Want to Get Ahead? Picking the Right Company Matters More Than Your College Degree

It’s not a new feeling that a college degree doesn’t hold the same value it once did. But now research shows that degrees may not even be the best predictor of advancement to a higher position.

That Wall Street Journal explores how career advancement can depend less on your degree and more on which company you work for. They used findings from the Burning Glass Institute, which conducted a five-year study of job mobility in America.

The results suggest that much of your ability to climb the ladder depends on the company you work for.

Among other things, the study analyzed how often certain companies promoted their employees, how long the promotion took and how likely they were to promote internally instead of hiring new employees from outside the company.

It showed that some companies definitely offered more opportunity for upside momentum than others. Companies topping the list of top opportunities for advancement included AT&T, American Express, Cisco Systems, PG&E and Microsoft in the top 5.

Although a challenge for employees is that much of this data is not widely known and shared, many do not know whether or not their chosen company will fuel their growth.

Even if you look at job advertisements or company websites, it is not always clear in which companies there is a culture of support from within. For example, many may not be aware that AT&T has 172,000 employees, but of all their roles, only 5% require a college degree.

There have been many proponents lately who say that the best way to top up your salary is to simply move to a new company every few years. However, this study shows that the old way of dedicating your career to a single company is still viable if you find the right organization.

For more information on the companies you can advance even without a degree, see what That Wall Street Journal had to say.


Brendon Burchard shares his five suggestions for moving forward.


Wilmington University, the sponsor of VISTA Today – Career Corner, is a private, open-access institution that serves more than 20,000 adults, including those seeking advancement through higher education and traditional-age students seeking to achieve success to become a citizen of the world.

As one of the most affordable private universities in the Delaware Valley, WilmU is committed to the idea that completing a bachelor’s degree or earning a master’s or doctoral degree can be affordable and accessible.

The university offers over 200 accredited and career-relevant degree and certificate programs in flexible online and hybrid formats, suitable for adults of all ages, working full-time or part-time, or balancing challenging career, family and personal plans.

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