Are Online Degrees Looked Down Upon by Employers?

When online programs started, many were skeptical. How in the world could anyone obtain the knowledge needed for a degree by sitting in front of a computer (in their pajamas, no less) and reading? Doesn’t someone seeking a degree need to attend face-to-face classes at a college campus to get an adequate learning experience?

The answer to that is a resounding “no”. Online education has come so far in recent years. Courses do not consist merely of reams of papers, articles, and textbook chapters for the learner to read. They are interactive, with course discussions, collaborative group work, video clips, interactive media pieces, and social networking. These all provide for a positive learning experience and meet the needs of online students everywhere.

Consider some common online student profiles. He is a member of the military, stationed halfway around the world, far from a college campus. However, he wants a degree to give him a bright future after his time in the service is up. She is a working mother of three, who always wanted to get her MBA, but with three children and a full-time job, she cannot possibly attend classes a couple of evenings each week. He is someone who wants to attend college, but he lives in a remote area, and the only college nearby does not offer the degree he desires.

Online students are typically industrious, hard-working, and motivated. They generally score higher in comparable courses than their on-campus counterparts. Who wouldn’t want this type of student as an employee? In the past, companies viewed online learning skeptically, in spite of the qualifications that the potential employee had. However, that has changed in recent years. Consider the following evidence:

  • A 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (reported in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance) found that online degrees are viewed far more favorably than they were just five years ago.
  • Eduventures Continuing and Professional Education surveyed 505 employers and found that more than 62% of them have a favorable attitude toward online learning. In fact, most of them perceive the quality to be the same or even greater than the quality of face-to-face, brick-and-mortar institutions.
  • Metrejean and Noland (2011) surveyed 107 CPA firms about online degrees and the effect of them on the hiring process. The CPA firm recruiters did not perceive a difference in candidates with online degrees versus candidates with traditional degrees.
  • Excelsior College and Zogby International conducted a survey in which 83% of executives said that an online degree is as valid as one earned in the traditional manner.

One attribute of online schools and degree programs that is very significant is accreditation. Employers indicate that an online degree from an accredited institution definitely is more credible than one from an institution that does not have this stamp of approval. So, when you are looking for an online program, be sure to investigate the accreditation status of the school.

For example, many online degree granting institutions are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Many institutions also have accreditation of the various colleges within the institution. Colleges of education often have NCATE (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) Accreditation; colleges of business may be accredited by AACSB – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

As you pursue an online degree, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Your diploma will not have an “earned online” stamp; it is a regular diploma, indicating that you earned your undergraduate degree, or master’s degree, or Ph.D.

And when you go for an interview, the prospective employer will usually not look at your resume’ and ask, “Did you go to campus for your degree, or did you do it online?” Even if she does ask you that, you may answer that question seamlessly by indicating the accreditation that your program boasts, and then describe the skills that you learned in your program that make you the right fit for the job.

Truly, it is most often not how you got your degree or even where you matriculated, but it is what you bring to the table that makes you a desirable candidate for a job. Things that cannot be put on paper – your work ethic, your attitude, your desire to learn and contribute to the organization – are the intangibles that helped you earn your online degree, and those are the things that will allow you to succeed in the workforce.

Are you interested in joining the growing number of online learners? If you are, here are our top recommendations of online schools.

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