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Importance of IR grad school prestige outside of the private sector?


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What role does school prestige play in the hiring process for security related jobs in in federal government, in multi lateral organizations, and with international relief organizations (I know that for capital hill and the public sector, it has significant influence)?

 

I have narrowed my my options down to Georgetown SSP unfunded (70k in tuition + living expenses), and a west coast “public ivy” state flagship university (with a fellowship that covers tuition, and includes a full living stipend).  The state school is not UCB, or UCSD, but I do not want to be more specific than that.  The difference in price between these two programs ranges anywhere from 80k-110k, depending on my ability to cover DC living costs at Georgetown.

 

Both Georgetown and the state school in question, offer a solid curriculum on my exact subject of interest. Also, the state school, though a very small program, has a history of placing students into that field.  Money aside, Georgetown is the obvious answer, but 80k+ is a life changing/limiting amount of debt.

 

So I pose the question to the grad cafe community, for the public sector (State, DOD, DOE), multilateral organizations (NATO, UN), or international relief organizations, how much value do such employers place on prestige?  Or are the courses you take, the papers you publish, research you undertake, internships, language abilities, and experiences living abroad, much more significant factors in the hiring process?   

Edited by MAPLE90
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I can tell you that when I was making my decision for what grad school to choose, I contacted Foreign Service Officers to give me advice on where to go. Every single one insisted that in the public sector prestige is not a huge factor.  

Here's what one said:

I took a fairly pragmatic approach to my grad school, with cost being one of the most important factors. Prestige is a nice thing, but in a lot of cases (including throughout that Foreign Service Exam) it seemed to be mostly irrelevant. What is done with an education seemed more important, but there are a lot of industries where pedigree matters and I certainly wouldn’t discount the potential a nice degree opens up in other areas.

And another:

You are correct in your assumption that which university you go to doesn’t have much of an influence on hiring into the public sector.  I went to the University of Maryland, College Park for grad school and I got into the Foreign Service.  If I were you, I would not consider the Foreign Service too much when making your decision—I’d go with the school that you WANT to go to the most (taking into consideration what you would likely get out of the program and how concerned you are about debt)

So to me, it seems that your skills and abilities and experience are much more important in the hiring process in the public sector than the name on your degree. 

Edited by irapplicant1776
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The best way to evaluate the aggregate of factors that determines employment is to see where the grads of each school end up. The school that sends the highest proportion of its grads into the types of jobs you would want is the probably the best for you, all things equal. If that state school places well into the jobs you want, I doubt it would be worth an extra $100K to go to Georgetown.

Edited by Ben414
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Thank you for the replies. Given the standardization of SFO hiring, the relative unimportance of the name on your diploma is not all that surprising.  Beyond the foreign service however, does anyone have insight into how hiring in other branches of State works?  For instance, within the Bureau of Arms Control Verification and Compliance (AVC), or the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO).  Are most people employed via lateraling into these positions after gaining work experience in other agencies?

 

Also, does anyone have insight into the hiring practices for policy positions within the DOD?

 

My sense is that for these employers, there is a bit more subjectivity when it comes to the hiring process.  However, it is not at all clear to me whether an MA from a highly regarded state school (think UCLA, UW (Washington), UW (Wisconsin), UT, etc) will be limiting. 

 

Georgetown MSFS, HKS, and SAIS certainly place well.  But it could be that these students are arguably more qualified for such positions (be it through internships, work experience, language proficiency, published research, etc).  Also, when you put a bunch of students with similar interests/qualifications all in one program, you are bound to have high job placement into high level positions of a given sector.  Where as less professionally oriented programs, tend to house a cohort of students with much more diverse interests, and job aspirations.

 

 Any comments will be appreciated.

Edited by MAPLE90
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Providing a non-US perspective here, but from what I see, prestige plays a major factor in both private and public settings internationally. Less prestigious universities are relatively harder to recognize. Within the US, I would think the networks of a more prestigious university would provide a help in more informal hiring contexts in public sector (I know some sectors are more formal, like US diplomat has the test they must take). 

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On May 9, 2016 at 2:18 AM, beefmaster said:

You listed "international relief organisations"....for this sector it does not matter at all where you went to school.

Agreed. With OP's career goals, save the money 10/10

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