Are degrees issued by Harvard Extension School different from the ones issued by Harvard





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No: Students at Harvard University are awarded degrees from Harvard University. HES is one of the schools that comprises Harvard University, so it s a degree from Harvard.

Yes: If you earn a Masters from Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, it ll be a Masters of Science. If you earn a comparable degree from HES, it ll be a Masters of Liberal Arts.

A little confused? No worries! Lots of folks are, too. Keep reading and I ll explain.

This answer comes from the graduate school perspective, because the answer for grad students is perhaps more nuanced. If you the reader is curious about Harvard College specifically, then I ll answer directly:

You re not earning the same degree. It s still issued from Harvard University, but the top value of attending HC is the fact that you were admitted in the first place (perhaps more important that finishing, to be honest) and the network of contacts you ll develop through attendance.

A Bachelors in Liberal Arts through HES is still a fantastic education as many of your classes are concurrent with the College students. You ll get the world-class education Harvard offers, but it will not have the same purchasing power as an HC diploma.

This is not a bad thing — it s a fantastic program. But please don t start the ALB at HES if your goal is to convince people you attended Harvard College. You ll end up disappointed.

To your initial question

Every potential student to HES asks themselves, or someone at the school (or here) this question — it has been, and remains, the elephant in the room.

The quick answer is:

  1. It s a degree awarded by Harvard University.
  2. Harvard University awards students matriculating from the Extension School a Masters of Liberal Arts (or Bachelors of Liberal Arts).

Honestly, they do a pretty poor job on the school s website providing the information. It took me almost 10 minutes of clicking around before I remembered how to get to it, and I knew what I was looking for.

When completed, the degree will be issued by Harvard University. For me, if I complete my program, the diploma will read something like:

Magistri in Artibus Liberalibus Studiorum Prolatorum

or, as HES suggests you put on your resume, Masters of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies. You can optionally list your program name and focus (IT – Software Engineering, for example) and list that it s issued by Harvard University (or Harvard Extension School, as you like).

Continuing the discussion.

A lot of people are concerned with whether someone will know if hiring managers will respect the work they did to earn that HES degree as opposed to one from perhaps the Graduate School of Arts and Science, Kennedy, etc.

In the greater Boston area, people are more likely to know the difference. Generally, if you go to lengths to hide the fact that the degree was earned at the Harvard Extension School, you often either reinforce someone s existing suspicion that the program is subordinate to other programs in the graduate schools at Harvard, or create that suspicion if it didn t exist. Eventually you ll have to give an employer a transcript, and it ll say somewhere that courses were completed at HES or the Summer School.

As a hiring manager, I don t care about pedigree. I want to know if you have the chops to do the work I need you to do, so I ll be testing for that. In the software industry at least, the people you want to work for share that quality. My experience has shown that school name and performance have a weak correlation, at best.

Trying to make the ALM into something it s not does disservice to the serious commitment of work you expended to earn that degeree (if you make it through the program).

It s a unique degree. Most people earning an ALM from Harvard University did so while employed full-time, and did so later in their lives than the average graduate student.

A shockingly few number of students who take classes through HES earn a degree, undergraduate and graduate combined. The courses are often the same as those taught in Harvard College or through one of the graduate schools.

Don t pursue an ALM if you re primarily looking for the name-drop.

Do pursue an ALM if you re looking for an intellectually demanding and rigorous program taught by some of the brightest minds in academia. If you earn solid marks, it will demonstrate that you ve honestly mastered the material you ve studied.

A parting thought: since I ve written a few answers to questions similar to this one, I get questions about HES semi-regularly. There used to be a cool forum to direct folks to that got closed, but a new one was put up here:

It s tough for those of us truly remote from other classmates to find a community, so if you re a current student or are curious about becoming one, I d recommend giving that resource a look as well.

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