Many working age people who cannot attend classes in person contemplate going to an online school to complete their degree. When thinking about attending classes online, some inevitably worry that their diploma will not be valuable in the eyes of employers. This concern is valid since most employees want a degree that will land them a better job and promotions in the future. Here is a quick guide on how companies feel about hiring people who attended classes on the Internet. Read on to learn about the answer to, “How do employers view online degrees?” so that an informed decision can be made about which educational program is the best fit for a person’s schedule, future plans and budget.
How Common Are Online Degrees?
As of 2018, more than 6 million Americans were participating in an online college program. This includes people who were taking at least one online class that would count toward earning a degree. The number of online students has been going up in recent years, and there are many reasons for this. More bricks-and-mortar institutions are offering online classes and degrees. The technology has improved for the delivery of online class content. Nonprofit colleges and universities saw the demand for these programs and wanted to compete with the for-profit institutions that started the trend. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in remote learning at all levels of education. Now that people see it can be done, demand and acceptance of online degrees is likely to increase over the upcoming years, even if COVID-19 goes away.
Who Earns Online Degrees?
The student body earning online degrees tends to be older than the student body at bricks-and-mortar degree programs. The average age of an online student is 32 years. More than 68% of online students are experienced professionals with at least 10 years of work experience. Many of them are trying to switch careers and need the education to get them on their career path. About 54% of online degree students are in a part-time degree program. That allows for more balance with work and personal life. About twice as many online students are earning a graduate degree as those at bricks-and-mortar institutions. About 22% of online students are working on a master’s degree or higher compared to 11% of students at bricks-and-mortar institutions. People who are budget-conscious may be more likely to earn their degree online. Not having to pay for campus meal plans, parking, lab and facilities fees and dorm rooms saves the student a lot of money.
More Employers Accept Online Degrees
Online degrees are becoming more mainstream. Many well-respected colleges and universities now offer them. Colleges and universities are also offering remote learning for non-degree and certification programs. The reputations of these educational institutions means that more employers are seeing them as a legitimate and accepted educational option. Employers are more likely to accept an online degree than they were in the past. In addition to the fact that many well-respected universities offer these programs, schools also got better at delivering courses, hiring online content managers and managing the interfaces and technology used in the learning delivery processes. The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the development of online courses and degree programs, and this trend is expected to continue even if the pandemic resolves through herd immunity or effective vaccination programs.
Every Employer Has a Different Opinion
For the most part, employer views still vary about online degrees. In general, perceptions have shifted toward the positive end of the spectrum. However, there are still some employers who may hesitate to hire a person with an online degree. The company’s policy may be an issue. For a person who really wants to work for a particular business, it may be a good idea to contact its human resources department and ask about their policy related to online degree holders.
Another issue is that the individual hiring manager or human resources recruiter may have a different perception of online degrees than another hiring manager or human resources specialist within the same organization. Hiring managers, recruiters and human resources specialists come and go from an organization. If a person applied to a company in the past and was told their online degree wasn’t acceptable, it’s worth trying again. The hiring manager may be different, the corporate policy could have changed or the educational institution that awarded the degree may now have an improved reputation in the eyes of the employer.
Not all online degree programs are equal. Even if an employer generally views them as acceptable, they will still verify whether or not the program is accredited through a third-party organization or other authority. Accreditation refers to meeting certain standards of quality. Within one educational institution, one program might be accredited, and another one might not be. It is up to the student to verify the accreditation and research the legitimacy of the accrediting organization. Some employers will only accept online degrees if they are from accredited institutions or programs.
Consider the Institution’s Nonprofit Versus for-profit Status
Many scandals around for-profit online universities have led employers to have a sour perception of those educational institutions. The stigma remains now even though some of the programs do not engage in predatory practices. Some of the ongoing issues with for-profit online degree programs include low completion rates, questionable recruiting practices and poor quality of content. In a situation where several people apply for a job and have equal levels of experience and skills, but one has an online degree from a for-profit educational institution, it could work against the candidate.
Employers May Need More Information
A big part of the answer to, “How do employers view online degrees?” relates to how much knowledge they have about a given program. There are so many online degrees that it is impossible for any one hiring manager or human resources generalist to know about all of them in detail. It is possible that a hiring manager may ask more questions about what is in the program. Employers may ask about details of a competency-based online degree. This is a type of degree in which students have to demonstrate mastery of certain skills in order to progress to the next level of classes and earn the degree. An employer might not view this as a bad thing once they understand what it means. If a hiring manager or human resources generalist asks for more information about the online degree program, a candidate or applicant should see this as a good thing.
Employers May Not Realize the Degree Is from an Online School
Not all employers will realize that a degree is from an online school. A hiring manager may not know that a degree program is all virtual unless they’re already familiar with the school or program. A candidate will need to be prepared to answer questions about how they balanced their work and education while earning an online degree just like they would need to be prepared for answering the same question if they were in a bricks-and-mortar school’s degree program.
Employers May Want the Candidate’s Reasons for Earning an Online Degree
After reviewing applications, an employer may schedule an interview with a candidate who earned an online degree. If the employer is aware that the degree was earned online, they may want to know why the applicant chose the online program in general and that one in particular. The applicant should be prepared with facts and a clear line of reasoning to answer the question. A valid answer might be, “There was no time to drive to a university campus 45 miles from home and work a full-time job while also maintaining a household. The online degree program provided flexibility and enough time to accomplish everything with attention to detail and precision.” A candidate who can show their time management skills would be a boon for any type of employer.
Demonstrate Ability to Manage Time and Projects
A person who is able to complete an online degree while working and maintaining a household shows that they can balance different parts of their life in a harmonious manner. This is important for the world of business because most workers will have more than one task or project to do at a time. The ability to prioritize urgent issues and balance what needs to be done is an important consideration for all types of employers. The flexibility that online degree programs offer are appealing to employers. They allow a worker to manage their job and learn new skills that will help them advance within the company. This means the employer does not have to do the training, which saves the employer money.
Employers Will Ask About Teamwork Skills
One problem employers might have with an online degree is the lack of interaction between classmates and between students and professors. An employer may ask a job applicant what types of teamwork and interactions they had and whether or not they worked on any collaborative projects as a part of their online degree. This is a concern of employers because in most cases, employees depend on their coworkers to do their work so they can do their own work. Everyone’s work is intertwined. For example, an epidemiologist cannot analyze a data set until the database manager has ensured that the data is in the correct format, and the data cannot get into the correct format if the database developers did not do the coding correctly. Employers want to hire people who have the ability to work in a team, collaborate and be a good team player even when there are differences in work styles and personalities.
A Degree Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle
In most cases, an online degree will not be the biggest hurdle to getting a job. Most employers will look at the candidate’s full picture. The person’s references, personality characteristics, skills, ability to communicate and work history all matter. A person with an online degree should not avoid applying for a job they want just because their degree is from an online program.
Make Sure the Degree is Legitimate
When looking to hire a worker, one wants to know that they have a relevant and legitimate education from an excellent educational institute. For this reason, most employers will take the time to verify that the college possesses the necessary accreditations. A hiring manager will be diligent when investigating this, but a student who attends a solid online college should not worry as long as they have also investigated and verified the legitimacy of the degree from the school as well.
Consider the Career Field
In some career fields, one should attend classes in person. On the other hand, when going to school in a technological or accounting field, students can usually attend classes on the Internet. This is largely true since most employers hiring in these fields are often not as worried about personality or people skills. However, when working in a job such as sales, it is crucial for a person to possess more people skills. These differences should not scare a potential student, but he or she should realize that an online education will be viewed differently depending on their career choice.
A more conservative company will demand that their current and future employees attend school in person. Of course, newer and more tech oriented companies will not demand this. In fact, when applying at a technology oriented company, an online student will likely impress hiring managers and potential bosses. When considering where to attend classes, one must consider, in detail, what type of organization they want to work for. Fortunately, as times change, a worker should have no trouble landing the position with an online degree, even in well-established businesses.
In some cases, a hiring manager will not know if the applicant attended classes online or in person. While some universities only have online options, others offer both. When obtaining a degree from an established school with an online presence, it isn’t necessarily imperative to bring it to the attention of the HR manager. Many of the largest and well-known schools across the country offer online classes and degree programs for their students.
Often It’s the Interview That Seals the Deal
During the interview, most people can impress the hiring manager, and it won’t matter if the degree is an online or traditional degree. Learn to interview well and your degree will be secondary. Furthermore, when talking about your online degree, be prepared to give solid reasons for your degree path.
One should not fear an online education. While an applicant may face an uphill battle, he or she should have no problem landing their dream job. Knowing the answer to, “How do employers view online degrees?” facilitates the decision-making process for a person who wants to advance their education. It’s also important to keep in mind that every employer is different. Even within the same industry, different employers will have different views of online degrees. There’s also something to be said for earning an online degree for one’s personal satisfaction, even if it’s not necessary for a person’s job or career.
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