The reputation of online degrees continues to improve, and marketing yours the right way can give you a leg up while interviewing. Not everyone is familiar with the merits of an online degree. In fact, a September 2013 survey of 656 human resources professionals conducted by the nonprofit organization Public Agenda, 56 percent of employers preferred job applicants with traditional degrees from average schools over job applicants with online degrees from a top university. This makes it all the more important that you know how to present the value in your online degree. Here are four lines of reasoning you can use:
1. Earning an online education shows self-discipline.
You could argue that students who earn online degrees should be valued all the more, since it requires added self-discipline to complete the program.
Unlike traditional students, online students have to do all the assignments, readings, exams and lectures on their own time and not in a classroom at a scheduled time and place. This flexibility is one of the perks of online schooling, but it's also one of the challenges. You have to set aside time and find a place to get work done, sometimes while holding down a full-time job or raising a family. Of course, both types of degree programs require discipline, but online degree programs are especially not for the undisciplined.
Thankfully, many employers are starting to realize this. In the Public Agenda survey, 45 percent of employers believed that online-only degree programs require more discipline than traditional programs, and an additional 29 percent think the discipline required from both types of programs is about the same.
If your prospective employer is not part of the majority on this topic, then you can use this line of reasoning to point out that the discipline required for completing coursework online, at your own pace and place, is a testament to your drive and ability to focus. Self-starter, anyone?
2. Online degree programs are included in the best rankings.
If online degrees truly weren't legitimate or respected, then why would one of the top media outlets for college rankings, U.S. News & World Report, include them?
U.S. News & World Report has one of the most utilized and highly renowned lists of college rankings, and they've dedicated an entire section of their print publication and website to online degrees. They rank everything from the best online bachelor's degree programs to the best online graduate programs in engineering.
That in itself may win over some skeptical employers, and rightfully so.
3. An online degree still shows dedication and hard work.
It's not like online school is any easier than earning a degree on campus. You still have papers to write, exams to take, discussions to contribute to, video presentations to give, homework assignments to turn in, books to read and lectures to listen to. You may still have to commit to years of schooling and likely earn upwards of 128 credits before graduating. The main difference between online and traditional school is not the rigor, but the location.
Whether you have to literally show the employer the syllabi from your courses or merely remind them of this, it's an important point to make.
4. Prestigious colleges now offer online degrees.
It's not just online colleges that are offering online degrees anymore. Now, several traditional and even prestigious colleges are offering them, such as:
- Columbia University, which offers online graduate degrees in engineering
- Virginia Tech, which offers online master's degrees in information technology
- Arizona State University, which offers various online degree programs
In your search for online degree programs, you'll notice many more traditional and prestigious schools than just these three. If an employer knows that, their skepticism may fade away, even if you attend a lesser-known online school. Because surely if Ivy League colleges like Columbia are offering an online education, then online degrees are respected options.
After pointing out the self-discipline and hard work required by online degree programs, as well as the fact that online degrees are ranked by reputable organizations and offered by distinguished colleges, you can potentially win over skeptical employers. If not, keep trying, as the reputation of online programs is ever rising, and it's only a matter of time before everyone realizes just how valuable these degrees can be.
ASU Online, Arizona State University,
"Employers, Students Remain Skeptical of Online Education," Allie Bidwell, U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 20, 2013,
Columbia Video Network, Graduate Engineering Distance Learning from Columbia University,
"Not Yet Sold: What Employers and Community College Students Think About Online Education," Public Agenda, September 2013,
Best Online Programs, U.S. News & World Report,
Virginia Tech Master's in Information Technology, Virginia Tech,