You’ve done all the work: studied hard, attended online classes, and reached out to your professors when needed. Now you have that hard-earned diploma or certificate in hand and are ready to enter the workforce.
But there’s one important question to answer first: do employers accept online degrees? Fortunately, the answer is increasingly a resounding “yes!” According to the National Center for Education Statistics, at least 75 percent of students take one or more courses online, especially since the pandemic made this format more common. Because of this, employers have come to realize that an online degree can be just as rigorous as one earned on campus. Below, we’ll take a deep dive into what that means for you.
Most Employers Accept Online Degrees
According to Northeastern University’s 2018 study, Educational Credentials Come of Age, “…employer acceptance of credentials earned online has been slowly and steadily increasing.” When the study was released five years ago, 61 percent of HR leaders believed that online credentials and degrees were of equal quality to those learned in person. This number has likely increased since then.
In addition, the study showed that 71 percent of HR professionals had personally hired someone with an online degree or credential. As more and more colleges and institutions have adopted online programs, from Ivy Leagues down to local community colleges, it has become increasingly common for hiring managers to receive multiple resumes from online degree holders for every job available.
How to Market Your Online Degree
When you are writing your resume or in an interview, there is no rule that says you need to explain how you earned your degree, whether that’s online or in person. However, if an interviewer asks you, there is no harm in being honest.
You can turn this into a real selling point for yourself. How? Online students tend to be motivated, disciplined, and focused on getting all the value they can get from their degrees. This is worth pointing out to recruiters and HR professionals.
Writing your resume
When filling out the education section of your resume, there’s no need to indicate that your degree was earned online. In your cover letter, however, you may want to note that your online degree sets you apart, in a good way, from other candidates. Consider the following points:
- Because you earned your degree online, it’s clear that you’re tech-savvy and able to work comfortably with technology.
- Many online students juggle multiple responsibilities, such as family or jobs. This indicates that you are experienced in time management skills and can handle more than one task at a time at work.
- Online students sometimes need to make an extra effort to connect with professors or fellow students. For example, it’s not as easy to ask questions if you are taking courses asynchronously. This indicates you are willing to go the extra mile to build and maintain connections and find solutions to challenges that may present themselves.
- The fact that you did not have the chance to experience some of the more popular aspects of in-person education, such as weekend parties and to attend school sporting events, means you are genuinely focused on your goals and can sift out the essentials from the extraneous. You are skilled, in other words, at knowing what’s most important and making that your top priority.
Passing the interview
All the points we’ve mentioned above are fair game for your interview. You have one goal in an interview: convince your interviewer that you’re the best choice for the job. One way to do that is to look at the tasks involved in that job and apply them to your situation.
So, for example, if you are applying for a job that lists “must be able to multitask” as a requirement, you can easily use the example of your online education to show your skill in this area. This is particularly true if you worked during your education or have family commitments. Someone with young children is specially equipped to speak to this since juggling the needs of children with the demands of online coursework can be challenging.
When you choose an online program from an accredited educational institution and leverage the skills you learned to obtain a good job, you will get more than your money’s worth.
How to Find a Respectable Online Degree Program
Those statistics are promising, but it’s also true that some online programs are more respectable than others. You, the prospective student, need to research to determine if your chosen institution is a solid, acceptable choice or a diploma mill that churns out graduates without offering much educational benefit.
How do you know the truth? Here are two ways you can tell legitimate schools from those to be avoided.
For-profit vs. nonprofit
There’s a big difference between for-profit and nonprofit institutions, and the latter is a far better choice for most students. For-profit colleges and universities exist primarily to make money for their owners or stockholders. To do this, they may cut corners wherever possible, hiring sub-standard professors and doing little to ensure their students receive a top-notch education.
On the other hand, nonprofits are created primarily to serve students rather than make money. You may pay more for a degree at a nonprofit institution, but you can be sure that your tuition dollars are being re-invested in the school, hiring well-educated professors, and supplying easy-to-use online interfaces to make learning accessible and simple.
All public colleges and universities are nonprofits. Many private institutions are as well. Private nonprofits tend to be expensive, but public institutions often have low tuition rates, especially for in-state residents. Nonprofits also have much higher graduation rates than for-profit colleges.
How can you be sure your chosen institution offers an education that HR managers will accept? Accreditation is one way of knowing. Most colleges and universities are assessed on a regular basis, often every five to ten years, by an accrediting organization. These groups put a school under a microscope, ensuring that the programs are well-managed, teachers have the experience necessary to teach properly, and high standards are upheld across the institution.
To find out if a school is accredited, look on the website, often under an “about us” link, or ask an admissions counselor. Find out who the accrediting agency is, and then check the Counsel for Higher Education Accreditation website to be sure the agency is recognized. By doing this, you can be sure that your chosen institution is held to high standards and that its programs are robust and of high academic value.