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Ask Slashdot: How Is Online Engineering Coursework Viewed By Employers? 201

New submitter KA.7210 writes "I am an employed mechanical engineer, having worked with the same company since graduation from college 5 years ago. I am looking to increase my credentials by taking more engineering courses, potentially towards a certificate or a full master's degree. Going to school full time is not an option, and there is only one engineering school near me that offers a program that resembles what I wish to study, and also has the courses at night. Therefore, I have begun to look at online options, and it appears there are many legitimate, recognizable schools offering advanced courses in my area of interest. My question to Slashdot readers out there is: how do employers view degrees/advanced credentials obtained online, when compared to the more typical in-person education? Does anyone have specific experience with this situation? The eventual degree itself will have no indication that it was obtained online, but simple inference will show that it was not likely I maintained my employment on the east coast while attending school in-person on the west coast. I wish to invest my time wisely, and hope that some readers out there have experience with this issue!"
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Ask Slashdot: How Is Online Engineering Coursework Viewed By Employers?

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  • Ask your boss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Teun ( 17872 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @02:52PM (#38936157) Homepage
    Let me start pointing out I write this from a European point of view.
    Over here good educational institutions are certified and registered.

    I know from first hand experience my boss is willing to pick up the tab for further education providing he sees the advantage of it and you stay for another two years.
    It is common a new employer would pay off any remaining expenses for the course when you change job before the end of the payback period.

    In short, ask your own boss what he thinks of a particular course.

  • by zidium ( 2550286 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:31PM (#38936441) Homepage

    I've personally been *demoted* for asking about funding continuous education!

    My manager was OK with it, he even submitted the request to HR, who then submitted it to his boss for approval. His boss had an issue with it, and came to me and said, "If you think you need additional education, you're not as sharp as we need you to be." and then, since Texas is an at-will state (as in, they can fire you, at will, for any reason any time), I was summarily dismissed.

    I'm sure this happens everywhere. I read your post as Insightful, not Funny. Your WHOOOSH was just disappointing.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:38PM (#38936505)

    HR won't care as long as the checkbox is checked off and they get a transcript.

    But the hiring manager will count "PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Phoenix" at about the same level as "GED" even if HR just ticks the box for "advanced technical degree." I had a colleague get a BS from UoP at the same time I got a Masters in night school from a real university. We compared classes a lot, and I was disappointed by his classes, as I would have liked to improve some of my basic skills, DBA and programming are two things I skipped in becoming a networking guru. But the classes didn't teach much, they were more self-justifying (work for work's sake to prove you did something, rather than actually improving the person taking them).

    And yes, an online degree from a "real" university will be treated the same as the paper one in most cases, and nobody will care if you took in-person classes from UoP (if they have any, I have no idea), it'll still be UoP.

  • by zidium ( 2550286 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:43PM (#38936541) Homepage

    My advice is to attend one class and do well. Then you can truthfully say "you went to College". Then if they ask what your degree was in, say, "I majored in Computer Engineering.", which in my case is a 100% valid statement (I did study for 3 years).

    99% of the time, they *assume* I have a degree. I'll never (and have never) lied about it, because it just doesnt matter much at all, really.

    Maybe 3 out of 100 interviews, I've been asked, "Did you receive a degree?" and I just say "No, in 2003, I realized I could learn more and make money at the same time by doing my own contract development." THEN I get brownie points for taking the path of Gates, Bezos, Page, and Steve Jobs (who only took one semester of college).

    By that point, the 3 who asked hired me very quickly thereafter.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:49PM (#38936585)
    I agree to a degree (no pun intended), however I have some observations.

    Getting a Masters in the same field as a Bachelors may not be worth it **unless** you work or hope to work in the area you do your research. Personally I have no regrets getting a MS Comp Sci but my employer paid for everything except parking and we were located literally next door to the university.

    Are you targeting a specific employer? For example if you wanted to work for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is Pasadena, California it may be very advantageous to work on a Masters at the neighboring university, Cal Poly Pomona. Your department may have professors affiliated or consulting with JPL, JPL interns or otherwise employs students from the university, etc.

    As an undergraduate I had the conversation about getting a Masters with a fellow Comp Sci major. I was undecided. He commented an MBA would be far more useful. I laughed and couldn't imagine doing that. Many years later I did go to business school, again next door to work (the university is well ranked) and with employer support. After many years on the job focusing exclusively on engineering and technical issues I really enjoyed learning new and different thing, understanding other parts of the organization, understanding their perspective and concerns so that I could communicate more effectively with them ... but most of all I enjoyed seeing how ignorant and misinformed I had been about business perspectives and business school. For example marketing was not about snake oil and psychological cons as my inner engineer would have expected, it was about how to conduct a survey to get real rankings of customer preferences (which may differ from self identified preferences), how to construct a mathematical model of the existing market, how to introduce a new product with new features into that market and see how the market adapts, etc. In other words how to develop an educated guess at expected market share of something new, I used to believe they just pulled such numbers out of ... the air. This is just one example of many.

    I'd recommend looking into an MBA. Its probably not at all what one expects and it probably is more valuable to scientists and engineers than more degrees in their existing fields. As you become more senior you need to interact, understand and effectively communicate with others outside of science and engineering. I think an MBA helps in this regard.
  • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @06:05PM (#38937439)

    I honestly really hate the fuck out of the USA sometimes. So much injustice for employees.

    That's what we get for our bastardized free market economy. Us little people don't have much of a voice in running the corporations, so the people at the top who hold all the cards get to make all the decisions. Being selfish, those decisions benefit the rich, while us working class are being squeezed tight.

    The other day I was driving around my suburb and realized that it is visibly going to hell. People who used to have good jobs are moving out because they don't have jobs anymore. The ghetto element is moving in. People who still have good jobs are moving out because of ghetto creep. Malls are closing due to reduced business and increased crime. Businesses move out because of worker safety.

    If businesses respected their employees more, none of this would be happening. Wages would be up. People would be employed. The middle class wouldn't be squeezed -- in fact it would be growing as the lower class moves up. This country is destined for some ugly times if this doesn't change: the recent recession is nothing compared to what I believe will happen next.

  • Re:Ask your boss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @06:13PM (#38937481)

    Maybe in Corporate America, where you have to slave 60 hours a week just to keep your job, and where you're expected to feel guilty for wanting to have a social life.

    There have been times at my job where my employer basically says "oh well" when it comes to OT. Like when I have family plans. If I work the hours, nobody even thanks me. It gets tiring. It doesn't happen often, but it always occurs at the absolute worst time.

    In Europe (at least developing software in the Netherlands), this is simply not true. The reason: employers realise that a high turnover costs a huge amount of money and worse, delays projects. The latter costs time to market, which can be even more expensive and in extreme cases can kill the company.

    Here in the USA, it is cheaper to marginalize or plain old fire employees and then replace them with cheap imported labor. I'm sure you are aware about outsourcing being the new fad here to reduce payroll expenses so the CEO can get a few more million in his bonus. We also hire immigrant or work-visa employees who are willing to work for around 2/3 the salary of an American born and bred here.

    It may sound cocky or stereotypical, but many of those "imported" workers are used to worse conditions back home. In much of the world, families live together. Children move out when they marry, not when they reach the legal age of adulthood. Children who do move out get roommates, and live in smaller apartments. Here in the U.S.A., we are taught that everyone needs tons of space. Buy a house. A big car. Lots of land. No spouse or children? You still need 4 bedrooms and an SUV. Too expensive? Fuck it, just go into perpetual debt that will only end when you die. It is our way of life, our culture. Immigrant workers bring their (better) work ethic and (better) lifestyle with them, and employers take advantage of it.

  • by WhiplashII ( 542766 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @06:34PM (#38937599) Homepage Journal

    People who used to have good jobs are moving out because they don't have jobs anymore.

    I'm just amazed that people like you exist. "There aren't any jobs!" "Obviously, the solution is to make conditions worse for companies"

    You want the jobs to come back? Get the government out of small businesses, and eliminate SarBox so the small business owners can dream. It costs you nothing!

  • by kiwimate ( 458274 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @08:02PM (#38938033) Journal

    That stinks, and I'm sorry for you. It sounds like you were in the wrong company, or hit the wrong manager, or something else was going on.

    My first company (New Zealand) strongly, strongly, strongly encouraged me to get certified. They gave me a raise to anyone who completed a CNE or an MCSE.

    My current company paid for my first master's degree, 100%. The department I was in at that time had more people doing 100% company funded graduate degrees than were not. Now I'm doing a second master's degree. Yep, they're paying 100% of that too. Same with the guy who sits next to me - Master's degree in Software Engineering. And one of the developers, who's finishing her MBA.

    Some companies believe in the value of higher education. Some don't. I'm lucky to be in one that does.

    By the way, we are all doing our degrees at physical campuses. But I know several people who've gone the University of Phoenix route.

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