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Importance of where an infosec degree is earned

Do IT employers care where you graduated from? Will they pick somebody from MIT over somebody from the local university if all other things are equal, i.e. grades, work experience, etc.?
Although it's seldom -- if ever -- true that "all other things are equal" as you say in your question, I believe very strongly as a graduate of an Ivy League institution myself (Princeton '73) that a degree from a more prestigious institution opens more doors and creates more opportunities than a degree from a less prestigious one. I have experienced this personally and professionally, so I believe in this theory. I'm sure that most people would agree (unless they have very detailed reasons to think otherwise) that a 4.0 GPA from a top-flight school is worth more than a 4.0 GPA from a school of lesser repute. This actually varies based on the strength of the degree programs in question (so that an engineering degree from a state school like UT Austin, where I live now, may actually be more valuable to somebody who's plugged into academia enough to know that UT's geological and hydrological engineering programs are in the top 10 nationwide, whereas those from several Ivies are not), but perception is an important factor that shouldn't be overlooked.

That said, most IT employers care a lot more about on-the-job experience and useful knowledge than about degrees, so this will usually only play a significant role in the first few jobs after somebody graduates from the institution in question. After that, it's what people's resumes and self- presentation say about what they know and can do that really counts the most.


For more information on this topic, see these other searchSecurity resources:
Best Web Links: Career Information
Ask the Expert: Experience vs. certification in today's job market
Ask the Expert: The advantages of work-related security experience


This was first published in January 2002

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