Technology is rapidly changing the way that employers look at recruitment and hiring, with 53% of Generation Z workforce operating as freelancers who are hired for various tasks by multiple businesses throughout the year.
And the same shift is occurring in the way people obtain an education as well.
The rise of digital solutions, as well as the advancements of smartphones and computers, have made online courses a viable alternative for those who want to improve their qualifications while fitting the studies around work or other commitments.
Some of the top colleges in the United States and the world now offer online courses in various fields, with 33% of students taking at least one online course, and more than 15% of students enrolled exclusively online.
However, many people are still hesitant about taking an online course or earning their degree online because they fear that employers may look down on an education that wasn’t obtained on-campus.
So, to dispel the myths surrounding the topic, let’s take a look at how employees view online degrees compared to traditional education so that you can have a better understanding of which choice suits your needs best.
What Types of Online Courses Can You Take?
Before we can dig into the subject of whether employees take online degrees seriously, we must first take a look at the types of courses that are available, as well as how many people are enrolled in them.
The leading colleges in the country have adopted digital technology in the way that they teach students, which means that at least in the academic world, leading experts see online learning as a viable alternative that can not only substitute being in class but can actually augment the educational experiences of students.
Elite universities are offering various online courses to people all over the world, attracting millions of students who want to broaden their knowledge in a range of key areas every year.
Universities like Harward, John Hopkins, Yale, and many others have courses that not only provide top quality information but can actually help people advance their careers by providing widely-recognized certifications.
Some of these online courses are part of a degree’s curriculum, while others are stand-alone courses that are meant for the public, but they are all organized through the web, and most of them meet the criteria of an online course.
Meanwhile, there are also a lot of colleges that operate exclusively online, which means that you can enroll and receive the full-education for a degree from the comfort of your home.
There are hundreds of online schools that offer a wide range of study programs for you to choose from at associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels, so no matter where in your journey you might be, there are courses that can help you continue your education.
But what types of degrees are the most popular?
Well, business administration is always a coveted option because it provides in-depth knowledge about running a business to those who might already be too busy to attend in person.
Although there are hundreds of universities and online educational institutions that offer the course, the University of Florida, Indiana Wesleyan University, and the University of Illinois can be found on many of the top lists for Business Bachelor’s degrees.
Accounting is another option with a lot of earning potential, with UMass, Penn State, and Northeastern having consistently positive reviews about their programs.
Since a computer science course is much easier to organize online, it’s not surprising that many of the country’s leading colleges and universities have the option to study remotely. Some of the options that you should consider are Oregon State University, DePaul University, and the University of Florida.
Other popular degree options include healthcare administration, education, criminal justice, and communication, but you can choose from hundreds of different programs offered by various institutions.
Employers’ Views on Online Degrees by Employers
Now that we’ve understood what types of online education you can get and established that the opportunities are very similar to those using traditional education methods, let’s look at how prospective employers are likely to look at your education if you get it online.
The good news is that even though there’s still a perception that online degrees are somehow inferior, employers and key decision-makers seem to have moved past that perception.
According to an extensive study performed by Northeastern University:
- 61% of HR leaders believe online degrees to be just as valuable as in-person degrees, and the number of people who hold these beliefs is steadily increasing year after year.
- 71% of the same group of people reported hiring someone with an online degree during the past year, which proves that the improving reputation of an online education translates to real-world hires as well.
- 64% of respondents in HR positions also believe that the need for continuous learning and additional credentials will increase, which means that online education will be a viable and convenient option for learning and advancing your career.
However, when talking about online education or traditional in-person education, it’s important to note that every degree, as well as every educational institution, has its own perceived value among employers.
Different courses have different reputations, so while there is little doubt that online education is a viable option, it’s crucial to take the time to go through your options and identify the programs that are the best fit in your situation.
For your online degree to be viewed as equal to an in-person degree obtained at the same or a similar institution, it must meet a range of criteria that point to the program’s value and effectiveness.
Let’s explore these criteria below.
How Do Employers Evaluate Employee Education?
When figuring out how employees judge the education of their employees, it’s important to break down the main criteria that they look at to understand the reasoning for valuing some degrees above others.
For one thing, for an online degree to be evaluated as equal to an on-campus degree, it must be accredited by regional organizations that have consistent and dependable standards that the institutions must uphold.
This way, instead of having to dig into each program to see whether it’s reputable, employees can trust that the accreditation of the program will ensure that the quality of the education meets the requirements of the position.
Another aspect that employers look at is the prestige and recognition of the institution. Whether you have a traditional degree or obtained your education online, the employer will be much more likely to trust your degree if it came from a reputable institution that is an established brand in the region or even nationwide.
As you can imagine, employers prioritize hiring people from the best learning institutions because they are looking for high achievers, which was the case even well before online courses became available.
For this same reason, employers are more likely to trust an online degree if it came from a university that also offers on-campus classes and has brick & mortar facilities.
All of the top online bachelor’s programs in the country are organized by colleges and universities that also have a traditional campus, which also shows that conventional institutions have more educational experience and are thus usually better equipped to offer high-quality online courses as well.
In some cases, the institution itself might not be the primary focus when evaluating a degree, and the employer might be drawn by the specific program that has an excellent reputation in the region.
And that makes a lot of sense, as most of the leading colleges have their staple programs that have earned it a nationwide reputation. Therefore, when researching your online learning options, make sure to look into not only whether the college is reputable, but also if the specific program that you want to take is one of the better ones that are available.
The duration of the studies can also be a telling sign if the program is comprehensive or not. Sure, it may be tempting to receive an education in just a few months, but remember that employees won’t take that education as seriously.
For instance, if you’re taking a bachelor’s course, it might be possible to shorten the time it takes to complete it because of the way that online classes are structured, but there’s a limit to how quickly it can be done without compromising on quality, so keep that in mind when considering your options.
The Benefits of an Online Education
Throughout this article, we’ve explored the various ways in which a conventional on-campus degree could be perceived as more valuable because of the inconsistent quality in the types of degrees that you can obtain on the web.
However, at the same time, online education offers a range of unique advantages that not only provide you with flexibility and the ability to gain an education while working but can also have a positive effect on how your employer perceives you.
So much so, that in many cases, an online degree can become the driving force that can help enhance your career and open up opportunities that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
For one thing, employees will often see your pursuit of further education as a reflection of your character. Most people are content with where they are, not willing to put in the extra effort to advance themselves, so when you take a proactive step such as enrolling in an online course, you show initiative and a willingness to be better that is hard to ignore.
Online courses aren’t easy and can actually often be even more challenging than on-campus ones because you have to be engaged at all times and rely on yourself to absorb the information.
Combining work with an online degree will test your patience and self-motivation like few other challenges, which will help develop habits that will serve you for the rest of your life. You can be sure that your employees will appreciate your ability to organize your time and perform at work while simultaneously growing your skillset and knowledge base.
In fact, many companies have policies for reimbursing employees that are seeking an online education.
And the truth is, qualifications do matter when it comes to your earning potential as well. Many companies have salary policies that take into account the education of the person when determining their value.
That means that you could potentially see an increase in salary of tens of thousands of dollars per year if you get a Bachelor’s degree, and even more, if you get a Master’s education.
There are also unique advantages that studying online and working simultaneously can offer your employer. In fact, your enhanced education may actually become one of the most valued assets that your company has.
As you broaden your knowledge and gain new skills while working, you will be in a unique position to apply the lessons in practice immediately and experiment with different approaches to see what works in a real-life situation.
This is a luxury that most people studying in traditional programs don’t have – their education is mostly theoretical, and even the practical exercises are usually in an environment that’s quite different from what you’d encounter in the real world.
Meanwhile, you will be learning the most cutting-edge solutions to various problems in business and science and can start applying them in your workplace. That can not only help improve the efficiency of various processes but can actually play a vital role in changing company culture for the better.
If you’re studying an MBA program, you can use the leadership and business management lessons that you learn and apply them to your company, which can make your investment in an online education pay off before you even graduate.
As you can see, there are countless reasons why online education beats a traditional on-campus approach, especially if you are motivated and already have a profession that you want to become better at.
Even if you don’t feel like you are ready for a full-on Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program, you should at least consider dipping your toe into the world of online education by taking one of the many online courses for entrepreneurs and people who want to improve. You can be sure that your employer will notice and appreciate the effort.
When comparing the employer’s perception of online degrees versus traditional ones, there are simply too many considerations to come up with a definitive answer.
But while there are situations where a traditional degree might make more sense, the technological advances and increasing acceptance of online degrees at least means that it’s a viable alternative to those that don’t have the time to go with the on-campus approach.
And when you consider the wide range of unique benefits that online education can offer, at least giving it a try as a way to enhance your skillset is something that most employees in the country could benefit from.