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

Young woman in a work meeting
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It is no new sentiment that a college degree no longer has the same value that it once did. But now research is showing that degrees might not even be the best predictor of being able to advance to a higher level position.

The Wall Street Journal examined how career advancement may depend less on your degrees and more on what company you are with. They used the findings from the Burning Glass Institute, which did a five year study on career mobility in America.

The results suggest much of your ability to climb the ladder comes down to the company you work for.

The study analyzed aspects such as how often certain companies promoted their employees, how long it took to move up, and how likely they were to promote from within rather than hire new employees from outside the company.

It revealed that some companies definitely did provide more opportunity for upward momentum than others. As far as the companies that topped out the list for the best chance for career advancement, the top five included AT&T, American Express, Cisco Systems, PG&E, and Microsoft.

Though one challenge for employees is that much of this data is not commonly known and shared, therefore many are in the dark whether the company they choose will facilitate their growth or not.

Even looking at job postings or company websites, it is not always stated which companies have a culture of promotion from within. For instance, many are likely unaware that AT&T has 172,000 employees, yet of all their roles, only a mere 5% require any higher education degrees.

Of late there have been many proponents for saying that the best method to advance your salary is to simply job hop to a new company every few years. However this study shows that the old way of doing things, being dedicated to a single company for your career, does still have viability if you can find the right organization.

For continued reading on the companies that can help you advance even without a degree, check out what The Wall Street Journal had to say.


Brendon Burchard shares his five suggestions for getting ahead.



Montgomery County Community College, the sponsor of MONTCO.Today’s Career Corner offers more than 100 associate’s degree and certificate programs at the college’s Blue Bell, Pottstown, The Culinary Arts Institute in Lansdale campuses, and online.

Funded by Montgomery County, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and student tuition, Montgomery County Community college offers a high-quality, affordable, accessible education that leads to relevant, rewarding transfer and career opportunities.

Take advantage of all the College has to offer — from challenging educational and professional development opportunities to stimulating activities and cultural programs. Their doors are always open.

Learn more about the College’s degrees and programs or plan an in-person visit to get a firsthand look at the College’s state-of-the-art facilities and friendly campus life. 

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