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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guest Post: More About “The Plan”

Thank you to Dr. Lasson, the author of the newest Guest Post on the subject of employment. This is another truly excellent article on employment issues with a lot of great points for consideration. I can personally relate to one of the later points in the article on how we, as Orthodox Jews, all reflect on each other (so, make a good impression for your brother's sake!). Lost of great information form my readers. Enjoy!

Reprinted with permission from the Where What When magazine
by Elly D. Lasson, Ph.D.

In his “Do You Have a Plan?” article (May, 2010), Stuart Hoffman makes several important points. I would like to add several of my own based on my ongoing experience with employers, recruiters, and job seekers.

It goes without saying that parents need to play a more active role in The Plan, interfacing with the undergraduate and graduate programs directly and being an informed consumer prior to their investment on behalf of their sons or daughters. Questions might include, what is the track record for the graduates of a given program? Have graduates been able to find a broad range of viable jobs in the corporate world, or are one’s prospects limited to the Orthodox community, in which quality jobs are scarce?

The time for parents to start thinking about The Plan is probably 10th or 11th grade, as decisions or non-decisions made in 12th grade will have important ramifications for the future. Parents should maintain an ongoing dialogue with their children about The Plan, and take practical steps towards it over the next several years. Deferring these conversations and steps will likely have significant consequences down the road. Obviously, some variables will change, but many are very predictable. I have met with many people who, in retrospect, never had a realistic plan yet now wish that they had. Many of them have not been able to break into or gain traction within the job market. While this has certainly been exacerbated in the current economy, it is not a recent phenomenon.

When seeking out a career path or plan, it is best not to anticipate being the exception to the rule. While some people have landed in a particular successful employment situation after an untraditional path, that approach is by definition rarely effective. Consulting with people who have “been there done that” is worthwhile. The concept of an “informational interview” is salient here. An informational interview is a meeting with a key (potential) mentor at his or her place of employment to learn about the field, the organization, and the workplace. Such an interview will hopefully serve as a realistic preview of both the positives and the challenges of that field. The timing of such a meeting should be early enough in one’s life to allow The Plan to crystallize.

Many individuals in our community are interested in financial services or federal government employment. People should realize that within the federal and even the private sector, employers will often conduct credit or other background checks (beyond a perfunctory “reference check”) prior to employment. Your credit score, which is an index of your financial stability, might also be researched. It is within their right to do so, if protocols are followed as per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. So, please be aware that a problematic financial history can have serious employment ramifications, not only for “security sensitive” positions but others as well. In addition, those with significant debt, including maintaining high credit card balances, might very well be disqualified for these jobs. Therefore, before you start applying for these employment opportunities, it is critical to make sure that your credit history does not contain errors or delinquencies; anything of this nature should be corrected or resolved. It goes without saying that one’s financial history cannot include anything illegal or unethical.

Even if a boy is cut-out for a full-day learning program and is successful in yeshiva, that might only be appropriate in the short term. For most people, there needs to be a cheshbon, or plan, towards an eventual “exit strategy.” This strategy should be considered early on. The objective should be to obtain credentials that will match not only one’s acumen and interests but will also be recognized by a broad range of employers in a competitive job market.

The following are some historical trends that I and others have observed:

1) For the most part, during the 20th century, white-collar jobs were relatively stable and predictable, especially in traditional fields like law, accounting, business/entrepreneurship, and medicine. Things were stable and did not change much; change if any, was slow.

2) At the end of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st, advances in technology and science have drastically changed the landscape of the workplace. This has created new challenges of supply and demand within the labor market. Some jobs have been specialized. Some have become obsolete. Some have been outsourced overseas. Therefore, the number of available jobs, especially within a restricted geographic area, has shrunk. The common denominator is that things are constantly changing and people have to keep up.

3) From 2008 to 2010, an economic reality has hit, creating additional changes in the labor market and where jobs can be found. For people to continue to hang on to the first point above, without a full appreciation of the second, is counterproductive and amounts to burying one’s head in the sand.

The take-away lesson here is that trends are pointing in different directions, certainly other than the professions mentioned in point number one. The reality is that there is now a glut of attorneys, accountants, and MBAs who are seeking employment in fields with a limited number of openings. Those who are passionate and motivated in traditional occupations such as accounting, law, etc., may still want to consider those fields, as long as they take point number two into consideration and make conscious decisions accordingly. They should not rely on the job market of yesteryear or go into these fields because that is what everyone else is doing.

People should read publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Baltimore Business Journal to be conversant with market trends. Also, they should speak with people in the field, both Orthodox and not, those who are experienced as well as those who are early-career. The laws of labor supply-and-demand are in play today more than ever.

There is another significant issue, which relates to using the “streamlined” undergraduate degrees as a means of gaining admission to some sort of graduate program. In a traditional bachelor’s degree program, there is an opportunity for exploration and trial-and-error, allowing the student to make adjustments or switch tracks. That is not the case with streamlined programs, especially if the degree obtained is not accompanied by work experience. Therefore, one must be relatively certain about the track to be taken. It should be one in which he or she has the ability to do the coursework and complete the program, is passionate about the field with healthy ambition, and is capable of being successful in that discipline. Going down a vocational path simply because it is in vogue, or because it is perceived at being easy, might ultimately result in a bad fit.

I would like to clarify some points about transferring credits. Not all colleges will accept credits earned for college courses taken off campus during high school or beyond. This is an empirical question, which parents should find out ahead of time by consulting with the prospective college Admissions Office directly. In addition, there is a subtle difference between a college accepting a course as a prerequisite for other courses or merely counting those earned credits towards the grand total required.

The tone of this article is not to be critical of any local institution. However, there have been observable deficits recently within our community in terms of skills related to written English, math, and science. There is a tendency of parents to minimize the importance of these areas at the junior and high school levels, with the assumption that somehow, one’s son or daughter will eventually pick it up and do fine in post-high school classes and the workplace.

Well, that is not happening. We are seeing the ramifications of this trend in terms of many young people not being competitive in today’s job market. Make no mistake: This trend is independent of the current economy. Parents should come to expect an improvement in these areas from the schools. Otherwise, they will find themselves disappointed down the line when their children have challenges finding employment.

“Soft” skills critical to success in any field of endeavor include proper social and communication skills as well as professionalism. Simple things such as returning phone calls in a prompt fashion, being polite and not overbearing, having the appropriate balance of self-confidence and humility, and following up appropriately, are to some extent lacking. In our era of email technology, communicating properly and promptly through that channel is also part of this equation. In addition, offering oneself as a team player, both verbally and in action, is a sought-after quality in demonstrating work readiness; in a tight job market, it is a requirement. These are basic prerequisites, the importance of which should not be overlooked.

If a young man or woman is open to various fields, it should be noted that the growth fields today include engineering, technology, science, and biotech. The predicted influx of jobs to this area as a result of the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC), the U.S. Cyber Command, and a Federal Data Center will be primarily those in technology and engineering. Yes, it is true that the schooling for these fields might take a bit longer. But, in the long run, the person will be better off by obtaining credentials in which there are a greater number of potential job opportunities. People should realize this and seek channels through which to obtain industry-recognized training and experience.

Within Information Technology (IT), the “hot commodities” we are seeing in the job market are Java, Sharepoint, C++, PHP, .Net, and programming for mobile devices (see below). These skills are very specific and may not even be taught through traditional training courses. They are often picked up on the job, which makes job experience particularly salient. For some, a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Information Systems is required or advantageous. However, industry-recognized certifications do not require a degree and can be administered through companies like Microsoft or Cisco. Locally, degree and non-degree certification programs are offered at Towson, UMBC, CCBC, and Hopkins, as well as private career institutes.
Project Management within these technical areas is another viable specialty. However, it requires existing experience and the industry-standard PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. Program and Project Managers with the PMP, ITIL (and other related) certifications are in demand. The PMP certification is frequently what raises a particular individual to the top of lists, and many firms are seeking those with PMP certification. Regardless of industry or client segment focus, recruiters look favorably at this credential.

One last point is worth emphasizing when it comes to working together with others who are not like us. The truth is that we are representatives of not only Jews but of Orthodox Jews as well. A relatively recent phenomenon includes employees requesting time off or scheduling adjustments for discretionary reasons, such as personal or family events that are not linked to an absolute religious necessity. I am also aware of situations in which frum employees have maintained excessive degrees of professional separation in the workplace, which may very well convey the perception of not wanting to be a team player.

When employment relationships don’t work out for these reasons, both non-Orthodox and Orthodox employers might be hesitant to consider or hire another (often easily identifiable) frum employee in the future. In addition, a current Orthodox employee might be reluctant to “go to bat” in referring a frum job seeker to his or her organization out of concerns of it reflecting poorly on him or herself. So, a chilul Hashem might also have negative practical consequences for our community. Conversely, working effectively with colleagues and working hard for an organization can facilitate a kiddush Hashem, not to mention create the perception that Orthodox Jews, while principled, are decent and productive people.

Let me conclude with the following empirical information for review. While there are and will be jobs available in other fields of endeavor, this list shows the current trend towards the technical sector. (See sidebar for top-paying degrees.) Based on a recent informal survey which I sent to technical recruiters, the following are in-demand skills and credentials:

Specific Technologies, Environments, or Systems: Proficiency with Microsoft software (Office applications, the various Windows Operating Systems such as 7, XP, Server 2000); Sys Admin/Net Management tools (Microsoft, HP, Cisco); Sun/Solaris; UNIX/Linux; SQL Database development/other DB dev tools (such as Sybase and Oracle).
For accounting, Deltek, MAS90, other tools with Payroll and time tracking modules. The hottest accounting-related skill in this region right now is EVM (Earned Value Management).

Programming Languages or Software Programs: MS Visual Studio suite, other object oriented languages, such as C++, Java, .Net, J2EE, and Web development tools.

Training: College degrees, undergraduate or graduate, or other credential, such as an Associate’s degree or Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Computer Science.

Industry Recognized Certifications: A+ (CompTIA), PMP, ITIL, Cisco, MS Office, MSCE, MSP(s), MCSD, HDI/HMI (Help Desk Institute).

Elly D. Lasson, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Joblink of Maryland.

[Sidebar] Top-Paying Bachelor's Degrees
(Source: Winter 2010 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers)
* Data represent offers to bachelor’s degree candidates where 10 or more offers were reported.
Major Average Salary Offer*
Petroleum Engineering $86,220
Chemical Engineering $65,142
Mining & Mineral Engineering (incl. geological) $64,552
Computer Science $61,205
Computer Engineering $60,879
Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering $59,074
Mechanical Engineering $58,392
Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering $57,734
Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering $57,231
Information Sciences & Systems $54,038


Anonymous said...

He brings up some good points but even the best planning can be worthless. Case in point, both myself and my wife are past graduate educated professionals who have been struggling to find employment for nearly 4 years in Baltimore. So far, the best we've managed is low paying (read under $18/hour) jobs and often not at the same moment (due to continual layoffs).

On top of that, Joblink of Baltimore has yet to provide a single job lead for either of us despite being in their databases.

I know it's not fun to work hard, and certainly it may not be fulfilling to many people, but I have yet to meet a medical graduate (at least in the Baltimore area) that has not found easy, well paid, employment. If I could do it again, I'd go into medicine 100%.

David said...

@Anon 5:00:

I'd be very curious to know what field your degrees are in - there is a substantive difference in the job market between mechanical engineering graduates and art history graduates.

Open To Suggestion said...

My open question about the "plan": How many of you out there are doing what you planned on doing back in late HS or even College?
For me and my wife it is 0-for-2. We both had clear plans - I went to a RW Yeshiva that allowed College and then Grad School at night, she went to a top tier College all day - and here we are both happily employed in well-paying jobs not doing what we planned. NO, this is not to suggest to do nothing and say "God will provide"; it is more along the lines of remembering to be flexible, keep your eyes open, and that yeah, God runs the world.

Anonymous said...

Of my 6 chareidi cousins (siblings) who grew up MO (4 now married), only one chosen a realistic career path. Realistic if it's realistic for a woman to plan to support her family, including a husband who learns, with a pharmacy degree.

Margaret said...

I didn't go into a streamlined degree program, but I got my degree from a top 40 liberal arts college in three years, without transferring in any credits from high school.

I took 20 credits instead of 16 every semester (up to 20 credits were covered by tuition before you have to pay extra) and earned another 20 credits over two summers at my local, cheap state college. I paid for those out of pocket, which was smart. I checked with my college first to ensure the credits would transfer.

The experience was a mixed bag, but i'd urge people who have bright, motivated kids to consider it.


Having started college at 17, I had my BA at 20. But for a major medical crisis, I would have started working immediately, as it was, I was employed 9 months after graduation and married 6 months after.

It was surprisingly easy, and it really made me stand out to my professors. I got glowing recommendations.

I saved both myself and my parents a bloody fortune.


I knew what I was going to college for, and how to accomplish it. If I hadn't been dead set on a major and subspecialty, I would not have been able to do it, as I had no time to explore my interests in other fields.

I had no time to do many resume building internships or jobs. If I wasn't in class, I was at work. Thankfully, the work I did for my university's facilities office as well as my work on our family business gave my a sufficient resume, but this could be a concern for other students.

I had basically no social life. This didn't bother me, but it might some people. I had very little time for a "typical" college experience.

On the whole, I'd do it again.

Upper West Side Mom said...

You need to start thinking about "The Plan" way before 10th or 11th grade. One example of this that I can think of off the top of my head is if you intend to go into the fields that are mentioned in this article and you want to get into a good school (so you can get a good job) you need to make sure that your kids are in algebra by 8th grade. Good colleges generally expect their math and science students to have finished calculus when they have graduated from high school.

You also need to get your kids into the best college possible. A degree from Touro or a second rate school just can not compete against a degree from a top college.

Fruma Sara said...

I'm glad this article is appearing in Where What When so Baltimore families will read it. I wish Elly Lasson had included information about salaries for medical professions. The commenter above is right - medical professionals are in demand and will continue to be due to the aging of the population. I continue to deplore the haphazard approach to job preparation for young men due to the assumption by most chareidi teenagers that "I'm going to learn", said proudly. I've asked them their plans, and that's what they answer. That is not a Plan, that's a default. Planning takes research, thought, interviewing of professionals in the field. I know many chareidim who only think about possible training when they are approaching age 40. They live in poverty with whatever minimal help parents can provide. I would hope young men could read this article and prepare for the future wisely. Before you know it, you have three children and another on the way. Without a plan, you will be indigent. That means POOR.

Miami Al said...

One thing that most immigrants fail to appreciate (and if you are joining secular America from an extremely insular part of Orthodoxy, you might have the same problem) is the importance of your undergraduate Alma Mater in America.

In the rest of the world, people look at your highest level of schooling, and one can always move up, so expensive undergraduate degrees seem silly from that perspective. However, in American society, it's a critical part of your network and story, particularly with top schools.

This generally seems like pretty good advice, with the caveat that I think you need to get the student involved in the discussion a little more seriously.

A little more focus on the importance of high school grades, SAT prep, etc., but every piece of advice in here seems reasonable.

Starting salaries for recent graduates is a good thing to understand as well, certain degrees pay better. If you are getting married at 20 and having your first kid at 21/22, starting salary means a LOT. If you plan to spend 6-8 years with 1-2 roommates in a crappy apartment while you build your career, starting salary doesn't mean much, mid-career salaries do.


Lion of Zion said...

the starting salaries at the end of the post are meaningless without corresponding salaries at other later career points. i.e., there are jobs where you can start well in the low 6 figures but you will never make more than that. other job start at significantly lower salaries, but with some motivation and a few years of good experience the sky is the limit. and there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration along with salary, e.g., benefits, quality of life, long-term market demand (as best as can be predicted), portability to other parts of the country (or to israel, if applicable), retraining/CE requirements, job satisfaction (overrated, but important to many people), etc.

Lion of Zion said...


"the importance of your undergraduate Alma Mater in America"

it depends on your field and even what you plan to do in your field. in some health fields, for example the frum-preferred therapies, once you have your license no one cares where you went to school. an expeinsive ivy degree won't help you get one more penny of salary than a third-rate college degree. of course all other things being equal, if it's a tight market the expensive ivy will have better job prospects by dint of the ivy reputation, but there may still be other considerations to mitigate against going ivy. for example new york city board of ed has sweet deal where it will pay full tuition for the training of pt/ot/st who commit to work for 3 years (while receiving full salary/benefits). but in recent years the board of ed has shown a strong preference for students in cheaper schools in order to save money (and perhaps because they realize that in actuality the training is not that much different than in the $ ivy). so a frum girl who has no interest in research or some other niche route but just wants to collect her salary and pension, there is really no reason to pay for that $ education

hi said...

Miami Al- where you go for undergrad is only important if you're not planning on grad/professional school. For instance, with law school, it matters where you go for your JD, and you'd be much better off going to say, CUNY (which is really cheap) and doing well enough in school and on your LSAT to get into one of the top 25 law schools. Most of the professions listed at the end of this post really require a graduate degree for any serious chance of advancement. Yes, a BS in Computer Science is great, but if you want to REALLY go places with it, you're going to need to get either a MS or and MBA (specializing in technology or whatever). If you're going to do that, once again, you might as well go to CUNY for undergrad and save your money for an Ivy or other top tier grad school.

efrex said...

While I think it's important to have "The Plan," it's equally important to note (as others above have) that deviations from "The Plan" are extremely common. Social, economic, and personal circumstances often result in changes. That being said, every significant career decision should be made within a broader context ("What do I expect from this degree?" "How will this job help my long-term goals?")

The other point that needs to be made is that, when embarking on a career training program, one needs to be aware of where the jobs are. Many industries are heavily concentrated around a few hubs, and those locations might not be where you grew up. Are you willing to relocate or accept a lower-paying job in your local area?

tdr said...

And to follow up on efrex' comment about plans changing.

Keep in mind that unforeseen circumstances do arise and that is why minimizing student loan debt is important to keep in mind as well.

According to current laws, you are stuck with your student loan for your entire life even if "unforeseen circumstances" arise (illness, job loss, etc). You can not hand your education back to the bank. Nor can you bankrupt that debt.

Yes, it may enable you to pursue a career you may otherwise not be able to pursue, but make the decision with your eyes open. You could be paying it off for the rest of your life.

JS said...

The article is long and I admit to skimming it towards the end, but I just wanted to note something that I found interesting about the article.

The article seemed schizophrenic to me in the sense that it's trying to give real-world career and educational advice while trying to sidestep as much as possible the fact that the community, as a whole, is doing the exact opposite of everything a "normal" person would do. There is just so much tiptoeing and walking on eggshells going on.

For example: "The tone of this article is not to be critical of any local institution. However, there have been observable deficits recently within our community in terms of skills related to written English, math, and science" or "streamlined undergraduate degrees" or "Even if a boy is cut-out for a full-day learning program and is successful in yeshiva, that might only be appropriate in the short term".

The article could likely be half as long if it just called a spade a spade and admitted that the community is doing myriad things that is doing permanent damage to its ability to increase its earning power and financial security.

I find it humorous to try to rewrite the article as if one were writing to troubled youth. The quotes would look something like this I imagine:

"The tone of this article is not to be critical of any local inner city public school. However, there have been observable deficits recently within our community in terms of skills related to written English, math, and science" or "GED and community college associate degrees" or "Even if a boy is cut-out for full-day drug dealing and is successful in a gang, that might only be appropriate in the short term".

It's completely absurd when phrased this way. You'd be tearing your hair out wondering why the author isn't saying this lifestyle is one of mediocrity, failure, and is simply backwards and contributes nothing to society and hurts the community itself. But, you apparently can't talk that way when dealing with frum Jews. It's the same nonsense about how if an ethnic minority has lots of kids, no job, and is on welfare it's just "the way they are." But, if a frum Jew has lots of kids, no job, and is on welfare he's a holy man doing the will of Hashem.

tdr said...

JS, keep in mind he wants people to actually read the article. Not dismiss it after the first paragraph because he has something they don't really want to hear. He has to "sneak" the message in.

JS said...

If the person reading the article is someone for whom the message needs to be "snuck in" the article is a waste of time to begin with. The careers mentioned in the article are generally only available to those with solid academic credentials, a drive to succeed, and a willingness to work hard for many years from an early age. You simply cannot get into a respectable college let alone a top tier college without having good grades from 9th grade through 12th grade. You likely need AP courses made available to you and you have to have done well on them - at least 3 or above, though a reputable college will likely only give college credit for a 4 or 5. You need good SAT scores which means a lot of practice exams, maybe even a tutor. In short, there has to be a system in place in both the school and at home which tries to breed success. Academic success doesn't just fall out the sky and it is NOT just a function of being smart. It's understanding the rules of the system and doing everything in your power to meet the challenges the system requires. A smart kid may do decently on the SATs, for example, but with practice and tutoring can do excellently and get scholarships and into institutions that would otherwise be unattainable. Same with AP classes - either your high school has them or it doesn't. A smart kid with no AP courses is automatically relegated to another track in life.

I could go on, but you get the point. A kid can't just wake up one day after seeing this article and "decide" to become a Petroleum Engineer and make $86k. It's an entire process. One that someone for whom this message needs to be "snuck in" just isn't part of.

Loz (resurrected) said...

I see js's point
For the author's targeted audience it's not just the individuals the must have a plan, but the community itself (and it's own educational infrastructure) that must have a plan
The community's basic assumptions must be completely overturned before inidivuals can realiatically have such a plan

Anonymous said...

LOZ: Very true. Also if you are very insulated growing up, you may have no idea that certain types of careers even exist and you may never be exposed to something that sparks a passion to become a chemical engineer or an environmental scientist or a hydrologist or a genticist, for example.

Miami Al said...


No, that's ONLY true for Medicine, and for the grunt levels of law.

Networking, contacts, ability to bring business in, how you carry yourself, what your resume looks like, all create an image and impression. My prep school is on my resume... when interviewing for the current job, the owner came in and chatted about my experiences there... why, he sent his kids there.

Your history, experiences, and background create a story, a series of conversations that you can have.

Just like if you see a man with a Kippa and a beard, you make assumptions, if you see a resume that lists a top 5 school, you make assumptions.

Put another way, when you look for a Patent Attorney, do you REALLY think that it plays ZERO role if their engineering undergrad was at CUNY or MIT?

Fruma Sara said...

Where What When is treading a careful line. The editor can't open up the pages to a criticism of kollel, that would lead to ostracisim in the community, of her and the magazine. It would create machlokes. Kollel and its requirements (intensive Mesivta study of gemorah, as minimal distracting secular studies as possible, no AP courses, and of course no secular college and NO ENGLISH BOOKS IN THE HOME) - these are absolutely beyond criticism in the pages of WWW. I am a reader and personally know its contributors. So Dr. Lasson's article has to carefully hew a vague middle ground in which no one and no derech is criticized. In which the advice is non-controversial and alienates no one.

Fruma Sara said...

I appreciate your perspective and your judgment, Miami Al. I agree that the schools and colleges you went to are extremely important. But it's very difficult for frum Jews to negotiate the treacherous territory of secular institutions, especially the most selective.

Miami Al said...

Fruma Sara,

Some of the MOST successful people I know went to state schools, a handful didn't go to college. The most successful corporate guy in my B-school class (successful for his age) had a child at 17, and worked his way through school supporting a kid.

You can absolutely work upward without the advantages. There are Frum kids at the most selective schools, but I guess you'd define them as not-Frum for being there, but there are plenty of Orthodox kids floating around selective schools.

I am not saying that your life is over if you went to CUNY. I'm just disagreeing that CUNY, Harvard, MIT, it's all the same, all anyone cares about is your Masters degree.

Look, you trade on what you have. If that's an elite University resume, great, if it's a winning personality, great, if you have a photographic memory and can recall baseball/football stats like on TV and amuse people, you trade on that.

Where I think the letter writer was VERY helpful was indicating that there are lucrative career paths that provide a nice stable middle class income.

When you read comments on VIN, you hear about "you don't know what you'll make next month, only Hashem knows," and not in a theological way, in an actual, factual way.

No, I do know what I'll make next month, it's in my employment contract.

Yes, theologically, I don't know, anything could happen, etc., but come on, a little planning goes a long way, you need flexibility, but "plans aren't perfect, so don't plan" is beyond silly.

Dave said...

A Masters in Computer Science opens few if any doors (in my experience), a PhD in CS opens some doors and closes others.

Miami Al said...


Disagree. A Masters in CS does no good for the first 10-15 years of your career. In boom times, starting pay used to be about 10k higher, now it's about the same.

A Masters in CS makes a difference when you are talking about senior positions.

That said, an MBA is less work and opens more doors. :)

Dave said...

I suspect this depends very much on the corporate millieu.

I've spent almost all of my professional career in dedicated software shops (rather than writing software for a company that does something else), and I've never seen an MS mean anything.

conservative scifi said...

Miami Al,

As someone who hires patent attorneys (and deals with them frequently), I have to disagree strongly. No one looks at the undergraduate degree for a patent attorney with several years of experience, and it is given very little weight even in the first job interview.

The Law school will make some difference, where Franklin-Pierce, GW or other intellectual property schools may play a little better then a third tier state school.

But even there, what really counts in the end is the visible work product that is presented, such as briefs written, opinion letters on patent validity, etc.

Generalizing this, I would contend that where the undergraduate degree is the terminal degree for a profession, it may make some difference in hiring. But if the person has to get a graduate degree, I strongly disagree with Miami Al and would argue that the only benefit of the "name" degree is networking with alumni. While that might be of some value in real life, most times, it alone won't be worth the extra 100K + investment.

conservative scifi said...

As a second comment (regarding the first anonymous), I also would be interested in knowing what profession exists in Baltimore where two educated professionals cannot obtain work. Also, what are the travel constraints? Would they drive an hour to DC? Move to Philly?

Anonymous said...

One note about the top tier vs. not schools.

I went to Harvard undergrad on a huge scholarship. My parents (1 PhD in physics, 1 preschool teacher) had little money after four kids in dayschool and one at Brandeis. After grants were factored in, the cost of interest-free loans + outright tuition/room/board was about $15k/year, or $60k/total. So I don't think it cost $100k more than a non-top-tier school.

I and many others were frum throughout college. It can be done. People go minyan three times a day, have a daily chavruta, eat kosher food three times/day in the dining halls, etc. There can be some issues in the dorms, but nothing unmanageable. I lived with two lovely women my junior year--a midwestern Catholic and a midwestern Protestant whose parents had immigrated from Ghana--and I had no own bedroom, so there were no problems with lights on Shabbat or anything.

I have heard that library science is also a booming business, since most librarians (70%?) are currently baby boomers and will be retiring eventually.

I am thinking of going to grad school soon. My BA from Harvard in American history taught me how to write and served me well in the early career jobs I've had until now ($35-$48k/year in NYC), but an MBA in nonprofit management would serve me even better, I think.

Anonymous said...

Oh, right, my point. It was that I am sure that Harvard has opened doors for me that Stern would not have opened. People have been willing to trust me with jobs, titles, and responsibilities that a degree from a less-sparkly institution would not have gotten me.

I don't necessarily know that a Harvard education is worth $60k more than a Stern education (I think they would have given me a free ride there, actually, so the difference would have been the total cost of my Harvard education, or ~$60k), but it is possible that it is or will be over the course of my lifetime.

The Ivies, especially Harvard and Yale, have tremendous financial aid resources and are always interested in having a diverse group of students, including those from less-wealthy backgrounds. Don't discount that possibility! Also, very high achievers can often go to second-tier schools like Brandeis, Boston University, City College's honors college (in NYC) for very low cost. This might include some state schools, like UMichigan or UMaryland, although I am less certain of that. Of course, this requires taking difficult classes in high school and doing well on SAT and AP exams.

There are lots of people around like me who would be happy to tutor your children for money! (Since we only have BAs, we need to work a little more to make ends meet.)

Miami Al said...

Interestingly, the people that attended top 5/top 10 universities for Undergrad seem to all find it valuable/worthwhile.

The people that attended mediocre undergraduates and better graduate schools think that it's worthless.

If you don't have a top-tier degree, you have ZERO concept of how it would have helped/enhanced your career. But that's okay, it's FAR better for you to not know that and be happy with your lot in life than bitter about a second tier undergrad, which might be an excuse for mediocrity.

Everyone plays the hand they were dealt.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the people that attended top 5/top 10 universities for Undergrad seem to all find it valuable/worthwhile.

Maybe they're just justifying the sacrifice of their parents and the debt they took on. People think elementary yeshiva is "worthwhile" too, but if they really did a calculation it might not be nearly as much as they think. As long as they can justify it, that's OK.