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You may know McDonald’s as that place where students go to get a cheap fast food meal to fuel their studies. But did you know that McDonald’s is also responsible for educating the next generation of successful restaurant managers and owners?

As one of the world’s largest employers with restaurants dotting the globe, McDonald’s has created an educational institution where they can train their staff members. In some ways, McDonald’s University is more difficult to get into than Harvard and staff members who attend this school can graduate with a very unique degree in Hamburgerology.

If you’re passionate about the fast-food industry, you’ll want to read on to learn more about McDonald’s University, including its history and what you can study.

Mcdonald’s University restaurant golden arches logo
Photo by Joiarib Morales Uc on Unsplash

What is McDonald’s University?

McDonald’s University, also known as Hamburger University, was established in 1961 for the purpose of teaching its employees the business of restaurant management. The university’s first graduating class in Illinois had 14 students, but today, there are over 5,000 McDonald’s University students worldwide every year.

According to its website, McDonald’s University’s mission is to become an “organizational culture hub, introducing a continuous education process for the value chain and transforming knowledge into actual business results.”
The History of McDonald’s Hamburger University

Hamburger University is historically significant since, at the time of their establishment, McDonald’s was the first restaurant company to offer a global training program in the world.

When it was founded in 1961, the original campus was located in Oak Brook, Illinois. It began in the basement of a McDonald’s restaurant, where Fred Turner, a grill cook, operated the educational program.

With the help and support of Ray Crock, the founder of McDonald’s, Turner would go on to contribute significantly to the growth of McDonald’s and eventually became the CEO for 20 years. In 2018, the campus along with the McDonald’s headquarters were both moved to Chicago.

At the time of their establishment, McDonald’s was the first restaurant company to offer a global training program in the world. After growing from humble beginnings, today, Hamburger University has eight international campuses. Aside from Illinois, there are also campuses in Tokyo, Munich, London, Sydney, São Paulo, Shanghai, and Moscow.

Hamburger University has trained more than just restaurant staff and managers. Many of the company’s senior leadership has also studied there, including former McDonald’s USA president, Mike Andres. In fact, Business Insider reports that approximately 40% of McDonald’s global leadership has attended Hamburger University.

What Can You Study at McDonald’s University?

Before you get your hopes up, no, a degree in Hamburgerology doesn’t involve grilling and eating burgers all day. Students of the university take courses about restaurant operations, leadership skills, customer service, operations, procedures, and more.

General managers are brought into McDonald’s University to partake in role-playing scenarios, have meetings, and take courses that will teach them skills they can take back and implement in their restaurants.

A student from a class at the US campus reported her roleplaying experience to the Chicago Tribune. Students visited a mock McDonald’s restaurant and were then given foods to sample. They had to identify what was wrong with the food and what mistakes by the staff caused the food to taste different.

Besides role-playing experiences, students at Hamburger University can also take classes related to shift management, guest services, and general management. The courses are focused on developing leadership skills, working and learning in a team, and preparing for challenging scenarios.

What Does Hamburger University Cost?

Sure, a degree in Hamburgerology sounds great, but what does this all cost?

Well, nothing.

Since the program is only open for McDonald’s employees, the company and its franchisees pay the cost of attending Hamburger University, leaving no costs to the students. Since studying at McDonald’s University is seen as employee training, McDonald’s wants to make it as accessible as possible for successful applicants.

That being said, McDonald’s also offers scholarships and tuition assistance programs for McDonald’s employees and Hamburger University graduates who want to pursue a college degree.

The even better news? Some of the credits you earn from your degree in Hamburgerology can be transferred to other colleges and universities, giving you a free head-start on your higher education.

What Can You Do With a Hamburgerology Degree?

A free degree that helps you grow in your current role is a great gift, but what else can you really do with a degree from Hamburger University? Here are a few things you can do to put your Hamburgerology degree to good use:

  • Grow in a management role at a McDonald’s restaurant
  • Seek management roles at McDonald’s corporate offices
  • Take the restaurant business skills you’ve learned to a different management job
  • Apply your credits towards a university degree or professional certification

Person eating McDonald’s hamburger

Photo by Szabo Viktor on Unsplash

When looking for a university to further your studies after graduating from McDonald’s University, consider looking at online schools. With online distance education, such as University of the People, you can keep your current job (at McDonald’s or elsewhere) to sharpen the management skills you learn while you study for an accredited degree.

Fun Facts About McDonald’s Hamburger University

Are you still hungry to know more about McDonald’s fascinating Hamburger University? Check out these fun facts to get a better understanding of the school and the coveted Hamburgerology degree.

  • Getting into Hamburger University is no easy feat. In fact, the acceptance rates are lower than both Oxford and Harvard! Some McDonald’s University campuses have an acceptance rate of about 1%, making this a very competitive program for McDonald’s employees.
  • Hamburger University is no piece of cake. Students have an intense course load, including 2,000 hours of training.
  • There are no academic requirements to apply. Rather, participants are nominated by franchise owners if they demonstrate exemplary work performance or management potential.
  • To date, Hamburger University has graduated about 300,000 students from its program.
  • There are a handful of full-time college professors that teach at McDonald’s University, with the ability to teach in over two dozen languages.
  • The university houses cutting-edge technology to ease learning, as well as over a dozen teaching rooms, three kitchen labs, an auditorium with hundreds of seats, and interactive-education rooms.
  • Finally, as you were probably wondering, yes, you will receive an official diploma upon graduation for your degree in Hamburgerology, which you can proudly hang at home or at your McDonald’s restaurant.

To Wrap Up

While many people may see the Hamburger University jokingly, its students see it as an incredible opportunity. There aren’t many chances to get a free education that can substantially impact your career, but McDonald’s has made sure to reward its outstanding employees with this unique opportunity.

If you’re looking for other tuition-free ways to learn new and useful skills and earn a degree while working, check out the University of the People’s business administration programs, a fantastic place to get started on your higher education and earn a prestigious degree from anywhere in the world.