You’re probably considering an online degree because you want to boost your job prospects. But it’s normal to worry about whether or not employers want to hire you when you graduate? Will they see your online degree as credible — or worthless?
Is Online College Worth It?
Online degrees used to be a novelty. But over 300,000 students now taking pure online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs each year. You are probably not going to walk into any job interview and be the first online grad the company has ever talked to. In fact, because companies do so much employee training over the internet nowadays, the odds are that the person interviewing you will have taken some computer based courses at some point.
Survey: Do Employers Take Online Degrees Seriously?
Interviews and surveys with hiring specialists at big companies tend to turn up a kind of “bad news/good news” result for online learners. The bad news: when employers are asked point blank whether they think an online degree is any good, many of them say no (about 40% said they had some degree of skepticism toward online degrees in a survey by Eduventures a few years ago). But the good news is that when employers are asked more in-depth questions about hiring online degree holders, a more positive picture emerges. In fact, in one important way, hiring managers view online degrees in exactly the same light as traditional degrees. Most say it’s more important which school you got your degree from than whether you went to classes or studied online. That’s why you need to be extremely careful about thinking through your career options and picking a respected program before you even start your bachelor’s or master’s degree wok.
Look For The Most Respected Online Colleges
Attending one of the major for-profit schools like University of Phoenix or Capella, or any other online school that advertises heavily, can make it fairly obvious that you went the online degree route. That’s not necessarily bad. In fact, some of the for-profit schools now have agreements with large companies to supply a pipeline of trained employees. But if you get your online degree from a school that does classroom teaching – a state university or private college for example – employers are less likely to be aware of whether you studied online or not.
Accreditation Is All-Important
You absolutely want to make sure you attend a school that is properly accredited. Employers don’t have many solid yardsticks to measure the quality of college programs. Accreditation is the a standard measure that they all tend to look at and take very seriously. This isn’t always easy to understand for you, the student. You need to remember that regional accreditation is almost always better than national accreditation. That may sound backwards, but it’s how the very old-world system of accrediting American colleges and universities still works. There are, however, just a few exceptions. If you take a very career-specific degree in an area like nursing, your school is going to need accreditation from a professional group in that specialty (although some nursing schools are nationally accredited, most get their credentialing from one of two national groups – the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)). Online nursing master’s degrees and BSNs tend to be well accepted by healthcare employers. But these types of companies – hospitals, clinics and other types of care centers – are very knowledgeable about accreditation. If you don’t have a degree from a school that’s properly accredited, it’s unlikely that you’ll get hired.
Life Experience Degrees and Other Fakes
A few caveats to keep in mind to avoid getting a worthless degree:
– Call the online school you want to enroll in. If there isn’t someone there to answer the phone during normal business hours, you should consider it suspicious.
– Ask for a sample of the kind of transcript your school will send to an employer after you’ve graduated. If it doesn’t look like it came from a real school, this will look bad in your job hunt after graduation.
– Avoid “life experience” degrees, from schools that sell you a degree with no real academic study. They’re a waste of money.
The Communication Question
It’s ironic that some employers express a fear that online degree students haven’t had to communicate with other students, and have therefore missed some essential part of the education process. The president of a sales and training company recently told The Chronicle of Higher Education that he things communication skills can only be picked up through everyday interaction with other students on campus.
But that overlooks a basic fact: most online learners are adults who’ve already spent several years in the work force, and have more real world experience communicating in a business environment than the typical college grad. (More here on the pros and cons of online courses)
Best Online Degree To Get A Job?
Acceptance of online degrees also varies by the age of the hiring manager, and by their familiarity with the internet. Fields like technology, where young, web-savvy people dominate, are likely to feel completely comfortable with hiring someone who went to school online. More traditional fields like law, or companies where you’re working with an older hiring manager, may feel a little less comfortable with your online degree. In a study done by job board Vault, Inc, researchers found that the employers who are the most skeptical of online degrees are the ones who don’t seem to know much about them.
Presenting yourself as a candidate who has the right training for the job that’s open is the most important thing. Vault’s survey also noted that when employers were asked if they met a job candidate who had all the right attributes for a job but had only a degree from an online school, 91 per cent said they would go right ahead and hire the person.
How To Choose The Right College?
From a job perspective, it comes down mainly to your school’s reputation and the major you select. Colleges and universities gain recognition in several ways. Some will be recognized by a job interviewer because they’re old or they’re local. It you get an online degree from Georgetown University (which has online nursing programs mainly) the name will be recognized because it’s been around for hundreds of years (having a major basketball program doesn’t hurt either). Alternately, if you’re degree is from the University of Massachusetts and you’re interviewing for a job in Boston, it’s likely that the interviewer is going to have a comfort level with any degree from that school because if it’s local reputation. Southern New Hampshire University has build so much brand recognition through advertising that you might ask “is SNHU for profit?” The answer is no. It’s a not-for-profit private school that simply took a strong approach to building an online division long before most other non profit schools began to do the same.
Handling an Employer’s Questions About Your Online Degree
To begin with, you are generally under no obligation to tell an employer on a job application or a cover letter that you got your degree online. But if it comes up, it’s important to realize that you can make a big difference in an employer’s perception of your degree if you learn to talk about your school, your motivation and your career goals in a way that makes you look like a smart candidate.
Develop a “pitch” to tell them why you believed that an online degree was an excellent choice and the unique skills it’s given you. Some key points can help you make the case that your online degree was worth it:
Are Online Degrees Too Easy?
This is a question an employer may not ask directly, even though he or she may have it in the back of their mind. But you should be well qualified to deal with this issue. After all, you learned in classrooms during high school and may have taken some classroom-based college courses before starting your online program. You can compare your own experiences of online and traditional learning and let the employer know that you feel your online degree program was rigorous and taught you what you need to succeed in the job world. Showing a positive attitude about your degree can have a real impact on the attitude of the person interviewing you.
Your Technology Advantage as an Online Degree Grad
Many companies struggle to find job candidates who are comfortable using a variety of computer and online applications. Emphasize that your online degree program has made you comfortable not only with the internet, but with using digital forums, online video and complex learning applications. That can help telegraph to an employer that you’ll be able to quickly pick up programs like Salesforce, Google Docs, Powerpoint or other applications that track everything from company website traffic to product delivery and customer satisfaction. Make the point that getting a college degree online has made you tech-savvy.
Online Course Collaboration Platforms
Project management has become a big part of many jobs as companies in all businesses scramble to compete with each other to have the best websites, deal with customer complaints and deliver quality products online. Collaborative work platforms like Basecamp, WorkZone, Trello and others are used on a regular basis to help the various departments of a company stay organized in the development or improvement of company digital products. The familiarity you gain digital collaboration through an online degree program in working with other students and with professors should be portrayed as making you more comfortable than many other job candidates with participating in group projects online.
Learning Discipline and Time Management in An Online Program
According to National Center for Education Statistics, only about sixty percent of American college students who start a bachelor’s degree finish it – and that’s within six years, at residential or online schools. If you were able to complete a degree online, it shows you have a good deal of self-discipline and time management skill. After all, when you take a degree program online, there’s nobody standing over you to make sure you pay attention or get to your classes. And if you’re an adult with a job and children, as many online learners are, your degree can offer strong proof that you know how to manage your work and life commitments effectively. Employers may like to hear, for example, that you’re used to handling work issues that come up outside normal business hours when the need arises.
What Is A Kaplan Degree’s Credibility?
It’s no longer possible to get a degree from Kaplan because the school was purchased in 2018 by Purdue University, a respected public research university that’s been in Indiana since 1874. All of the Kaplan programs were taken over by a new entity called Purdue University Global. Kaplan had seen a number of bad publicity incidents based on student complaints, giving the school a negative or perhaps even worthless image in the eyes of some. Purdue Global continues to deliver adult career-focused programs, and almost certainly benefits from the reputation of this very old school.