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This is a little bit of a non-technical question for those working in the software development field.

My employer has spent a fair amount to renovate 2 executive offices into 1 software development area. There are 3 programmers here, and I am the only one who holds a degree, and the only general software developer - my co-workers program in a scripting language that controls our hardware product.

I feel that my employer is attempting to demonstrate to customers and others who visit the office that they are taking an active step in quality and functionality control by bringing the development in house (some of it has previously been contracted out).

I feel that we're being looked after; new furniture, new hardware to work on, etc.

I am considering whether it is appropriate to display my degree in the office. I generally feel that it would be fine, I'm proud of it and worked hard for it. My only hesitation is that there are engineers here who are much more well established in their careers who don't display any of their certifications (mind you, their work area is constructed of partition walls instead of drywall, but I don't think this is the deciding factor, but may be).

I would, of course, consult my employer before hanging anything on the walls, but I thought it would be good to get a feel before approaching them.

What has been your experience with this sort of decision, and are there other considerations that I am overlooking?

Thanks

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You should be proud of your degree, but that in itself is no reason to display it. I think there is more to this than you mention. Ask yourself what reason you really have for even wanting to display it. Are you looking for recognition? A pat on the back for having achieved what you did? If so, why is that important to you? A medical doctor would display his/her degrees perhaps to convince his/her patients that (s)he is qualified to treat them. Are you trying to convince visiting customers of your competency? Why? Wouldn't they simply assume that you are competent because you were hired? –  Marjan Venema Jul 7 '11 at 18:47
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Far more appropriate would be to hang a framed Hollerith card from the first stack you dropped. Decorations that give you cred without looking like a blowfish are usually hardware artifacts from wars long past (e.g. a PDP-10 switch panel) –  Mark Mann Jul 7 '11 at 18:59
    
"mind you, their work area is constructed of partition walls instead of drywall, but I don't think this is the deciding factor, but may be" - this gave me a chuckle... this is exactly why I didn't hang my company-given plaque on my cube wall for many years... I literally couldn't figure out how! After all, I'm a SW developer, not an architect! :) –  bethlakshmi Jul 7 '11 at 19:23
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I would never hang my own degree, because being smart and being educated are correlated, albeit independent attributes. Had Évariste Galois died at 30 instead of 20, the work of many of the current math professors at MIT and elsewhere would be unnecessary. His entire life's math work amounted to only 60 pages, but those 60 pages are worth a lot more than the paper on which math diplomas from Harvard will be printed this year. People are stuupid, and that piece of paper we got in our early twenties is laughable. –  Job Jul 7 '11 at 19:44
    
@Marjan There might be some insecurity at work, generally yes, it would be for visiting customers and your point is well taken. –  Stephen Jul 7 '11 at 20:24
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closed as off topic by MichaelT, Robert Harvey, gnat, thorsten müller, Kilian Foth Apr 9 '13 at 8:01

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11 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Short answer: No, your colleagues will make fun of you behind your back.

Longer answer: I think this question is well proxied by the question "should I put my academic qualifications on my business card"; the answer to which is that it depends on the culture in the country where you are working. In Europe and the US the answer to that question is generally "only if you have a PhD and only if that PhD is relevant to your job" and this is debatable. Conversely in I believe India it is standard to put down as many letters after your name as possible.

If you shouldn't put them on your business card, you shouldn't display them to your colleagues; nothing good will come of it.

We've all worked hard to get where we are and personally I think that when working with others it is best not to try to differentiate oneself from them.

--

The Mouth of a Cow BSc MSc (Oxon) PhD LOL

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+1 when working with others it is best not to try to differentiate oneself from them –  Stephen Jul 7 '11 at 20:26
    
+1 unless that degree confers something upon you that is required to fulfill your job role (Like a doctors does) nothing is gained. –  Chad Jul 7 '11 at 21:09
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BSc is bronze swimming certificate right? –  jk. Apr 8 '13 at 22:50
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Typically the reason to post a degree on the wall is to instill confidence in customers who are unable to judge your credentials for themselves. This is why lawyers and doctors tend to have diplomas posted on the wall behind their desks, clearly visible from the seats across from them.

Your motives are sort of in line with this -- you mention your employer is attempting to increase credibility with customers -- but on the other hand, you are not personally trying to win the customer's confidence, the company is. If your customers are touring your office, they probably aren't uninformed individuals; they represent other businesses, who will care more about the company as a whole rather than whether one of the employees has a degree.

Also, consider how suspicious it looks that only one degree is displayed in a room with three engineers? Whereas before nobody would have thought of it, now you've introduced a question about the others' qualifications.

In general, I think it's only appropriate to post your degree if:

  1. You have an office all to yourself, or
  2. Part of your job is convincing potential clients of your capabilities.

It doesn't sound like either of these applies to you.

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Wow, really good point about the other members' qualifications. –  lunchmeat317 Jun 5 '13 at 15:51
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When I graduated college and held my first job, I had my diploma prominently displayed in my office. I was very proud of it. Many of my co-workers joked that it made me look like a Doctor, maybe because they were jealous.

At any rate, in the past 7 years I have not been to one place where displaying your credentials as a software engineer was commonplace, so it stays mothballed currently at home because I have no suitable place to display it. I have worked at very small Companies to large Companies in the US and I have not seen one programmer display their degree/diploma.

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I've never worked anywhere where people did display it, but there is nothing wrong, etiquette-wise with displaying it. –  BBlake Jul 7 '11 at 18:49
    
@BBlake: I agree. For some reason it is just odd for SW Engineers to display their CS or CIS degree. Civil Engineers display their degree. –  staticx Jul 7 '11 at 18:50
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@0A0D: SW Engineering is not always recognized as Professional engineering, whereas civil is (at least around here). –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jul 7 '11 at 18:57
    
@Frustrated: Yes, you are correct. It is only recognized in Texas. (in the US anyways). –  staticx Jul 7 '11 at 18:59
    
@0A0D: CEs display their degrees? My wife's an engineer (mechanical), and I don't think I've seen any of the engineers in her (engineering services) company display their degrees. They're all mechanical or electrical, though, maybe that makes a difference. –  TMN Jul 8 '11 at 17:14
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Needless to say, everyone has their own opinion. It's a hard call, since being too heavy handed in promoting your credentials will get you mocked, while being to shy may make you under-appreciated.

My guidelines would be:

  • is it common anywhere in the business? It turns out that in my company, company given award display is common, the hottest new certification is sometimes done, Master's degrees are sometimes done and BS degrees are always skipped. People with lots of bling to hang around tend to pick 1-2 favorites and shelve the rest.

  • does it help the business? one of the reasons people in my company brand their email, business cards and cube walls with the CISSP/ISSEP certifications is that these are a big deal with our customers and the customers like to see how super qualified we are. So you're not "bragging", you're "helping the team"

  • do you have your own nook? I almost never see it in open environments, but in private offices or cubes it seems more common.

And one guideline - always spend more time using your education than telling people about it. In other words - if it makes very little difference in the day to day life of your group that you have the extra qualification, then don't hype it so much. The person I was most interested in mocking was someone who went above and beyond to tell the world about a number of certifications that were not a primary focus of the particular background and skillset of what he brought to the table. If the only way I'd know you had a degree is that you clubbed me in the head with the diploma, then avoid hanging it.

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+1 "always spend more time using your education than telling people about it" ... I wasn't worried about convincing my co-workers, I do let my work speak for itself, thanks for reminding me to let it speak to customers etc as well. –  Stephen Jul 7 '11 at 20:30
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I just graduated, but my diploma is staying at home (once I actually get the thing in the mail...). Currently on my bookshelf, I'm displaying my IEEE CSDA certification, a copy of the Obligation of the Engineer, and a couple of achievement awards from previous jobs are sitting in frames on a lower shelf.

Typically, my walls at work are occupied by whiteboards and various notes and diagrams and memos posted with push pins. These are things that I find valuable to help me get my job done, which is what my company is paying me to do. Posting all kinds of diplomas and awards on the wall would eat up valuable space for things that help me be effective, I think.

The deciding factor should be corporate culture. Look at what other people in your position have done. Typically, in my experiences, the most senior engineers, business staff, and management personnel with private offices are the ones who have their diplomas and awards hanging on their walls. These are also the people who receive the most visitors from outside the team or organization, and I would suspect that they think that displaying their credentials gives them credibility to these visitors.

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I think this is going to be my approach, I'm going to decorate with work :-) Whiteboard, shelf for books, etc as this seems to be the general feel here. –  Stephen Jul 7 '11 at 20:28
    
I think it's much more practical, especially if you have a hands-on position. It'll make you look productive (and hopefully be more productive too), plus the books that you have around your desk will say a lot about the kind of work you do and what kinds of things you find interesting (especially if you have technical books that aren't directly applicable to your current duties). –  Thomas Owens Jul 7 '11 at 21:36
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Managers and higher ups are ones where I've tended to see their degree in some cases. I graduated back in '97 and while I did have to supply a copy in order to get a visa to work in the US, I haven't often pondered about displaying it in my cube. I suspect if I had an office with full walls and some freedom to hang whatever I wanted within reason that then I may put up my degree but even then it would likely be more of a conversation piece than anything else as seeing my Combinatorics & Optimization major may make some people go, "What is that?"

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If you just graduated then display it - it is only reasonable to be proud.

If life is back to normal, then consider not to unless you have some legal obligation to or everybody else have their displayed.

People may consider you to be bragging or putting down on others who haven't got a degree.

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I graduated a year ago but your final point is exactly what I was concerned about. Better to avoid that pitfall!! :) –  Stephen Jul 7 '11 at 20:31
    
In any way, consider WHY you want it up in your office, and not at home? –  user1249 Jul 7 '11 at 21:11
    
It's currently up in my office at home, where it'll remain :) –  Stephen Jul 7 '11 at 23:07
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I can't imagine anyone would care, but if you're this concerned about it I'd listen to your gut. Its not like you're losing anything of consequence by not having it there.

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I'd imagine that posting your degree on your wall isn't a big deal. It's not done out of bragging but out of a sense of fulfillment. I think others will think the same. Not that youre looking down on them but almost encouraging yourself of your accomplishments.

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I would go for displaying technical certificates and PhDs relative to job function leaving everything else off. Employers are very often only concerned about very specific, job-related skills whereas degrees in general demonstrate you know how to learn. In some cases, like getting a BS in mathematics and then going on to become a programmer, it might be down right confusing or detrimental as others walk in and see it. In the end, it is a judgment call though.

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I think it is determined by the culture of your profession. In the counseling profession it is displayed a lot for the same reason Dr., and Lawers do it you customers want to know that you have been professionaly trained, not just talking out the side of your mouth.

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