Can Prospective Employers Tell that an Applicant's Degree Was Earned OnlineStudents who are considering an online degree may want to know: can prospective employers tell that an applicant’s degree was earned online? This question, unfortunately, does not have a simple answer because it depends. Here are some of the factors that play into whether employers can tell and when it might or might not matter.

Related resource: Top 10 Online Colleges for a Bachelor’s Degree

Why Employers Care

Although the stigma against degrees earned online has faded somewhat, bias is still present. This is largely due to the fact that not all online degrees are of especially high quality, especially in the earliest days they were available. This is why many students may be concerned about pursuing an online degree or allowing potential employers to know that the degree was earned online. It is important to remember that not all employers care if a degree was earned online or not. More employers than ever before have no issue with online degree holders and it isn’t always something to be concerned with.

Types Of Online Educational Institutions

If the school from which the student earned the degree is a wholly online school, employers who know of the school or look it up briefly will know the degree was earned online. While employers will not be familiar with every educational institution out there that issues degrees, some are large enough and have enough name recognition to be known no matter what. For example, a student with a degree from Stanford likely did not obtain it online, while a student from the University of Phoenix likely did. Employers tend to be more accepting of online degrees offered by accredited non-profit educational institutions than for-profit ones.

The Employer May Not Check

College degrees only matter so far to employers and the question of can prospective employers tell that an applicant’s degree was earned online may not matter. After a candidate has been in the workforce for a few years, employers tend to care much more about an applicant’s past work experience than their college degree. Graduates who have worked at a job for a while may not need to worry that prospective employers will give more than a cursory glance at the education section on their resume, so this may be a non-issue for them at this point. On the other hand, a determined employer might do some digging into a candidate’s educational background, ask for college transcripts or contact registrar offices to confirm a student did, in fact, graduate with the degree they say they did.

Don’t Lie

While there is no reason to specifically note that a degree was earned online on a resume, it is critically important for candidates not to lie if pressed. Oftentimes the fact that a degree was earned online is more likely to come up in the interview, explains U.S. News & World Report, where candidates have the opportunity to elaborate further on their education and abilities as well as showcase their personalities. If asked, a candidate should be honest about why they chose to pursue a degree online and why that choice heightened their skills and ability to do this job well.


In certain circumstances, employers will know right away whether an applicant earned their degree online. In others, they may have no idea and applicants are under no obligation to disclose that information if they don’t want to. This has hopefully given some insight into the question of can prospective employers tell that an applicant’s degree was earned online.

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