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Bodhicaryavatara

Is an Ivy League degree a "golden ticket" career-wise?

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I have a law background and I'm pursuing a 30 credit terminal area-studies MA at Columbia in the hopes of breaking into international human rights/development focused on that region; I'm interested in employment at the UN or an NGO/nonprofit.  While I was initially overjoyed at being accepted, I'm getting cold feet because I only got a small scholarship (applying for FLAS, so should hopefully get more).  For those of you who have an Ivy degree, has the name/network/pedigree opened doors for you?  Is it something that impresses public sector employers?

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If you haven't already, you may want to look into your program's placement record. Are graduates of the program getting the kinds of positions you're interested in? This info is often available on the program website, but if it isn't, you could reach out to them and ask where graduates end up, and how the program/university prepares them for the job market. If you're planning on investing your time and money into a program, you deserve to know what resources will be available to help you reach your career goals. 

I don't have an Ivy League degree, so I can't speak from experience on the topic. But I would imagine that the reality is sort of mixed: yes, people will generally be impressed with you if they learn you've attended an Ivy, but there's also more to it than that. The best programs in any given field are not necessarily going to be in the Ivy League, and in any case, where you went to school is only part of the equation.

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39 minutes ago, slouching said:

If you haven't already, you may want to look into your program's placement record. Are graduates of the program getting the kinds of positions you're interested in? This info is often available on the program website, but if it isn't, you could reach out to them and ask where graduates end up, and how the program/university prepares them for the job market. If you're planning on investing your time and money into a program, you deserve to know what resources will be available to help you reach your career goals. 

I don't have an Ivy League degree, so I can't speak from experience on the topic. But I would imagine that the reality is sort of mixed: yes, people will generally be impressed with you if they learn you've attended an Ivy, but there's also more to it than that. The best programs in any given field are not necessarily going to be in the Ivy League, and in any case, where you went to school is only part of the equation.

Thanks!  Placement stats are not posted online for my program, but I spoke to the MA Coordinator today and he said that grads who don't go on to get a PhD work at nonprofits, the UN, in journalism, etc.  

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I don't think admission alone is a golden ticket alone. Oftentimes, people accepted into Ivy League schools are extremely ambitious and have a set of credentials that distinguish themselves from other people. That ambition would likely have them succeed anywhere and isn't limited to just the Ivy League. Oftentimes, funding begets funding which makes it easier to win future fellowships if you currently have a fellowship.

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3 hours ago, Bodhicaryavatara said:

Thanks!  Placement stats are not posted online for my program, but I spoke to the MA Coordinator today and he said that grads who don't go on to get a PhD work at nonprofits, the UN, in journalism, etc.  

I would also try to get solid numbers if possible. A program can be honest in saying alumni work at the UN if they've had 2 in the last 20 years land a job there. Try to see if they have specific data so you can see just how many actually end up in specific fields. 

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I have a PhD from Columbia. It's not a "golden ticket." It can, indeed, open some doors for you, but that's less because of "the name" in and itself. Don't get me wrong - people are, occasionally, quite impressed by "the name" - but that alone is usually not enough to nab you a job (although it might get you an extra look or called in for an interview, fairly or unfairly).

It's more because of the incredible resources that these very wealthy universities have. Columbia has excellent career services for graduate students, for example; you have to be proactive enough to take advantage of them, but they are there for you to use. Columbia has several career fairs every year; the big companies come recruiting here; it's easier to get a non-academic industry job, at say, a large investment bank or a top consulting firm from a university like this than it is from other places. The professors are often very well-connected both within academia and with researchers and policymakers in the public sector. For example, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is stacked with Columbia graduates, so people very often got internships there out of our school of public health. Lots of grads go onto work for national labs to do research afterwards, so there are alumni networks to draw on. Still, you have to work to take advantage of these connections - the initial spark may be your Columbia student/alumni status, but you have to foster and cultivate the connection.

Of course, I have little to compare it to, because I haven't done the counterfactual (gone to a non-Ivy for graduate school). There are other elite universities that are not Ivies where people have similar career connections - Stanford and MIT being other private examples; Michigan and Berkeley being other public ones. So you don't have to go to an Ivy to have that kind of network.

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18 hours ago, ExponentialDecay said:

It rather depends on what the degree is. An MBA from Harvard is a very different thing from a cash cow humanities MA from Columbia.

Hmm...my program is interdisciplinary and includes courses from the humanities, social sciences, law school, SIPA, public health, etc. 

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Unless it's a master's in science (particularly techy stuff), it's essentially the humanities. (And even those tech programs are cash-cow programs.) Some humanities programs probably have 80% acceptance rate or above.. like Chicago's MAPH. If I were you, I wouldn't attend this program. Columbia is NOTORIOUS for its terminal MA programs.

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13 hours ago, frenchphd said:

Unless it's a master's in science (particularly techy stuff), it's essentially the humanities. (And even those tech programs are cash-cow programs.) Some humanities programs probably have 80% acceptance rate or above.. like Chicago's MAPH. If I were you, I wouldn't attend this program. Columbia is NOTORIOUS for its terminal MA programs.

Hmm, I'm torn about whether to do the MA (that I already sent the first nonrefundable deposit to) or go for an MSW.  

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In my field, the Ivy League master's program are only 1 year so typically those students hadn't learned enough statistics, research, data analysis to get an entry level job in education research.  It seems like they would do okay in the less technical entry level jobs. 

I would be more concerned that you are getting the right experience and training through internships/assistantships than the prestige of your degree though...

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On 8/31/2018 at 11:51 AM, Bodhicaryavatara said:

I have a law background and I'm pursuing a 30 credit terminal area-studies MA at Columbia in the hopes of breaking into international human rights/development focused on that region; I'm interested in employment at the UN or an NGO/nonprofit.  While I was initially overjoyed at being accepted, I'm getting cold feet because I only got a small scholarship (applying for FLAS, so should hopefully get more).  For those of you who have an Ivy degree, has the name/network/pedigree opened doors for you?  Is it something that impresses public sector employers?

Does "background in law" suggest that you already have a JD? If so, people will pay much more attention to your law school performance than your performance in a cash cow MA.

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30 minutes ago, ZeChocMoose said:

In my field, the Ivy League master's program are only 1 year so typically those students hadn't learned enough statistics, research, data analysis to get an entry level job in education research.  It seems like they would do okay in the less technical entry level jobs. 

I would be more concerned that you are getting the right experience and training through internships/assistantships than the prestige of your degree though...

Yeah, I've secured a paid internship should I go with that program.  

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22 minutes ago, Entangled Phantoms said:

Does "background in law" suggest that you already have a JD? If so, people will pay much more attention to your law school performance than your performance in a cash cow MA.

Yes, I have a JD, but I'm unable to work as an attorney due to character and fitness so I have to do something else with my life for awhile. 

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19 minutes ago, Bodhicaryavatara said:

Yes, I have a JD, but I'm unable to work as an attorney due to character and fitness so I have to do something else with my life for awhile. 

Did you face disciplinary action by your state bar?  If you go the MSW route - I assume you'll want to get licensed, and they require that applicants have good "moral character."  In NY - at least - they ask whether you have had, "any criminal arrests or convictions or disciplinary action in another licensed profession."  

Edited by ZeChocMoose

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Just now, ZeChocMoose said:

Did you face disciplinary action by your state bar?  If you go the MSW route - I assume you'll want to get licensed, and they request that applicants have good "moral character."  In NY - at least - they ask whether you have had, "any criminal arrests or convictions or disciplinary action in another licensed profession."  

No, I have not even sat for the bar yet.  I have zero criminal record.  

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2 hours ago, Entangled Phantoms said:

I don't see how C+F issues won't be a problem when it comes to working for the UN or NGOs.

Even though I've never been arrested? I did pass the background check to get the gov't job I'm currently working.  

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Ivy degrees are often regarded as being valuable because of the strong alumni networks. I will say, however, that there is a hierarchy. At least at my undergrad, students in the college felt next to no connection with the graduate/professional schools, and many openly stated that they thought the terminal masters students in most areas weren't subject to the same academic rigor in either the coursework or the admissions process. It's elitist, but that's just how it was. I can see alumni of the college being most willing to talk to graduates from the college, followed by the law and medical schools, as well as PhD programs. I can also see many of these alums having little time for masters graduates. 

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