If you’re considering earning a degree online, you’ll join over 3 million U.S. students enrolled in online higher education. Earning degrees online is becoming increasingly common, with the most prestigious schools now offering these types of education tracks. Although these programs are often marketed to busy professionals looking to earn their graduate degree, anyone who can make it through admissions is welcome to learn online, from an Associate’s degree to a Doctorate.
Although this modern way of learning is becoming more widely accepted, a portion of the population still looks down on any type of online higher education. Some students may also be concerned about learning online and wonder if their degree will say “online” in the title. Even though the stigma surrounding online education is shrinking, it’s understandable why you might be concerned about how your education is perceived. Below we’ll explore what it means to earn a degree online, how to choose the right college for you, and how to approach job-seeking with an online education.
Choosing the Right College
It’s important to note that there are online “institutions” claiming to offer comparable degrees. However, these organizations often lack the accreditation to be deemed legitimate by other colleges and employers. It’s true that students of these schools may learn relevant information within their field of study. However, without the quality assurance accreditation agencies provide, these diplomas are often seen as void when attempting to transfer schools or find a job with specific educational requirements.
It’s best to ensure the college you choose to attend is accredited by one of the country’s regional accrediting organizations to avoid issues around the legitimacy or quality of an online degree. The U.S. Department of Education offers a search tool that you can use to quickly find any given college program’s accreditation records. Some of the best, fully accredited schools in the country now offer online degree programs which are held in the same esteem as those completed on campus. If you need to take an exam for licensure or certification after graduation, be sure to check with your state to ensure you attend a school recognized by your local government.
With the rise in acceptance of online degrees from employers and post-secondary schools, there is also an increased potential for students to get scammed or waste precious time and resources. Due to the increased demand for online degree programs, there has also been an unfortunate increase in organizations pretending to offer full educational programs if you’re willing to pay. Universities and employers are also aware of this fact and will want to see transcripts and official documentation of any claimed educational experience on your resume. It’s best to stick with accredited and well-respected institutions to avoid scams and illegitimate degrees.
How Do Employers Feel About Online Degrees?
Although a considerable number of industries have shifted their view on degree and educational requirements, HR leaders believe there will continue to be a demand for higher levels of education. Over half of them also think that most higher education degrees will actually be earned online. Most employers understand that the dynamics around education and work are changing as the home office or home classroom becomes an everyday reality. In the years surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic alone, we saw a huge spike in the number of people working from home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people working primarily from home tripled between 2019 and 2021, jumping from 9 million to over 27 million at-home professionals.
With the majority of HR professionals understanding this shift in the educational experience, it’s safe to say that earning an online degree from an accredited institution should not be an issue for job seekers. Distance learning is now a mainstream option for students, and 61% of HR leaders consider online degrees equal in quality to those completed on campus. Of course, some employers look down upon online education or feel it is less than, but the numbers continue to shift each year toward a general acceptance.
Writing Your Resume
Resumes are your chance to showcase all of your hard work in the marketplace and the classroom. When you’re building out the education portion of your resume, you will list out all of the degrees and certificates relevant to the position you’re applying for. If you’ve earned any of your credentials online, there is no need to disclose this fact or list it as an “online degree.” Although most employers understand the change in modern education, there is still a stigma within the minority concerned about online degrees.
The numbers show that although 39% of HR leaders believe online education is lower quality, 71% have hired someone who earned their credentials or degree online. Most employers consider no difference in quality between the two types of education, especially if they know your degree was earned from an accredited school and program. These institutions are held to the highest educational standard and are required to provide online coursework at equal value.
How Should You Approach Job Interviews?
Similar to your resume, you are not required to disclose how you earned your degree during an interview. It’s also possible that an interviewer may not even ask how you received your education if they have your resume and/or transcripts. Also, your transcripts usually won’t disclose whether or not a degree was earned online unless the word “online” is within the title of the school or program. Just in case, be sure you know exactly what is stated on your transcripts before sending them to a potential employer to avoid any surprises.
All that said, you should always be honest if asked directly about your education. If your degree was earned online, the best approach is to be prepared beforehand with answers to common questions. If you are required to go into detail about learning online, a great technique is to highlight all of the positives of earning your degree as an off-campus student. Make a list of pros and personal insights into how your online education experience was of great benefit. Below we’ve compiled a list of common questions that may be asked during an interview. Take a look at our list to get a better idea of how to prepare thoughtful answers to these questions, so you’re not caught by surprise:
- Why did you choose [school] or [program]?
- Which course has helped you the most in your professional career?
- Why did you choose your major and/or minor?
- Tell me about your extracurricular activities.
- Why did you pursue your degree online?
- Did you receive the same quality of education as an on-campus program?
- Tell me about a time you had to work with your classmates on a project.