What employers think about Harvard Extension School degrees

For more than 10 years, I have received questions from prospective Harvard Extension School students (and some current students) about whether or not Harvard Extension School degrees will help them get a job, and what employers think about them. Here’s a typical query:

I am considering the Harvard Extension School for Management. I really want your opinion if this will be worth doing in terms of getting a job. I am an international student and have one year of business experience. Do you get an internship in summer? Does the Harvard brand help?

The short answer is “maybe.” Aside from the Harvard or Harvard Extension School brand, there are a few factors employers typically consider:

  1. It depends on the person and what else he or she brings to the table in terms of job experience, specific technical/work skills, and whether or not he or she will be a good fit for the team.
  2. It depends on the field/location/position. It will matter less in a highly competitive field in a big city compared to a less competitive market in a rural area or overseas.
  3. It depends on the person’s network.

As for the brand: By itself, the Harvard Extension School degree is not an automatic signal to “hire this person because he/she has ‘Harvard’ in his educational background.” But it may help you get noticed. My ALM thesis director (a tenured professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) said the Harvard association and reputation — even for Extension School students — carries a lot of weight, and will help open doors that might otherwise be closed. He actually offered to help me find work related to my research (Chinese foreign policy analysis using computer-based research) if I was interested. I wasn’t — at the time I had a pretty good job in tech media and a young family, and becoming an analyst required moving to Washington, D.C.

Another thing that may help graduates get noticed are automated resume processing programs that search for specific keywords or phrases, which may include the name of famous universities … such as Harvard.

But when the resume gets passed to an HR screener or hiring manager, things start to get tricky for many HES grads. A lot of people do not make it clear that they attended the Extension School, and instead list “Harvard University” on their resumes, either in a misguided justification to hide the Extension School affiliation, or an outright misleading attempt to make it seem as if they graduated from Harvard College, the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), or the Harvard Business School. Here are just a few examples from LinkedIn:

Harvard BiologyHarvard ALB economicsHarvard ALM digital media

Not everyone does this, of course. It’s also possible to find people who proudly list their Extension School degrees on LinkedIn:

Harvard Extension ALM nonprofits

I’ve covered the issue of how to represent your Extension School diploma in the past, and it has been debated by hundreds of people on this blog and elsewhere. You can read more at Harvard Extension School résumé guidelines are bogus.

In short, while a Harvard Extension Degree is issued by Harvard University, it is not the same degree that is issued to graduates of other schools at Harvard such as a Harvard College AB degree, a Harvard Business School MBA degree, or a Harvard GSAS AM degree. The former has a rigorous process that makes students prove they can do the work before they are admitted, but the others are among the most highly selective undergraduate and graduate programs in the United States. Students are in classrooms with other high-achievers, which raises the level of discourse and focus. Yes, HES gets some high achievers as well (including graduates of Ivies and other competitive programs) but the classrooms are also filled with casual class-takers.

The curricula and graduation requirements are also completely different. The most obvious is the Extension School’s use of distance education for course credit and for many of the professional programs,  the fact that there is no requirement to take classes taught by faculty with actual teaching appointments at Harvard.

What this means is McKinsey or Bain won’t regard an HES ALB or ALM in Management grad the same way they will treat a recent Harvard College AB or HBS MBA recipient.

What HR and hiring managers think about Extension School grads

Several people involved in hiring decisions have commented how they regard HES grads compared to their counterparts from other schools. I’ll start with the positive evaluations, followed by some of the negative takes:


I’m a hiring manager and I would hire an HES graduate any day of the week.


As the president and founder of our company with final say in hiring/firing, the choice is clear. Being only book smart is not nearly enough to cut it as there are already too many book smart people out there to choose from. Candidate B’s qualities along with street smarts are harder to find and what the real world is looking for.


If I had to hire one of two applicants for my accounting firm and one said hire me because I got good grades in high school and was active in the community (real Harvard applicant), and the other said I have years of experience in accounting and will work for three months to prove myself to you and if you don’t like what you see I will leave (HES applicant) I would hire the latter.

Why? Simple, the latter has shown they can complete a course of study, are working to better themselves and have decided to take on a great amount of additional responsibility.

But there are more than a few managers out there who have been burned by HES grads misrepresenting their degrees:

As somebody who has personally on-boarded somebody claiming an HES degree as a HGSAS degree, I can tell you that this is pure bullwack. What a complete waste of time and energy her fraud was. I wasted a ton of time looking into the issue. Harvard’s own standards have always made it clear to grads that their HES degree is not a Harvard College degree. Period… It’s willful ignorance on the part of HES grads that it will be overlooked. Anyone who doesn’t know how to represent an HES degree on a resume is a liar.

Another example:

It happens every few years where my firm gets an HES grad misrepresenting their degree. The latest “MA Anthropology – Harvard,” which after a little checking (we have learned to ALWAYS be suspicious), ends up being an MLA with a concentration from HES. When confronted they always plead ignorance and make the same BS argument about how they took classes on campus at Harvard taught by faculty and blah, blah, blah. Some are otherwise good candidates, but they are still committing resume fraud. I would take an honest UMass or UConn grad over HES any day. Had they listed their true HES credential on the resume and sold it in the interview, they would be fine.

As I have said many times in the past, HES grads should be proud of what they have accomplished and be proud to list “Harvard Extension School” on their resumes. If enough people do so and do as well in their careers as they did while at HES, the reputation of the Harvard Extension School will grow … making it easier for all Extension School grads to leverage ALB and ALM degrees to advance their careers.


75 thoughts on “What employers think about Harvard Extension School degrees

  1. Hello, ALM (Software Engineering) candidate here. I work for a Google-backed startup and am pretty sure my studies at Harvard helped me get my job.

    This identity crisis topic has gotten so much unwarranted attention over the years, I’ve noticed, and people on the internet wind themselves up SO MUCH about the Extension School vs GSAS vs College vs Whatever hand-wringing, I just have to pitch in here:

    It’s way overblown and everyone would be happier and more productive if they stop trying to pigeonhole themselves and others so much.

    All of the seven courses I’ve taken so far have been from tenured (or tenure track) Harvard professors. I’ve had the privilege of attending class with a bunch of razor-sharp students. I fly to campus a couple of weeks every semester to attend in person and I’m treated like a royal guest by the profs and my classmates from GSAS or the College. AND IT’S GREAT – I can’t think of a better use of time and money!

    Professionally, I am open about being a student in the Extension program (when people want more information) and I’ve never been treated like I’m a walking forgery or any of those silly things that people fret over.

    Here’s the key: if you want to attend Harvard to improve yourself, don’t spend time thinking about it, just GET IT DONE. Spend your time thinking about what you’re studying and gaining knowledge. Don’t worry about how people regard the Extension School – instead, spend that time making yourself better through education.

    Look, territoriality is EVERYWHERE. Quick story: When I was a newly-matriculated MBA student at University of Chicago years ago, one of the student in their prestigious college actually gave me a hard time about it because I wasn’t part of the “real” University of Chicago. I couldn’t help but laugh at him – someone who doesn’t know me who had never met me before wants to pick a fight with me over my educational choices? Talk about insecure…

    • Dear DK –

      You have my infinite thanks for your comment. Sometime we need to be reminded of what is important, and as you said, the most important thing is getting it done.

    • Thank you for this very well thought after post. Confirm me that my choice is the right one! Cheers, Sophie

  2. I have had all my classes taught by established Harvard Professors. I am happy to tell people I am a student at the extension school. I choose the extension school because I am getting a great education at a reasonable price.

  3. My employer hires graduates of the College as well as HES graduates. There is no difference in their eyes and some HES grads are in upper-level positions. Recently, graduates of the College have also achieved these higher ranks.

  4. What a crock of bull. Hiring managers, Harvard and people in general are creating second class students. The Harvard University Extension program offers Graduate and Undergraduate degrees that require on campus time. You sit in the same classrooms as “regular” Harvard students and you put in the same time. By claiming that you somehow have earned a “different” type of Harvard degree is underhanded and seriously elitist. I would have no problem putting on a resume that I earned an MA in such and such from Harvard University Extension. And, since I get alumni status I better well be treated equally.

      • It is still an accredited MA degree ( According to the Harvard extension website it is called a Masters of Liberal Liberal Arts, English ). Basically you have a Liberal Arts Masters with a specialization in English. The wording is obviously intended to obfuscate people in thinking you received a substandard or second tier degree. You still have a Masters Thesis option in the English program, so for all intensive purposes it is an MA in English (as an example). To say otherwise is elitist and is an attempt to undermine the work and time the student put in. And, the Harvard graduate school of arts and science only offers a PhD in English, so a person seeking a terminal MA degree would benefit from Harvard Extension.

        • “Master of Liberal Liberal Arts.”
          “For all intensive purposes.”

          Thank you for confirming that there is indeed a difference between the Harvard Extension School and the university’s competitive programs.

  5. (I didn’t attend HES but am looking into a certificate program.) I’m a little confused as to why this is an issue in the first place. On my resume, for example, I list my degree as University Name, B.S. in Computer Science. Why wouldn’t someone simply put “Harvard University, Degree Name” on their resume? When a potential employer calls to verify an applicant’s education, will they not call the same number as they would for a “normal” Harvard student? I guess I understand the concern for a fresh new grad with no experience, but as an experienced professional, I’d be taken aback if someone wanted to know the specifics of which college my degree came from. Just me though…

    • The degrees have completely different names and are not the same as those given if you were accepted into the University as a non-online student.

      • I take the same classes as the Harvard Students at the same time as the Harvard Students. I am taking the same exam as the Harvard Students.

        There is no difference in quality.

    • Yes, it’s perfectly fine to put “Harvard University, Degree Name”.
      But do remember that the degree name is “Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies”. It would be very hard to explain to your prospective employer why Extension Studies showed up on your background check but you didn’t put that on your resume.

    • The issue is that Harvard University is synonymous with Harvard College. If you went to the Harvard Extension School it should be proudly listed on your resume as such. Almost all employers will assume you went to Harvard college when they read “Harvard University” and when they ask for a verification of your degree they will see that it has been misrepresented on your resume. They are both fantastic schools in their own way but an extension school degree is not the same as a Harvard college degree. Once again, the degree is from the college you attended. For example someone who attended Harvard Law should not try to mislead people that he has a degree from any other college of Harvard University.

    • Its a clear requirement from Harvard Extension School itself that the degree be cited correctly. The entire point of credentials are to provide transparency on the person’s preparation and precisely where they went to school is absolutely germane. If you think HES is a good credential, then there is no problem listing it fully and accurately.

  6. Getting into the Extension School is easier than getting into the regular AB, MBA, etc. programs. As stated elsewhere, those are likely to be populated by high achieving students with a lot of intensity. That said, we have access to professors who are regular faculty at Harvard, so the opportunity to learn and achieve at the highest level is there, if the student wishes to take advantage of it.

    Much of the success of Harvard students comes from the fact that they were high achievers anyway, they are likely to come from families with other social benefits such as money, connections, and general know-how, and they form connections at school that can last a lifetime. So, when someone puts down the “Harvard”, he or she is implying all of these other benefits that are only partially available, especially to distance students.

    Perhaps someday the Extension school could set up monthly or bimonthly Extension weekends where some of this could occur.

  7. I completely agree with DK that the most important thing about higher education is the learning itself. It would be nice if the brand can give you a little lift during interviews, but at the end of day, it is still more about your attitude, your personality, your experience and your capability. The brand can help for sure, but it’s never just and only about that. All the negative comments from hiring managers in the article are not about HES itself, they are mostly about “lying and hiding” which I totally agree. Again, the degree alone doesn’t define you so just be confident and list HES on your resume! If any hiring manager questions about it, explain it proudly and they will see YOUR value as a honest and positive candidate.

  8. College degrees are mostly about signaling theory nowadays – class, iq, and conformity within a rigorous program. Without a strict admission process, the value is greatly minimized. For everyone who wants to learn practical skills or to simply better themselves, I am thankful that HES exists. However, I would first ask the candidate to reconsider if this is an attempt at resume deception or simple knowledge acquisition. If the latter, maybe coursera will help you save for your retirement a little quicker.

    I would bet that simply having harvard on the resume does move the needle a bit, even when the extension is clearly spelled out. We’ll have to wait for a social science phd to run a resume study and compare the two in a job search scenario.

    Much of the value of advanced practical degrees are the career services and networking with 1%’er students with prestigious families and connections. Do HES students have the chance to network with “normal” students on campus, or are they always segregated? I would be very interested if there are any placement programs set to help extension students with their career.

    • Mike, there are opportunities to join cross-campus student groups and other activities, but you have to work at it. I participated in a technology publication while I was a student, and I know others have joined arts or student government groups. I remember when Zuckerberg visited the campus a few years ago anyone studying computer science was welcome to attend, including HES students.

      The Extension School does have a career services office and some activities such as job fairs, but I don’t know how effective they are.

    • Thanks to the ongoing admissions scandals at several universities, many are finally wise enough to realize that the admissions process is not a determining factor of success.

  9. Hold up everyone.
    Guys… anyone who is yapping about HES not being the “real” Harvard is a joke. The School of Continuing Studies is ONE OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY’s TWELVE SCHOOLS. All of my HES classes have required on-campus components as well. Just because a HES student made the choice to study at HES does not make that student a fraud. People with elitist attitudes have a real problem with Harvard keeping up with but times and offering live online studies. While you guys are fretting, Harvard is laughing at all of you and cashing in at the bank.

  10. “Just because a HES student made the choice to study at HES does not make that student a fraud.”

    That isn’t the debate here. Why would studying at ANY school, be it Harvard, HES or Bumblebee Community College, make the student a fraud?? No one on either side of the debate is claiming that HES students are frauds.

    The debate at hand is: Is an HES student who attempts to pass off his/her degree as one from “Harvard University” without making it explicitly clear that the degree is from HES a fraud?

    As a proud HES student, my answer to that question is a simple “yes.” Whatever quality differences, if any, actual or perceived, exist between HES and other Harvard schools is something for the prospective employer to decide upon. Any student who doesn’t make it clear to a prospective employer that his/her HES diploma is from HES as opposed to one of Harvard’s other schools is being deceitful. Ultimately, there is a huge difference between being honestly precise about one’s educational achievement then hoping/expecting that a prospective employer will value one’s HES degree highly and/or as though it was from one of Harvard’s other schools versus basically lying about the precise degree earned then just assuming that it doesn’t make a difference to the prospective employer.

    Ultimately, if a student isn’t clear about his/her degree being from HES, it is never an oversight and it is always an intentional act of deception. The decision about “how much of a difference” it makes that the degree is from HES as opposed to from a different Harvard school is not the degree-holder’s decision to make.

    I know how rigorous my own HES experience has been, and, given that, I am confident that there are employers who realize as much, irrespective of how an HES degree “stacks up” against one from a different Harvard school.

    • You are so wrong it isn’t even funny. If someone says they are a Harvard College student that is an HES student, then they are a liar, but if they say they are a Harvard University student, they are. Harvard University has 12 Colleges that grant degrees with the School of Continuing Education being one.

      The fact that Harvard doesn’t do more to stick up for HES students who study their asses off, shows how they are quick to take the HES students money, but want to give them substandard representation. It is sad.

      • This is precisely the case. Similarly, since GSAS sits under the same faculty as “The College”, it is not a separate faculty like the other schools. One fact that is always interestingly missing from these discussions is that for whatever reason in many systems, the university even labels GSAS students as Harvard University where other students are labeled with the College or specific school. For example, I once volunteered at a research conference at BU hosted by Harvard Faculty, and the name tags (later I discovered were printed based on the internal directory) were Harvard College, Harvard University, and Harvard Extension school. HU was reserved for GSAS students. Similarly, most of the GSAS (I was admitted to both HES and GSAS but chose to study at Stanford instead of completing my GSAS degree) friends or colleagues that I knew on linked in simply listed Harvard University.

        I have no issue with a HES student, nor a college or GSAS student, listing their degree as Harvard University.

        It should also be pointed out that HES doesn’t and can’t enforce their silly guidelines on presenting the degree.

        Students should present their degree honestly and the way they want to based on their experience, perspective, and perception of value.

        Master’s Degree, Software Engineering
        Harvard University

        Is not incorrect or unethical in any way.

        Pardon the typos.

  11. I have a Ph.D. from Harvard GSAS, and I cannot emphasize how wrong-headed this post is. I’ll admit that I didn’t even know there was a Harvard Extension School until a few years into my graduate studies at Harvard, but it is no more or less part of Harvard than any of the other schools. And *requiring* people to flag their resumes in a non-standard way is absurd.

    I have only ever listed my degree as from “Harvard University” with Ph.D. and the subject area. I don’t need to list “Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.” If I had an MBA from Harvard, I would just list “Harvard University” with MBA — no reason to list “Harvard Business School” unless I wanted to.

    If you’d like to list “Extension School” on your resume, by all means, do so. Perhaps you *want* to emphasize that for some reason. And perhaps in some limited situations, it might be important to clarify that point on a written resume even before an interview.

    However, the argument that it is somehow deceitful NOT to list “Extension School” is ABSURD. You offer only two testimonies of managers who claim to frown on this practice, but they don’t say they frown on that practice — THEY FROWN ON ACTUAL LYING.

    (1) The first example states: “As somebody who has personally on-boarded somebody claiming an HES degree as a HGSAS degree, I can tell you that this is pure bullwack. What a complete waste of time and energy her fraud was.”

    Read the text, please. Someone claimed to have a Harvard GSAS degree! That IS fraud. That is apparently NOT someone who just wrote “Harvard University, Master of Liberal Arts with Concentration in X,” which would be a truthful and accurate statement.

    (2) The second person wrote: “It happens every few years where my firm gets an HES grad misrepresenting their degree. The latest ‘MA Anthropology – Harvard,’ which after a little checking (we have learned to ALWAYS be suspicious), ends up being an MLA with a concentration from HES.”

    Again, this is fraud, plain and simple. This person does not have a Master of Arts (MA or technically AM) degree from Harvard. They have a Master of Liberal Arts. This person lied on their resume and should be appropriately denounced.

    However, neither of these two examples speak to the actual ambiguous case you claim to address in this post (and others), i.e., someone just omitting the name of the school on a resume and only stating the degree (as most people would do for any other of Harvard’s schools).

    It’s absurd to claim that latter practice is deceitful or misleading in any way. It’s a degree from Harvard University. Harvard College does not offer a Bachelor in Liberal Arts. Harvard GSAS (and the other graduate schools) does not offer a Master in Liberal Arts. Just because a hiring manager can’t be bothered to do a search on a degree they aren’t familiar with doesn’t make it “outright misleading” as you put it.

    The appropriate place in most cases to address this (if it is even an issue) would be in a job interview if the prospective employer has a question about your degree. And frankly if an employer is petty enough to be offended that you didn’t list “Extension School” when no other Harvard school graduates would tend to list their school affiliate on a resume, you should not want to work for that employer. Period. It is a legitimate Harvard University degree, and its title (if given correctly on a resume) identifies uniquely what program it relates to, and the employer can query its admissions or degree requirements or anything else if said employer finds it necessary.

    Lastly, let me be very clear that I take this stance as someone very knowledgeable about the Harvard system and the relative quality of its graduates. There are colleagues of mine in GSAS who would laugh at the low standards of the Harvard Ed School or even occasionally the Harvard Div School. I have a friend who took a couple classes at the Ed School that he said were a joke compared to GSAS classes. Yet no one would require a student with an Ed.D. from Harvard University to state on their resume, “Oh, by the way, I went to the Ed School, which might not be quite up to snuff or has different standards in some ways from GSAS.” I have a friend with an Ed.D. from Harvard, and those in academia knew the standards of his program were different, and he was viewed accordingly. Those members of the general public would just know he had a “doctorate from Harvard” which is exactly what he had.

    Even worse, Harvard hands out master’s degrees like candy in GSAS. Seriously. They are absolutely meaningless degrees in most programs that have an ultimate Ph.D. You just get one “along the way” after completing most coursework, if you bother to apply for one. But look at someone who has a “Master of Arts” from Harvard in some field (with no Ph.D.), and THAT should be a serious resume flag.

    Why? Because — with the exception of a handful of terminal master’s programs — that means generally one of two things: (1) the person decided to quit the Ph.D. program, so was awarded a consolation “terminal master’s” (and thus has questionable commitment to scholarly endeavors) or (2) the person flunked some aspect of their qualifying exams or other upper-level requirements and was kicked out of the Ph.D. program and given a master’s as a consolation prize. (I have known both to happen.)

    Thus, a person who claims to have a “MA in Anthropology” from Harvard is very likely someone who flunked out of something. (Apparently there is an M.A. in Medical Anthropology that’s considered an “real” master’s degree from that department, but other M.A. degrees should not be terminal degrees if they are to mean anything other than that the person hung around Harvard for a few semesters and took a few courses.)

    Your examples of hiring managers thus not only show examples of fraud, but also ignorance of Harvard graduate programs that think they have the ability to evaluate.

    Bottom line: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with listing “Extension School” on a resume, and in a few rare instances, I think it might be useful for clarification. But it shouldn’t be necessary. Other questions can be handled in an interview. And you’re certainly correct to condemn those who misrepresent their degrees explicitly (as in the two examples you offer). But just listing your degree as “Harvard University, Bachelor (or Master) of Liberal Arts”? That’s literally what the degree is. Insisting that everyone write “Extension School” serves to create a second-class atmosphere around the degree that is undeserved, particularly with the number of meaningless Master of Arts degrees Harvard hands out anyway.

    The HES degrees are certainly more meaningful and don’t deserve to be singled out with a weird “extension studies” flag on a resume, which will lead employers to say, “Huh?” Nothing on a resume should lead an employer to say, “Huh?” You’re giving poor advice to people who worked hard for their degrees. Lots of colleges offer evening or summer master’s programs (often with more lax requirements), and I’ve never heard of another one that would like to require the graduates of said programs to flag them on their resumes as different unless the actual title of the degree is different. (And the degree IS in this case, which serves to identify the program uniquely on a resume.)

    Again, if your prospective employer’s reaction in an interview is to be offended or accuse you of fraud for listing your degree literally as what it is, you should stand up and walk out the door right then and there, because you don’t want to work for someone like that.

    • This is an amazing response. Thank you. Your insight and articulation of it hit on why I feel so drawn to Harvard, as an academic ideal.

      • *cheering* !!

        I am looking into studying at Harvard University.
        I have completed my MSc and have been working abroad for sometime now. I’ve come to realise that the possibilities in my current field are too limited and I want to learn more.

        As an international student, though not my primary motivation, having a degree from Harvard will carry additional weight.

        After quite some research it became clear that most (nearly all!) top universities in the USA do not offer MA/MSc degrees -for psychology- and only offer (combined) PhDs instead.

        Harvard University’s Extension School would be one of the very few options if I wanted to attend a respected American university as a ‘short-term’ graduate student.

        A PhD is not what I want to do. It is too specific, and I currently feel I do not wish to work as a researcher/professor in the future.

        Before reading this blog, but mainly your comment, I was worried about the credibility -or better put ‘true value’- of HES.

        I know now that, although slightly different in some ways, it is still part of Harvard University, it is academically challenging and the work put in will be rewarded with a valuable degree!

        It is great that Harvard offers this possibility for those aiming expand their knowledge on a graduate level without a 6 year commitment.

        Thank you both for sharing your insights!

    • I am actually considering the Harvard University Extension School ALM in Creative Writing and Literature as a second chance college student who did not earn their first college degree until the age of 30. My current career goal is to get into the adjunct instructor pool at the community college system where I live in rural Kentucky. I want to teach remedial courses and English/writing. I would hope that someone evaluating my resume would simply see Harvard as higher in status than someone that has a MFA from a regionally accredited online college or a master’s degree in English from a local college such as Eastern Kentucky University or Morehead State University.

      I have overcome great obstacles in life that most people can only imagine. My only goal with pursuing a degree from the Harvard School of Extension Studies is to show people that there is hope for something better: even if better just means earning a certificate or diploma from a rural community college.

      I have also always wanted to write a book so the degree might help me perfect my craft.

      • Go for it, Peggy.

        My first HES class was actually a creative writing class. The program and faculty is very strong, and when I did the class there were opportunities to get published in respected literary journals.

      • Thank you so much for taking the time to write that, John. I’m a 31 year old husband and father of two, currently active duty military, who always had the brains but never the funds to pursue an education at this level- but now I do, with the GI Bill, and reading this really motivated me for the program I’m about to start in June. Thanks again!

        • Justin – glad to hear that you’re continuing to pursue your goals. I’m sure HES won’t disappoint. By the way, thank you for your service!

          John – I appreciate this post and the detail you provided. My fellow HES students and I have all been questioned about the validity of our degrees and hard work because of the school’s “extension” name.

    • Thank you for your post. I am currently enrolled in the Extension School but considering applying for the College for these very reasons. I already have an established career, however, I WANT my degrees. It’s been my experiences that society tends to look down on the Extension School degree (this includes potential clients) rather than a “normal” degree. I must admit that HES is extremely convenient for my career. I am still able to travel the world and work while obtaining my degree. I just wish it wasn’t looking at as the “GED equalivant of College degrees”

  12. Thanks for taking the time to explain the nuances of the GSAS masters/PhD universe. I think we agree on many points (e.g., earning a Harvard Extension School degree is something to be proud of), but I also think that graduates should be clear about their affiliation on their resume or LinkedIn profile for the reasons explained above. Transparency is important, and it really does matter when “Harvard” comes up.

    You brought up the example, “If I had an MBA from Harvard, I would just list ‘Harvard University’ with MBA — no reason to list ‘Harvard Business School’ unless I wanted to.” Most Harvard MBAs I know *do* list “Harvard Business School” on their CVs. I also attended business school (not at Harvard) and most classmates include the name of the business school and often the name of the program, too.

    Another question to consider: Why does the Extension School itself now insist that graduates use “Extension School” or “Extension Studies” when listing degrees on resumes?

    • That the real point. HES is part of Harvard University. Therefore, you cannot blame someone to list his degree by his university name. It’s factual, harvard Extension school is 1 of the 12/13 school of harvard university. As much as Business School is or otherone.

      Thus it’s a kind of segregation to force people to notice the extension school in place of Harvard university. They should separate the certificate place, the online course and the liberal art B and M. Because the real deal is when people got certificated and used the named like if they got a degree.

      By fact HES M/BLA is degree program, not diploma. People are Harvard Studens.

      For every people who worked hours between their jobs and school and familly once they understand that they should do university when they were younger and now want the best possible in the world. It is a very bad way to considere this people. The only difference between BLA and BBA from harvard are the age people are doing it. And what a bad vision to give more credit for teenager who got the luck to understand how to handle the life vs adult who are taking charge of their life after understand some mistakes they did.

      Once again, all HR, people or ex students that did not agree with the Harvard University degree when it’s come the MLA BLA from HES are just ignoring the fact that HES is a part of Harvard University and not something else as Harvard Business Review or Harvard online Hdx.

      But the comparison should not be btw Harvard school and HES. But between UPEN, of wharton online bachelor degree and HES BLA.

      It should also be for international students btw doing a good local school or even local online degree like for Example FGV in Brazil, University or paris online, london university, university of the people and Harvard extension school Bachelor in liberal Art???

      What would be better. What would bring a better branding for the one who get graduated. It’s not only to get a job. But for the picture you give to your future partnership. I got 4 businesses. Most of sharehold contract I got have been based on the confidance I gave to my partner. Does Harvard BLA is better than london university….

      Well, if you can do BLA or MLA and then entering a good MBA of postgraduate (don’t need to be harvard business School MBA, but a good one – IE, HEC, FDC, Wharton, DUKE, even INSEAD why not?) Then I guess you have a better brand that doing a regional school and a good MBA

      What you guy think about ?

  13. John— that’s a fantastic post. Thank you for your detailed explanation. I completely agree with you.

    With that being said, HES is looked down upon by the other 11 because we aren’t as selective or scarce. But let’s be honest here. Our experience and quality of education is typically NOT as rich and of the same quality as HBS or College. That’s the truth. We will never be seen as equals until we become more competitive by raising the barrier of entry. I would like to see our standards go up all around. Only then can we have a comfortable seat at the table instead of sitting on the floor.

    • Actually, it’s all determined by a small committee in FAS (Same faculty as College and GSAS) so there is not much “we” can do about it. Even our Dean is not above “the faculty”, which in this case is FAS. In fact, the most recent prior Dean did try to get extension studies removed. FAS is insistent upon the distinction and the issue always gets permanently tabled in committee (FAS committee on continuing education). If DCE was to become its own independent school’s, they would be able to have somewhat more freedom to modernize the name. Yes, I say modernize because of all of the top tier schools that started extension programs (Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia, UPenn, etc) have integrated the program, discontinued the awarding of degrees, or renamed it to remove the rigid distinction (e.g. Columbia GS program, or the MSt degree’s at Cambridge like the Entrepreneurship Master’s degree is done online with a couple of one week residencies, is now awarded directly from the Judge School of Business just like the MBA at Cambridge, etc).

  14. hello, ALM (Information Technology) here.
    Dear Ilamont, I am really appreciated that you had written a very informative article about the HES here; However, I feel like your opinion are no longer up-to-date, because:
    1) The world is now wisely accepted the value of online education: back in the 1990s, people have questioned the value of online-education as it is new and unproven. in the last 2 decades, online education has proven that it is as good as traditional education, many Harvard-professors had said that HES student had turned in better work than the traditional college student. a TA here had commented to proven that point.
    2) There are several goverment from several countries (Vietnam…) had issued a law to confirm that government’s officer will get paid the same salary for the same position regardless of their degree is online or tradition. It had become a law.
    3) HES is no longer required the student to list the Extention or ALM on their resume: HES website used to say that “MA in Anthropology” is “NOT ACCEPTABLE”, but now they said that you “MAY BE” listed it as ——, IMHO, this is a signal that online education had gained more acceptance at the table.
    4) Oxford University had confirmed that there is no difference in their online vs tradition degree. Why do we, Harvard, make our life harder?

    When I google that value of HES, this post comes up as the first that devalue of HES alumni. => “In short, a Harvard Extension Degree is NOT a Harvard”

    I KINDLY ASK THAT YOU, PLEASE, REWRITE THAT PHARES, so it not gonna show up in google search on the way that it may hurt our value. in case, our future employer search for HES.

    • Yes, I see that Google is excerpting that phrase with no context. I rewrote it.

      Regarding point #1: I don’t agree that online education is as good as traditional education, with the exception of convenience and certain technical features. I’ve taken online classes for credit myself and discussed this issue endlessly elsewhere, so I won’t repeat myself here.

      Point #2: That’s great. I know that many government jobs in the United States are also agnostic about whether the degree was obtained online or in a classroom.

      Point #3: The Harvard Extension School most definitely requires “Extension” to be included somewhere in the degree description, although it’s impossible to enforce. Here’s what the Harvard Extension School’s official guidelines say about listing resumes:

      On your résumé, the degree name may be listed as either:

      Bachelor [or Master] of Liberal Arts, Harvard University Extension School.
      Bachelor [or Master] of Liberal Arts, Extension Studies, Harvard University.

      • Dear Ian Lamont,
        Thank for rewrote the phrase, I really appreciate it.
        regarding your comment on point #1: I had huge respect for you, as a historian, you had done a wonderful job capturing both sides of story during the “revolution of online education” of HES during “1910-2009”. your writing was very deep, careful, informative, and thoughtful.
        in fact, in 2011, my cousins had said behind my back that I only do an “online course” rather than a full master degree, because they don’t know if it is legit to do an online master degree. so, yes, I shared your concerns.

        Let not wasting any more time debate about the “online vs tradition” education in present (2019). I would like to invite you to debate about THE FUTURE.

        As an ALM(IT), I believed that in 2029-2039, online education will be better than traditional education because:
        #1) Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Microsoft Hologram, Magic Leap, AI, deep learning, robotic, … (you can google tons of very promising innovative technologies are underdeveloping here)… so, I am not only argued that online education will not only just as good as traditional education, but it will also capable to offer something that surpassed traditional education in term of visualization, experience, convenience, and effectiveness.
        #2) Many traditional universities will be closed down: there is a trend that many traditional universities are downsizing or bankrupting. Prof Clayton Christensen of HBS predicted that -“Half of American Colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years” because the cost-effective of online education drive them out of business. Only traditional university with strong research program will be survived. online education will beat the tradition education by quantity and cost-effectiveness.

        I would like to hear your comment about the outcome of this future.

        • I agree with your point #2 about traditional universities closing down, although not only because of online education. This country’s higher educational establishment faces a demographic cliff by 2025 as the number of college-aged children drops (following the decline in births after the 2008 recession). When coupled with the outrageous sticker costs of attending college in person, that’s when smaller and less selective universities will start closing in earnest. It’s already started in New England, including Mt. Ida College in Newton last year.

          Regarding #1: I’ve been watching remote learning technologies come and go for more than a decade. 90% fail to live up to the hype. 10+ years ago it was Second Life and Cisco Telepresence. Now it’s VR and “live” classroom techs which have their own problems (see “VR is in a tailspin, and the sales numbers prove it“) . For the future I expect more hype and failed promises, and the in-class experience to continue to be superior on a number of qualities: visual and audio fidelity, engagement, on-the-fly reconfiguration, and opportunities to interact with faculty. The best technologies I have seen are those that incorporate live, low-cost two-way video. AR software overlays add little, except for very specific technical training, in my opinion.

      • I agree that online course is not the same that presencial course. It’s actually better and it because of many point.

        – The course is made and improved until getting perfect based on data.
        -You can test the learner many times
        -The learner can learn any where any time when he is ready to learn and he can have the time he desire to follow the course.
        -The teacher is paid not to reproduce a course but to create interaction.
        -There is nobody to distract the learner and the feeling between teacher, other people and the learner did not change the experience of the learner.
        Learning online is like learning on book and video, then you need to meet people to do something real. I am doing it sonce 10 years and I will never go back to fisical class to listen a teacher. Only to do something with people.

        With the advencement of data and online tech. The online class will be better than IRL. Because there is more to learn from all the pople who will follow it than any class in the IRL world.

  15. As HES ALM student and a PHD degree holder from traditional program, I only want to say I learned more from the HES program for my day to day life than the PHD.

    Those who laughed at HES program, please take the rigorous path to get yourself admitted before posting comments as people should not comment on something that they don’t know.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Alex. Critics of Harvard Extension academics should walk the walk before passing judgement. Many, if not most would never matriculate.

    • Hi Alex,

      Thank you for this post. I’ve been thinking about HES program , but I was worried that if I wanted to teach and/or move onto my Phd the HES degree would not be looked at the same as a regular MA program. Do you have any advice that i should take into consideration?


      • Quoting one of the senior HES administrators, Suzanne Spreadbury, of the Harvard Extension School: “ALB graduates have accepted to all top research universities in the United States. Harvard. Yale. MIT. Columbia. Princeton. UPenn.” https://t.co/lViAGoya1N (19:30)

  16. “…the fact that there is no requirement to take classes taught by faculty with actual teaching appointments at Harvard.”
    Actually, there is – from their degree requirements page:
    “52 credits taken with Harvard instructors”.
    Most of the HES classes are *exactly* the same as Harvard University courses, taught by the same instructors/professors. The only difference is the HES students can only participate in night classes.
    Sure, there are plenty of ‘casual course takers’ because anyone can audit a class there for a hefty sum. However, they do have requirements to earn your way into the degree program, which I’m sure most of the ‘casual course takers’ do not try to do.

    • “Harvard Instructor” doesn’t mean “Harvard Faculty,” and few Harvard Extension School classes are *exactly* the same as classes taught elsewhere at Harvard. For instance, in the huge ALM Management program none of the classes are the same as Harvard Business School classes or requirements, and no Harvard Business School faculty teach at the Extension School. Faculty tend to be from other universities — looking at the first page of the faculty directory, I see Hult International Business School, Southern New Hampshire University, and many people working in industry.

      Generally speaking, the liberal arts and science classes are more likely to have Harvard faculty, including tenured professors. But there are also professors from other schools in the Boston area. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I have described in my article about the “Harvard Instructor” requirement.

      • There are a few HBS “online” courses that are offered for credit in the ALM Management programs. There will be many more that will be available as time progresses.

        Does anyone think graduating from an ALM program would help get into HBS?

    • The requirement also to enter the School are actually what a good school should look for.

      I mean a good school turn people good and why not better than other school student. If the selection before entering the school , then it is difficult to qualified the school.

      If the reputation of harvard is made on the selection and not the class, then why people bother to do harvard? just do the selection and leave.

  17. Hi ilamont,
    I wonder if the children of ALM Alumni will got the legacy status when they apply to Harvard?
    Do you have any up-to-date information about legacy benefit of HES Alumni
    Thank You

    • You mean, apply to Harvard College?

      Maybe there is a little bump (as there would be for children of graduates from Harvard Graduate School of Dental Medicine or the Kennedy School) but it’s not the same as children of Harvard College graduates.

      There is no point to having Harvard “legacy” connections when applying to any Harvard Extension School programs. It’s a true meritocracy – you have to prove you can handle the coursework before gaining admission.

  18. Thanks for the details. Sounds like people seem to think you can drop your life and move to Cambridge. I can’t! I live and work in Alabama. So putting ES will help potential employers understand why I’m not living in two places at once. It’s really that simple. Folks like me over 35 can’t rearrange their lives. Don’t think they would penalize folks like us simply for not taking the class on campus. Plus the journalism one requires partial campus work.

  19. I rolled my eyes looking at the “correct” way to list the Harvard degree on a resume. Looks like elitism to me. Perhaps more than a few of the “traditional” alumni are butthurt that internet was not around when they attended. Don’t blame the past, present, and potential online students. Blame Harvard. Like it or not, online studies is looking more and more to be the future of college education. If that offends the traditional students that badly, then tell the higher ups to end the Extension School, because nobody wants to pay hard-earned money and work their butts off for a degree from ANY college that forces them to use an asterisk.

    • Has anyone done a real study of HES v. HCollege BAs/ABs salaries upon graduation controlling for age e.g. 22 yr olds, graduate degrees e.g. MAs, PhDs, JDs, MDs, etc and years work experience e.g.. 5 years out, 10 yrs out, 15, 20,25,30 yrs out–the data collected at successive 5 year alumni surveys–to Harvard sociology or econometric standards (peer reviewed, published)? These data would go a long way to validate the (equal?) value of HES degrees. Thanks, Lyle Spencer AB ’66, MBA ’71, PhD ’70 Univ of Chicago (Statistics)

      • No such study has been performed, as far as I know. Controlling for age, degrees, and other variables would be difficult considering the differing natures of the student bodies and degrees provided by the two institutions.

  20. I feel a lot of the comments on this issue are skirting (avoiding) answering the direct question…is the degree from Harvard Extension comparable to the one from Harvard College, both in regards to academic rigor and cache carried? The problem I’m recognizing is the tendency to compare apples to oranges – not weighing a Student A vs Student B where, except for where they obtained their degrees, all other variables are proximate in similarities.

    Not having attended either HES nor Harvard College, I cannot personally speak to academic rigor differences…except to say that the faculty that teaches at Harvard College tend to bring to bear more substantial academic training in the specific field they teach; hence, for example, preparation for further study (doctorate, post-doctorate) in a given curriculum seems more embodied in the Harvard College regimen.

    The matter of reputation is, to my mind, where some obfuscating is being engaged in comment narratives. Like it or not, if one proclaim they graduated from Harvard, the imagery it provokes is the “iconic” one – it is going to raise eyebrows if a later “clarification” reveals that the degree was earned while in the company of classmates who may not necessarily be as talented as is regarded the typical Harvard coed, even if the responding individual may personally embody all the attributes of someone who “could have” attended Harvard College. I think it goes without saying that there are many graduates of Harvard Extension who are as deserving of accolades for their achievement as the “day school” graduate garners – but the potential for a given graduate of HES being “marginal” (for lack of a better term) relative to the Harvard College graduate is absolutely a consideration some employment recruiters are bound to contemplate. Fair or unfair.

  21. I’m a frequent hiring manager who has seen this many times. If you say Harvard University without any mention of “extension”, then you are trying to trick me, and your resume goes in the trash for lack of integrity.

    Most of the value in a Harvard college degree derives from the fact that you were admitted. Completing the coursework is good and important but actually worth significantly less economically. The Harvard college degree demonstrates that at the time of admission you were one of the top students in the nation, and that correlates well with many other desirable attributes. The Harvard extension school degree demonstrates some measure of commitment, but it’s not nearly as valuable.

    In the real world, extension school graduates attempt to trick hiring managers all the time, and succeed enough that this is quite possibly a successful strategy.

    But the places you want to work; where you work alongside greatness and can learn from it; won’t be fooled.

    Put down Harvard Extension School and walk in with your head held high.

    • So there is “open applications” to Harvard college–many students apply on a lark. My kid’s HS had a lot of that. Then they choose 5-6 percent and nearly all receive a degree from Harvard. So about 5 out of 100 from the open applications process end up with a degree. In HES, there is (somewhat) open applications as well, though expensive. It is widely published that 5 percent see the program through and earn a Harvard University degree.

    • Jason, it is Harvard University. That’s what is written on the diploma, “in the real world”, as you say. If that bothers you, take it up with Harvard.

      For the other point, Harvard is not an HR pre-filter. If you select Harvard students solely based on the fact that they were admitted after high-school, then you missed the whole point about what Harvard University is all about. It’s Harvard’s education that matters, not high-school SAT results.

      I would recommend you the ALM management program, as clearly you lack key managerial and decision-making skills. Good luck if you make it past the admission courses.

    • How is the person tricking you? a graduate of Harvard extension is considered a Harvard Alumni with all its benefits. So, how are they lying?

  22. True, an HES graduate degree is not the same as a GSAS graduate degree in the same way that a GSAS graduate degree is not the same as an HSG graduate degree, which is not the same as an HMS graduate degree, itself not the same as an HDS degree and so on. Nonetheless, in all cases where a Masters degree is offered by 11 of the 12 schools of the University, a Masters degree is a Masters degree is a Masters degree. There is absolutely nothing false in an HES alum saying they hold a Masters degree from Harvard.

  23. This is all pretty interesting to me as a certificate holder and adult learner. I think the benefits of HES classes are significant, in my pond. Folks who look at my resume would be comparing the classes I took and got As and Bs in and say, “Wow, Harvard at night; “The Gates Unbarred” kind of stuff. Sounds challenging.” Did I kick butt in high school and on the SAT and spend 4 years in a dorm and press the flesh with Mark Zuckerberg and so-and-so’s daughter? No. Did I take X number of classes from perhaps the best institution in the world? Yes. It is what it is; it’s not anything to be ashamed of, but by the same token, it’s not 40 or 50 classes competing against all those elite brainiacs at age 18-21. I think the preparation I’ve received in my field has been solid. I don’t know what to advise about resumes, but I know I wear the HES t-shirt.

  24. I came across this thread because I’m helping my wife search for a good graduate school. I have worked for different corporate giants and as well small enterprise businesses and few times been involved in hiring of new intakes. Resume is a critical record for hiring but experience will teach to be mindful and attentive when reviewing resume and interviewing applicants for job. Quite honestly I believe new approach should be introduced into the hiring process to meet with new challenges in innovation and leadership in the workplace. Regarding differentiation between Harvard College degree and Harvard Extension degree, this is simply a principle of valuation and both sides of the coin derive their pride in its worth. The problem is bad elements that do not acknowledge the benefit nor are they content in the value of their HES degree.

  25. Hi everyone,

    I personally would choose Harvard Extension School due it flexibility and affordability at the same time.

    Has anyone taken the Instructional Design Certificate? Do you think it will help me in my career if I already have about a ten years of experience in the field? I am interested to work for an international company and gain global experience.

  26. Can you get into the Harvard club with HES degree? YES. That says it all. You can now develop your connections and move on with your life. All this crap just for what is stated on the resume. My employer didn’t give a crap about my schooling. Once they saw my experience and activities they were drooling. HES is awesome and is the future. Full time work and online schooling is not an easy task for anyone. Be proud and have fun. Life’s too short. GODSPEED.

  27. People can argue about anything… HES gives clear guidelines on documenting the achievement. It is a degree from Harvard University. That is a fact. Any graduate will walk in the commencement on the Harvard campus and the degree is conferred through Harvard University.

    It is also true that the program is through the department of continuing education or the extension school. That is also a fact.

    Bottom line is, follow the documented guidelines and list the degree as a ALM in Extension Studies, Harvard University. Or alternatively use ALM in area of study, Harvard Extension School – Harvard University.

    If a person reviewing resumes is worried about the listing on a resume instead of the expertise and knowledge gained in the program then who cares? Move on. That particular person is nobody…means nothing in the big picture.

    I already have an MBA and a PhD. However, I am about to complete an ALM degree program. The experience has been phenomenal.

    The professors have been great. I like that some of the professors have written the text books being used at Harvard and other programs outside of Harvard. Once you are an accepted student in HES your class choices will open to classes taught through some of the other schools within Harvard.

    I love the on-campus classes and the ability to mix on-campus and online. Sitting in class on campus is cool. Walking around campus between classes, or going into the new student center, or into the libraries with your Harvard University Student ID, it’s a great experience.

    I love sitting in the Starbucks overlooking Harvard Square. People watching in the Harvard yard or hanging out in the Plaza to grab a bite to eat from a food truck, where I like to sit by the fire pit and listen to the music… It’s a cool Harvard University experience. I am pretty sure people from every Harvard school, including the students from the extension school, have that same experience.

    You know who doesn’t have that experience? The “recruiter” who is consumed by the form used on a resume instead of talking about experiences from a great academic program. Again, please ignore people like that because he/she is irrelevant.

    I only go on campus every couple months, but I do cherish the experience. I will follow the published guidelines for documenting my achievement. Most of all, I will love it that my kids will see dad has a degree from Harvard University hanging on the wall.

    Of course, I am too old to care too much about what other people think. For me, my experience on the Harvard University campus (through the extension program) has been great.

    I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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