The flexibility of an online degree can make the prospect of continuing education seem achievable to many working Americans, but does earning a degree online give a graduate the same opportunity in the job force as a student earning their degree through a traditional on campus education?
There was a time when the answer would have been no, but as the number of well-respected colleges offering online degree programs grows, so does the likelihood of such a degree being accepted and respected among a mounting number of employers.
In fact, according to Rachel Zupek of CNN, a survey done by Excelsior College and Zogby International showed that more than 60 percent of employers across the nation are familiar with online degree programs. Zupek goes on to explain that over 80 percent of the executives surveyed considered an online degree just as credible as a traditional degree earned on campus.
Though acceptance of online degrees has grown among employers, there are still managers in the job market who prefer a traditional degree over one earned online. Danielle Jones, a Regional Manager for a corporate dental office in the Kansas City Missouri area says, “ If I have two applicants with the same qualifications and similar experience, one with a traditional degree, and one with an online degree, my preference will always be given to the candidate with the traditional degree because I feel like they have a more well-rounded education than students who take all of their classes online.”
Although employer perceptions do vary, there are some key things to keep in mind when entering the job force with an online degree.
First, according to IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity, familiarity can certainly be a mitigating factor. If a hiring manager recognizes your institution as a mainstay of higher education, then they are much more likely to recognize your online degree. In fact, with the growth of prominent schools across the nation offering the option of online degrees, many employers may not ever recognize your degree as one that was earned online.
Accreditation is also a crucial consideration when determining whether an online degree will be recognized by a prospective employer. David A. Tomar explains, “If you want your online degree to be taken seriously, start by making sure that it’s a serious degree, which is to say that it has been granted by a properly accredited online college.”
Additionally, experience will nearly always be a strong determinant when entering the job market. Considering internships, entry level positions, or volunteer opportunities within your field of study can be of great benefit during your search for employment. Louie Owens Jr., Proprietor and CEO of Only in a Dream Incorporated says, “Experience is what matters the most to me when I am screening applicants. I do not care if you received your degree on campus or online, if you do not have any experience to back that degree up, then I will keep looking for someone who does.”
Ultimately, there are a great many factors that employers will consider when learning that an applicant’s degree has been earned through a distance learning program, so students should prepare themselves well for interviews, keep an updated resume on-hand, and use their school’s career resources to prepare themselves for the job market.