You want to get a degree, or another degree, but you’re working. You don’t want to take off a year or more and give up that income. On the other hand, you’re concerned about spending time and money earning an online degree, only to have that degree rejected by potential employers. Let’s look at the state of things.
You are not the only one who is concerned about whether online degrees are on a par with those earned at traditional universities. By far, the most important factor employers cite in accepting a distance learning degree as evidence of competence is accreditation. See What is Accreditation and Why is it Important? for tips on determining whether a particular online university is accredited.
Even with accreditation, the bad news is that, as of surveys conducted a few years ago, gatekeepers for employers, such as Human Resources Departments, still preferred traditional degrees.
According to Employer Perceptions of Online Degrees: A Literature Review, by Norina L. Columbaro and Catherine H. Monaghan, Ph.D., both of Cleveland State University, “potential employers gave the following reasons for their reticence in accepting online degree credentials:
- lack of rigor,
- lack of face-to-face interactions,
- increased potential for academic dishonesty,
- association with diploma mills,
- concerns about online students’ true commitment evident from regularly venturing to a college or university physical location, considered by some to be an important part of the educational experience.”
But the news isn’t all bad. The same authors state:
“Conditions that could influence online degree acceptance in the hiring process were:
- name recognition/reputation of the degree-granting institution,
- appropriate level and type of accreditation,
- perception that online graduates were required to be more self-directed and disciplined,
- candidates’ relevant work experiences,
- and whether the online graduates were being considered for promotion within an organization or if they were vying for new positions elsewhere or in a new field.”
Many of these factors are within your control. You can attend a well-known, accredited, university, which has garnered favorable reviews. If you have a professional degree, find out whether you can become certified by the state or by a professional association. These actions will go far to allay any potential employer’s fears that you are not competent to do the job for which you are applying.
A big assistance to any career is networking. If you graduate with an extensive list of contacts in your chosen field, odds are that one of the people in your network will introduce you to the HR department, instead of the other way around. It’s a good idea to start making contacts before you start college, or at least, while you’re still in school. You should have at least a passing familiarity with the ins-and-outs associated with your new career before you invest in any degree, anyhow. You don’t want to jump whole hog into a profession that you find out later you don’t really like.
Be patient. As more working adults choose to earn online degrees instead of taking the time off to attend on-site universities full-time, and as graduates with distance learning degrees prove themselves in the workplace, the tide will turn.