Earning an online degree can help you achieve your personal and professional goals. With the sheer number of online classes available today, you’ve got the option to study almost anything you want without setting foot on a college campus. But if you’re thinking about continuing your education online, you might be worried about how prospective employers will view your degree. Will they take you seriously? Does a degree that was earned online command the same amount of respect as a traditional degree?
The answer: it depends. It’s true that online education still carries a bit of a stigma in some circles, although that stigma is quickly fading as more people opt to take online classes. It’s also true that some online education programs aren’t as rigorous as their in-person counterparts. But if you do your research ahead of time and choose your program wisely, your degree will be just as respected as a degree from a brick-and-mortar school. In fact, employers may not even know you studied online unless you tell them. Here’s what you should consider before you enroll in any degree program online.
Why Accreditation Matters
Accreditation is the most important factor in whether your distance degree is respected or not. Many online colleges aren’t accredited, and employers tend not to take these degrees seriously – no matter how hard you worked to earn them.
In a nutshell, accreditation means that a school meets certain academic standards of rigor. To become accredited, a school must be evaluated by an objective third party called an accreditation agency. There are a number of recognized accreditation agencies in the U.S.
Some online colleges claim to be accredited but aren’t. There are a number of fake accreditation agencies out there that will “accredit” any school, regardless of the quality of the education that school provides. Before you apply to any college, look it up in the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited schools. If you can’t find the school in the database, it’s not accredited and you should steer clear.
Choosing Your School
If you can, take online classes at a college that has brick-and-mortar campuses. This will do a lot to add legitimacy to a degree. Most brick-and-mortar schools offer online classes for at least some of their degree programs, and online classes from a recognized school are usually just as rigorous as traditional classes. In fact, if you earn your degree from a well-known school, your employer may never know you did it online unless you tell them so.
Your Major Makes a Difference
Some degree programs are more suited to online learning than others. Business, accounting, and computer science are a few examples of degrees that are well-suited to online study – you won’t miss out on much by earning a degree in these fields through your computer instead of in a classroom. But some majors, like biology and chemistry, don’t translate well to a virtual classroom. These fields require a lot of lab experience, which is impossible to replicate online. To make sure employers take your degree seriously, stick to a major that doesn’t require much hands-on learning.
The Benefits of an Online Degree
Sometimes, having an online degree can actually be an advantage. Earning your degree online takes a lot of hard work and commitment. Most people who successfully complete a degree online are self-starters with good time management skills, and these traits are valuable to a lot of employers. If a prospective employer asks you whether you earned your degree online, don’t be afraid, to tell the truth – a high-quality online education is an achievement worthy of respect.