There are more than 13,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the US alone. However, the educational institution affiliated with it, Hamburger University (Hamburger U or HU) has only one campus in the country. And now you may be wondering if getting into it is as easy as finding a nearby McDonald’s branch or as hard as getting accepted into an Ivy League.
Getting into Hamburger University is not as easy as getting into traditional colleges and universities. That’s because only eligible applicants are McDonald’s employees, particularly current and emerging managers, and, until recently, franchise owners. At one HU campus, the acceptance rate is 1%.
Here’s a fun fact about Hamburger U that you might want to know before reading the rest of this post: the very first HU classes were held in the basement of a McDonald’s branch in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
And now, here are some quick stats on Hamburger University worth checking out:
- Location: Chicago, Illinois (main campus)
- Founding date: 1961
- Motto: Learning today, leading tomorrow
- Campus size: 80 acres
- Campus type: Urban
- School type: Corporate university
- Reputation: Non-party school
- Selectivity level: Highly selective
- Number of degrees conferred: 1
- Student body: More than 5,000 per year
- Number of graduates: Around 300,000 since its founding
Keep on reading whether you are simply curious about this training facility affiliated with McDonald’s or actually planning on earning a degree from it. Below, you will come across practically everything you need to know about Hamburger University prior to finally deciding to include it in your college list.
But before anything else, let’s deal with the elephant in the room by answering this pressing question…
Is Hamburger University a Real College?
Hamburger University is a real degree-granting institution. Besides its main campus in Chicago, Illinois, Hamburger U has seven other branches across the globe. HU is an actual college, so much so that credits earned from it can be applied toward an associate or bachelor’s degree at other institutions.
There are a couple of reasons why many wonder whether or not Hamburger U is an actual school.
First, there’s the fact that it bears a name that sounds like it’s completely made up — it’s not uncommon for many diploma mills and fly-by-night educational institutions to christen themselves after well-known colleges and universities in order to make themselves appear totally legit and reliable. Hamburg University. Hamburger University. Need I say more?
HU is named as such because it was founded first and foremost to train employees of McDonald’s in the art of restaurant management — to date, it has produced around 300,000 degree holders.
Second, it seems like none of the most popular and trusted college ranking sites include Hamburger University on their lists. It doesn’t mean right away, however, that the institution should be avoided at all costs.
US News itself, for instance, admits that it does not rank specialty schools, such as Hamburger U, because usable data from these institutions in various categories are too few, which can fend off a fair comparison. The well-known college ranker agrees that specialty schools would require a different system of ranking altogether.
Despite having such a name and not appearing on college rankings, there is no denying that Hamburger University is a legitimate institution that offers legitimate degrees.
One proof of this is that Hamburger U is a member of an accredited association of degree-granting schools in the US — had HU not been a real college, it would have never been a part of the alliance in the first place. We will discuss this matter thoroughly in a few — so don’t stop reading now if you are interested in attending the school!
Hamburger University has various campuses all over the world. As of this writing, there are eight of them.
Then there is the fact that HU is affiliated with McDonald’s, which is considered the world’s largest fast-food restaurant chain on the face of the planet, with over 39,000 branches in about 100 countries.
Because there are so many things that make Hamburger U legit, it cannot be denied that it’s a real college.
Acceptance Rate at Hamburger University
The acceptance rates at some Hamburger University campuses are lower than some of the most selective colleges and universities in the US. For instance, at its Shanghai, China campus, it is said that only 1% of applicants get admitted. In order to be allowed to attend Hamburger U, one must be nominated.
When building a college list, many college-bound teens look at the acceptance rates of schools before deciding whether or not they should be shortlisted.
For most students far from being top-performing, the lower the acceptance rate, the lower the admissions chances.
Well, it’s not just Hamburger University itself that some people may find surprising but also its acceptance rate — at some campuses, the number of applicants getting an acceptance letter can be very low. As a matter of fact, your chances of gaining admission at any Ivy League school are higher than at HU.
For the class of 2025, the Ivy League with the lowest overall acceptance rate is Harvard University, admitting only 3.4% of all applicants. The acceptance rate at the Shanghai campus of Hamburger University is a mere 1%.
Hamburger U is not only a legit college — getting into it can be legitimately hard!
In order for your application to be considered by the admissions officers at HU, you will have to be a manager or in line to become one at any McDonald’s branch.
Otherwise, chances are that your application will wind up in the denied pile. It’s exactly because of this requirement why Hamburger U can be considered as one selective school.
But refrain from assuming that just because you are a manager or being groomed to take on such a role within the McDonald’s system means that you can have the privilege to attend Hamburger University — you will have to be really good at what you do in order to receive a nomination from the franchise owner.
Speaking of which, since 2019, Hamburger University has also opened its doors to independent franchise owners who wish to earn a degree from it.
Is Hamburger University Accredited?
Hamburger University is accredited. HU is a member of the American Council on Education (ACE), which is the only major association of higher education to represent various accredited degree-granting institutions in the US. As a matter of fact, in 2005, it was awarded 46 college credit recommendations by ACE.
When in doubt as to the legitimacy and reliability of a college or university, there is one simple step that you can take in order to bring the confusion to an end: check whether or not it’s accredited.
Accreditation-wise, you can rest assured that you can put your trust in Hamburger U.
That’s because it’s a member of an association where only accredited degree-granting institutions, two-year and four-year alike, are welcomed. The Washington, DC-based council, to date, has a membership of more than 1,700 colleges and universities, related associations and other organizations in the US and abroad.
It’s true that Hamburger University first came into being in order to provide McDonald’s employees training. However, refrain from assuming that everything you will gain from attending it is only good if you are planning to work for the top fast-food chain with a net worth of around $170 billion.
Because of the fact that HU’s curriculum has credit recommendations from ACE, the degree and the corresponding credits you can earn from it can have real-world value outside of McDonald’s.
For instance, you can use it to apply for a job or enroll in an associate or bachelor’s degree program.
In addition, thanks to ACE’s college credit recommendations, McDonald’s employees can also gain Credit for Prior Learning (CPL), which they can leverage to their advantage at accepting college. Simply put, this lets the fast-food chain’s workers earn credits for knowledge and skills gained outside a traditional classroom.
Whether earned by attending Hamburger U or working at a McDonald’s branch, credits can be transferred to colleges and universities that honor them, thus allowing degree-seeking students to save both time and money.
What Degree Can You Earn at Hamburger University?
Hamburger University confers only one degree since its inception: a bachelor’s degree in Hamburgerology. Unlike a traditional bachelor’s degree, a Hamburgerology degree consists of only 23 credits, although students holding senior managerial positions within the McDonald’s system can earn up to 27 credits.
There are literally hundreds of undergraduate degree options available for graduating high schoolers to choose from, which can make the college application process both exciting and stressful.
After all, a college degree can make it possible for one to be able to take a preferred career path.
At Hamburger University, on the other hand, there is only one degree available, and it’s none other than what the school refers to as a bachelor’s degree in Hamburgerology. With a name such as that, many can’t help but suppose that the degree conferred by HU is all about mastery in cooking and eating McDonald’s hamburgers.
Completing a Hamburgerology degree program involves taking courses about leadership skills, customer service, procedures, restaurant operations and many others. Besides reading textbooks, students are also required to partake in meetings and role-playing scenarios held at on-campus laboratories and interactive rooms.
Besides the pre-requisite courses for the bachelor’s degree in Hamburgerology, there are also specific courses available for other types of leaders within the McDonald’s system.
Some examples include introduction to management, general management, shift management and guest services.
These courses are required to be completed successfully before attendees can take what’s called GM capstone, which, as the name suggests, is designed for individuals who are aiming to shine in top-level management positions.
It is said that over 40% of McDonald’s senior leaders across the globe are graduates of Hamburger U.
What Can You Do With a Hamburger University Degree
A degree earned at Hamburger University allows the holder to advance his or her leadership career within the McDonald’s system. Because of the knowledge and skills established by the coursework, a bachelor’s degree in Hamburgerology can also be used in various business and organizational environments.
It’s true that you will have to be a McDonald’s employee, in particular a current or emerging manager, or a franchise owner before you can gain admission into Hamburger U.
However, it isn’t just within the McDonald’s structure that you can employ a degree obtained from HU.
The goal of Hamburger University is to teach its students the art of restaurant management, equipping them with an assortment of skills that they can take home with them and implement in their respective McDonald’s branches.
So, in other words, HU graduates are authorities in running and managing restaurants.
As mentioned earlier, it wasn’t too long ago when Hamburger U also started admitting franchise owners, having a curriculum specifically designed for them.
Because of the various leadership and ownership skills that one can master from attending HU, a degree the institution confers can be used to climb up the corporate ladder within the McDonald’s system, either by taking on a higher-level managerial position or seeking a post at the leading fast-food restaurant chain’s corporate office.
A bachelor’s degree in Hamburgerology, however, can also prove to be valuable outside the McDonald’s structure.
For instance, you can use your HU degree to apply for an administrative job at another organization or company (although taking it to a direct competitor of McDonald’s may prove to be not the smartest move). You may also use it as a credential to establish your own money-making venture whether in the food industry or otherwise.
Finally, you can also use the credits you have earned at Hamburger University to get your hands on a certificate, diploma or even an associate or bachelor’s degree — according to ACE, around 1,600 colleges and universities in the US honor HU credits, which can mean a cheaper cost of attendance and faster graduation, too.
How Much Does It Cost to Attend Hamburger University
The cost of attending Hamburger University is zero. That’s because the company and/or franchise owners are the ones who pay for the Hamburgerology degree program of its employees. McDonald’s considers attending HU a form of training, which is why it makes going to it accessible to qualified individuals.
Most graduating high schoolers and their parents consider cost as one of the most important factors in the college selection process. This is especially true for those from low-income backgrounds.
College costs can be steeper at selective private institutions and out-of-state public schools.
Because Hamburger University has only eight campuses all over the globe and only one of them is situated in the US, chances are that you will attend HU as an out-of-state student if you are a non-resident of Illinois, which is where its main campus is located and may be worrying about the costs if you are planning on earning a degree from it.
Well, there’s good news: attending Hamburger U is absolutely cost-free. This means that there are no tuition and fees and room and board and textbooks and supplies to worry about — everything is taken care of by HU!
It’s also important for many students gearing up for college to choose schools that offer some of the most competitive financial aid packages out there, which is why filling out the FAFSA is a critical part of the college application process, too. But because going to Hamburger University costs zero dollars, one need not worry about scholarship-related matters.
While pursuing a degree at Hamburger U is completely free of charge, pursuing an associate or bachelor’s degree afterward, isn’t. But fret not as McDonald’s offers scholarships to HU graduates who like to further their education.
As mentioned a few times already in this post, the credits you earn from Hamburger University are transferable to colleges and universities that accept them, which results in reduced college costs.
When it comes to becoming an HU student, shelling out money should be the least of your concerns. What you will have to invest, on the other hand, is your time and dedication — you will have to be a McDonald’s employee who is holding a managerial position or is about to be promoted as one before you can become eligible to attend it.
Of course, attending Hamburger University is not the only option.
Thinking about getting your hands on a degree at your top-choice traditional college or university while being a McDonald’s employee?
Then you may be eligible for an Archways to Opportunity scholarship, which provides tuition assistance amounting to as much as $7,500 to individuals employed by McDonald’s.
Just Before You Apply to Hamburger University
You can’t just apply to Hamburger University through the Common App or Coalition App — you have to be invited to attend it. And before you get an invitation to attend it, you need to be either a manager or upcoming manager at a McDonald’s branch or a franchise owner first.
Contrary to what many people assume, Hamburger U is a real college.
The degree it confers, which is a bachelor’s degree in Hamburgerology, can be used to further one’s career in the McDonald’s system or apply for a managerial or administrative job at another company. The credits students earn from it can also be transferred to some two-year or four-year degree-granting institutions for undergraduate studies.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.