Tesla hiring preference?

Tesla hiring preference?

I would like to gain your insight into a topic that I am very invested in: my future. As a senior in high school the pressure to choose a college grows every day. Regardless of which school I choose, I will pursue some form of engineering. I am deciding between choosing to attend my state school (Oregon State University) or attend a liberal arts college (Whitman College) and finishing my engineering degree at Columbia University in New York.

I am curious how Tesla would view the difference between an engineering degree from Oregon State vs. Columbia University, were I to someday apply for an engineering position with your company. From a hiring standpoint, does your company prefer to hire individuals from a state school or a private institution? I ask these questions with the ultimate desire to one day work for a big tech company such as Tesla. I want to best prepare myself for the industry of cutting edge technology.

Thank you so much for any advice to one of your future engineers,
Roby Mann
Cleveland High School
Portland, OR

David N | April 4, 2017

Do not be too overly concerned with where you go to school. In an interview, Elon was asked how he conducts and interview with a potential employee. He stated (I'm paraphrasing now) "tell me about when you ran into a problem, and how did you solve it."
Notice he didn't say " what school did you attend".
Elon and Tesla are performance driven. It's not good enough to be good at what you do, you have to be a problem solver with passion. How do we do something that's never been done before? Find a way, find a solution to the problem.
Good luck in your studies.

Madatgascar | April 4, 2017


I'm a principal of an engineering firm, and while I agree with David when it comes to the interview, I will say that in order to even get your resume in the "interview" pile, the school matters a lot. I like to see engineers with liberal arts exposure because they generally communicate better and have good critical thinking skills. We are aware of the reputations of the specific engineering programs at the major universities, so it depends which field of engineering you are in, but often the state schools have great engineering programs - though sometimes more theoretical (less practical) than the private schools. In terms of overall reputation, Columbia is hard to beat.

If you are interested in a specific field of engineering, make sure to drill down on that and ask a lot of questions about the specific program. One you are in, keep talking to your advisor about your goals to make sure you get the preparation you need. Good luck!

reed_lewis | April 4, 2017

When you get to be my age (Over 50 but still working is all I will say), the school you went to means very little. It is more based on experience.

But when you are young and just out of college, the school you went to can be more important depending on the place you are looking for a job.

In terms of me, the first few places I worked could not care less about where I went to school, only that I knew how to write code well. But as tbouquet points out, you need to get your foot in the door. By having a good school history, that differentiates yourself from others.

But the biggest influence to get yourself in for an interview is networking and knowing people at the company you are applying to. The easiest jobs I ever got were where I had the job because of others talking about how I knew my stuff, etc. and the job was mine to lose.

dchuck | April 4, 2017


i have no specific recommendation on a school but i do have one for a book. ELON MUSK: TESLA, SPACEX, AND THE QUEST FOR A FANTASTIC FUTURE by Ashley Vance.

There are specific examples of what Elon looks for in an employee, as well as comments from some of the employee's themselves. It is a really good insight into the way the guy, and ultimately the company, works.

DTsea | April 4, 2017


I hire a lot of engineers. What i hear Tesla looks for is passion and hands on learning. For example the University of Washington SAE racing team is sometbing you should look at as an example. A strong mechanical or electrical engineering background and a passion for hardware will stand you well.

Bighorn | April 4, 2017

Get on a good hyperloop team! My sense is that Elon looks for the "best and the brightest" and stop one for the usual suspects is the big name schools. Lots of hiring from Stanford, MIT, CalTech, Ivies, etc but that doesn't mean lower echelon schools are ruled out--you just need to stand out for individual merits. Or be associated with a school that is recognized for its strengths in the field, for instance Jeff Dahn's battery program at Dalhousie.

Captain_Zap | April 4, 2017

Ultimately, the schools don't matter. The extracurricular activities related to your engineering passions do. Get those internships!

DTsea | April 4, 2017

Internships and ENGINEERING extracurriculars. Show you eat sleep and breathe it!

Frank99 | April 4, 2017

The big difference between a "name" school and a "no-name" school comes at graduation. At the "name" school, you've probably had the opportunity for a dozen or more interviews on-campus from "name" companies looking for smart people. At the "no-name" school, you've probably sent out several dozen cold-call resumes, and had a few interviews with "no-name" companies. In a lot of ways, companies use the higher education system to pre-screen employees - dumb, poor performers don't get into CalTech, and even if they did, they don't survive long. Thus, everyone you talk to in their Senior year at CalTech are smart and perform well (to a first-order approximation). You don't have the same guarantee for seniors at Podunk U - poor performers can much more often bluff their way through to a degree.

Perhaps one of the best ways to make a decision is to ask OSU and Columbia for their on-campus interview schedules for the Engineering school. Finding out who's interviewing at each place might help make a decision. Remember that it's not absolute - if Tesla isn't interviewing at OSU, it doesn't mean you can't send in a resume, get an interview, and get an offer. It's just harder with a lower probability of success.

I agree with some of the above posters, that after 5-10 years, nobody cares what school you came from. What you've done in the meantime has much more importance.

rxlawdude | April 4, 2017

What's that line about medical school? "What do you call the number one student in a graduating class? Doctor.
What do you call the bottom of the graduating class? Doctor."

bigd | April 4, 2017

rxlawdude +21

carlk | April 4, 2017

Tesla is considered a top tier Silicon Valley company now. Competition to get in top tier Silicon Valley companies is fierce. A stint at one of those companies goes really well on your resume and rest of your carrer. I don't know about Tesla but Google is said to receive 2 million applications a year. Being a top student from a top university will get noticed and probably is the minimum requirement to get a job there.

Using the medical school analogy the bottom student will be a doctor too but he would be the doctor practice in a small town in North Dakota.

Get in the best university you could. That can help you get in the door the rest still depends on you but that can't hurt.

Ross1 | April 5, 2017

SpaceX is hiring 500 people now, so watch SpaceX

brando | April 5, 2017

avoid debt

Ross1 | April 5, 2017

why avoid debt?

leomaxwell30 | January 28, 2020

Many people with engineering degrees acquire an MBA somewhere along the line, especially if they intend to go into management. Others do, mid-career, with an executive MBA degree. What will you do?