profit colleges will cost between $15,000 and $20,000; an associate degree about $30,000.

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