Online degrees are relatively new creations, having only emerged during the 1990s alongside consumer-grade internet service in many parts of the world. These degree programs now offer many of the same subjects, credentials and accreditations as their traditional counterparts. Accordingly, they have become very popular options for attaining degrees of all kinds, due to their convenience as well as their increasing quality and parity with classroom-based instruction:
- The 2016 "Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States" report, from Babson Survey Research Group, estimated that 5.8 million students were enrolled in online classes in 2014. That represented a 3.9 percent increase from the previous year.
- Growth in online/distance learning programs is strongest among not-for-profit public and especially private institutions. It is much weaker among for-profit colleges and universities, which actually saw their online enrollments drop by almost 3 percent between 2013 and 2014.
- The percentage of academic leaders who rated online learning outcomes as similar or superior to face-to-face equivalents was 71.4 percent in 2015. That is a drop from 77 percent in 2014, but a dramatic improvement over the 57.2 percent reading from 2003, when online education was still in its infancy.
It is clear that online degrees are generally held in high regard by academic institutions and by the students who benefit from the added flexibility. But how are these credentials assessed by employers?
How employers look at online degrees
The good news is that employers usually view online degrees in a similar light to traditional degrees, as long as several key criteria are satisfied. Not all online degrees are created equal (and neither are in-person degrees); so much depends upon the institution granting the degree and whether it is accredited. Some employers may also prefer a degree from a not-for-profit school to one from a for-profit college or university.
"Employers usually view online degrees in a similar light to traditional degrees."
Depending on the hiring process, it may not even emerge that your degree was earned online, unless you volunteer the information. The similarity in curricula between online and on-campus programs is such that, with a legitimately earned degree from a reputable institution, you should have equivalent knowledge and skills to anyone who attended all of his/her classes in-person.
However, if your online degree does become the center of conversation during an interview, be prepared to explain why you took the distance learning route. Honest answers usually reflect well here, in some cases transforming an interviewer's initial skepticism into admiration of your dedication. For example, selecting an online degree track for its elimination of long-distance travel to and from campus might demonstrate your ability in finding a program that can fit into your busy work schedule. Time management and self-motivation are other skills that online learners are often well-positioned to show during interviews.
What online degrees should you earn?
Regardless of what field of study most interests you, there is an educational institution that offers a related online degree program. Many degrees that open up a lot of high-paying career options are available online; these credentials include the popular Master of Business Administration (MBA), the similar Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA), RN-to-BSN completion tracks for licensed nurses and the various master's degrees required for administrative positions in education (such as school principal).
Ideally, these online degrees and all others will offer a convenient format, rigorous curricula and accessible instructors who can be consulted along the way. We offer these benefits at Gwynedd Mercy University. Learn more by visiting our main online programs page today.