My grandfather used to preach about how smart his friend’s grandson was for getting into MIT. I never even applied, but worried that without an education at a top tier university I would forever be at a disadvantage in tech compared to my Ivy League counterparts.
Attending an Ivy League such as Harvard may be the holy grail for many who grew up with ambitious parents or in a competitive school environment, but does it matter when it comes to landing a software engineer job at Amazon or Microsoft? We dug into our data.
Our methodology first defines what signals could correlate to a specific outcome for software engineers. The list of signals we considered include having an advanced degree, the number of LinkedIn connections, and whether they went to an Ivy League or a top engineering university. Then, we performed regression from our list of signals to test whether each factor was statistically significant as it contributes to the predicted variable. In this case, those that have “Amazon” listed as a prior or current work experience from more than 2,000 randomly sampled software engineers’ LinkedIn profiles.
What kind of engineering degrees does Amazon care about?
We found no correlation between having an Ivy League degree and working at Amazon as an engineer, however we did find a strong correlation with a different set of schools.
Having an engineering degree from one of the top eight tech schools (MIT, Stanford, Cornell, Berkeley, Caltech, CMU, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, and University of Urbana Champaign) has significantly higher correlation with working at Amazon.
Top tech schools offer rigorous coursework in the fundamentals of computer science. Schools such as Stanford bring in leading professors with Turing awards and former nobel prize winners.
Advanced degrees help land software engineer jobs at Amazon
Having an advanced degree (master or PhD level) also has a correlation score of 0.052. This isn’t surprising as Amazon has 4,239 machine learning scientist openings, all of which require a master’s degree as the basic qualification and a PhD as the preferred qualification.
Microsoft cares less about degrees or specific schools
We also analyzed the data from those that worked at Microsoft in the past and found little correlation between Ivy League schools, top tech schools, and advanced degrees. Our hypothesis is that the war on software engineering talent is so fierce that Microsoft is open to non-traditional educational backgrounds for software engineers.
Surprisingly, we found a correlation with having a high number of LinkedIn connections and also a significant correlation with a high LinkedIn Optimization score — the score Jobscan assigns based on how well your LinkedIn profile matches job descriptions in your field.
One might wonder if the fact that LinkedIn is now owned by Microsoft has any relationship to how they hire. If Microsoft recruiters are more likely to rely on LinkedIn, they’re more likely to find engineers with optimized LinkedIn profiles.
Every company has distinct hiring preferences. An advanced degree, Ivy League education, or years of professional experience will mean more to one company than it does to another. But at the end of the day, there are many paths to Rome. If you’re not an ideal fit for Amazon, another industry giant like Microsoft could still be impressed by your qualifications.
Recruiters for companies you haven’t yet considered are searching LinkedIn for talented engineers with your exact skill set, but they won’t find you unless your profile is optimized based on your career goals.
If you’re determined to land a job at a particular tech company, carefully tuning your resume based on the specific software engineer skills requested in the job description could make a huge difference. Jobscan’s resume optimization tool helps to automate this process while providing customized, AI-driven insights.
James Hu is the founder and CEO of Jobscan, who started with a vision to build the best tools and content for job seekers. Prior to Jobscan, James started a carpooling startup and worked at Microsoft, Groupon, and Kabam Games.