With every mention of online colleges, there seems to be an accompanying mention of diploma mills and lackluster online schools, programs, or classes. There’s an unfortunate stigma surrounding online colleges that comes from years of shady organizations offering degrees to just about anyone who would pay the price.
In the last few years, the number of online students and online programs have both risen dramatically, and with the rise in students, more scrutiny has been put on online programs. This means the bar has been set higher for accreditation and standards as even the most elite universities like Harvard and Stanford have entered the online education field.
As a student, this is good news for you. It means that online degrees have become more legitimate than they once were–the stigma is starting to wear off. Unfortunately, not all online programs offers the same quality of education, so you will still need to be careful in how and where you pursue your online degree, as well as how you sell your degree to potential employers.
So how do you ensure that a hiring manager will view your degree as legitimate and take notice of you? The simple answer is that they should be noticing your achievements more than whether you went to an online school or not. This means highlighting your strengths as an online student.
Many employers, when asked outright if they believe online degrees carry the same weight as traditional programs, will unfortunately have to overcome years of bias and stigma surrounding online programs in order to give the answer you’re hoping for (yes, of course). But if you look a little deeper, they all highly value all of the character attributes required to complete a degree online.
Employers are looking for employees that are self starters with a strong work ethic, the ability to balance multiple projects at once, and awesome time management skills. If you can show that you have all of these abilities, how or where you received your degree won’t matter as much as the fact that you’ve received it.
However, it never hurts to have a little insurance. These 3 simple strategies will help you to ensure that your online degree will be taken seriously by employers.
1. Choose a recognized, regionally accredited program
I cannot stress this point enough. Choosing a program that you like HAS to include a background check of sorts. If a program is not accredited by a recognized accrediting body chances are that your future employers won’t recognize your degree as legitimate. Proper accreditation is the only way to ensure that you are not attending a diploma mill and wasting your time and money.
Think of it this way, would you trust a doctor to perform surgery on your mom without knowing where they went to medical school?
2. Name recognition matters…in more ways than one
Some employers are slower to accept the increase in legitimate online education options so your schools name recognition can carry a solid amount a weight. A degree from Colorado State University has the same weight whether it was earned in their online programming or their on campus options.
The same can’t be said for degrees given by online only programs like the University of Phoenix–which also has solid name recognition but is known more for being a large for-profit college. There is no saying that you won’t receive a quality education from an online only program, but there isn’t as much history backing that degree as there is one from a program that also has a traditional campus option.
3. Choose a program that gives you solid experience as well as a degree
It is no secret that most employers want to see some type of experience related to your field prior to them hiring you. So think ahead and work that experience into your degree. Can you get credit for having an internship while you’re in school? Does your program accept work experience from current or prior jobs for credit? Do you need any hands on experience hours to get your degree or certification?
Having the ability to not only say that you’ve completed your degree but also show you know how to use your skills can give you a massive hand up on the competition and give you more credibility.