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Employers: How important is school ranking when hiring?

Hello,

I am currently in high school and I want to study mechanical engineering to hopefully break into aerospace.

I would like to work for JPL or Boeing in the future but I cannot afford to attend colleges out of state (where it has much better rankings) because of how expensive everything is as well as family related issues. I do have a chance to attend an in-state school but, it is a lower ranked school nationally and I am worried that it might hinder some opportunities to advance in my future career.

So, I am hoping to obtain sound advice using this website as the people I have talked to haven’t been much of a help.

Is college ranking a determining factor of whether of not someone can be successful in the field of engineering?

Thank you.

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James’s Answer

When it comes to college ranking, it is VERY dependent on the type of field that you work in. Generally engineering is one of those fields where the school you go to comes with weight. I have also noticed (while not an engineer myself, but married to one), you will find many employers tend to gravitate to those that they have hired from already. The notion is that if the employees they have from say Virginia Tech are great, it stands to reason to keep going to that pipeline.

You will also find that current employees will run college recruitment sessions that are aimed at their alma mater.

James recommends the following next steps:

Speak to your employer about what schools they typically hire from.
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Andra’s Answer

Being myself a hiring manager passionate about promoting diversity in inclusion, I want to believe that not all companies watch closely the name of the university candidates are coming from. This is especially true in technical fields, where there is a wealth of information available online.Persoanlly, I have been positively impressed by employees of mine who self-educated on various technologies, as well as team members who never graduated an university because they started working when they were very young. We're not all financially equal, hence chances should be given to everybody and filtering should be done primarily based on growth potential.

Andra recommends the following next steps:

Check for aditional virtual courses in your area of interest (eg Coursera, Udemy) and self-educate
Apply to internships at the companies you aspire to join
Attend job fairs where and engage in conversations with companies you find interesting for your growth
Start a blog and research, document your learnings, your interest, so can add this as a unique portfolio of "work" when applying for a job in the future
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Elyse’s Answer

You can also look on LinkedIN to the career paths of certain alumni at schools you're exploring. Personally, I look for related experience and demonstrated skillsets (and the ability to talk through that depth of knowledge and experience in an interview) in the hiring process over which school you attended (or even which degree). If the in-state schools offer classes that you're interested in, that'll be a great place to start and you can carry that knowledge and any hands-on experience in courses to your future interviews (any internships, co-ops, labs, portfolios, research, thesis help for tangible things to talk about).

I agree with Michelle, networking whether that's in your school alumni group (once you land on a school) or outside in the field you're exploring will be a great way to learn more about the career path and make connections on your aspiring career path.
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Siddharth’s Answer

I think the brand of schools matter a lot. I am purely from personal experience and only for business schools. Business Schools carry brand and they carry a certain amount of brand value. This value is created by marketing, the past history of when , the alumni, etc. For instance Ivy league schools have certain reputation and top consultancy firms especially the big 3 only hire from these selected schools.
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Cedric’s Answer

Hello Michelle, great question I would tell you different universities have partnerships with companies through alumni networks. One thing that you can definitely take a look at is different networking platforms like Handshake and Ripple Match to connect you to recruiters who are actively searching for candidates with your major. Do you research on certifications and different groups on campus that you can leverage to get you some more exposure to companies as well.
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Hector’s Answer

Generally, it's becoming less and less important.

However, for companies as specific as Boeing or Nasa JPL - I would try to connect with current employees or alumni of these organizations. Or their college recruiting departments.
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Christopher’s Answer

Hi Michelle,

Education is very important however many employers are more focused on you having an education and the program you took and how it is relevant to the job.

This kind of experience can come from all kinds of schools. You could go to a top ranked school for Biology but if you are applying for a finance job at a large bank with no experience, it won't help.

Hope this helps
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Roman’s Answer

Hi Michelle,

Great Question! I graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering several years ago, and although I am not currently working in the field, I can provide some info based on my own educational experience as well as info on engineering recruiting from my previous classmates.

Additionally, I transferred a year into my bachelor's degree, so I have a bit of experience at two programs with different perceived calibers. (Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University).

The connections and programs your school has with specific employers will be important, as will your gpa regardless of the program you attend.

Look for a school that has a track record of sending interns or co-ops to one of the companies that you're interested in.

My recommendation would be to attend the best in-state program you can attend unless you are able to obtain a significant scholarship from a more desirable out-of-state program. At the end of the day, there are thousands of engineers working at the companies you're interested in that did not necessarily attend a prestigious undergraduate program.

To employers, the quality of your work is far more important than the name of the school you attend.

Hope this helps.
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Russell’s Answer

I would not really pay too much attention to school ranking. I think in some scenarios it may play a role , but all in all, go to the college that is the best fit for you, and the work you put in will be rewarded. At the end of the day, a company is hiring you and who you are as a person, regardless of where you went to school. Your actions and qualities at a person will go a lot further in life.
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Michelle’s Answer

Your educational and professional goals sound very exciting. Your question reflects that the future is a great concern to you and we have all gone through that so you are not alone.

To answer your question, I must mention that the answers would be based on conditional circumstances. Although education rank helps, it is not the only thing on the table when employers screen prospective staff. Right now, it may be good to make the plans which you can afford .

Something that may provide insight would be to research the two companies which you have mentioned. Find people who work there and see what colleges they went to. Also, try to associate with anything pertaining to the field which you want to study : groups, clubs, reading books on the subject. I am not familiar with the field you've mentioned but the more networking you can do, the more contacts that you can make will benefit you. You will also meet people in college. People who may be able to help you in different ways with your career.

You have specific, detailed goals and that is very admirable. Keep in mind that no one can see into the future, know what job one will obtain and no one can predict who will be interviewing you. Since this is the case, an idea is that you could work on breaking down your long term goals to short term steps towards those long term goals. In any case, I highly advise you to go to the school near you, the one you can afford. Concerns about rank right now can possibly stop you from taking the first step. That first important step. You never know who you'll meet or what opportunity may happen for you along the way to your long term plans. Just don't let it stop you right now.

I wish you well in all that you do to obtain your dream and much happiness along the way !
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Racheal’s Answer

Hello,
Thank you so much for your question. Congratulations to you regarding your goals. Hope that you continue down your path of success.

While I do not have expertise in engineering friends, I have many colleagues who have never mentioned anything regarding their ranking to determine an opportunity for them to obtain employment or succeed. Your experience and training are what is valued specifically what you mention on your resume.

It is also valued how prepared you are for your interview, and the ability to show that you are consistent (committed) to what you want to achieve while working with the company. It is more valuable to demonstrate the same personality you presented in the interview on the job. Be open, and flexible to change, ask questions to show that you are eager to gain experience, and be willing to be a team player. These attributes should be practiced during your schooling career, so that are clear transferable skills once you start working.

Hope this helps.
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Ken’s Answer

Hi Michelle.

There are good thoughts above.

I have been in hiring positions before. For me, I think the name can help if people are using key search words when going through resumes unless you are talking about something specific such as Engineering when the name can matter more. I looked for well rounded people, not just the name of the school. With many people getting an advanced degree (post college) the name of the school of four year degree means less and less. If the name is ultimately important to you, you can always start somewhere, such as a community college and then transfer.

Best of luck!
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