Employers More Likely to Embrace Online Degrees

Written by admin on November 25th, 2010

Many adults eager to improve their careers have embraced the idea of distance learning and online degrees. Flexible class schedules and the ability to earn an entire degree online without ever setting foot in an actual classroom make the online learning experience very attractive for students. But are employers willing to accept the online degrees that students are so eager to earn?

The answer to this question is driven in part by the realities of the education marketplace. In one sense, employers have little choice in the matter because of the sheer popularity of distance learning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for example, more than 54% of the country’s post-secondary institutions now offer online courses or degrees. The NCES estimates online enrollment could climb to six million in 2006, up from 3 million just a few years earlier. Data from 2004 – the latest available at the time of this writing – put enrollment at the University of Phoenix Online, the nation’s leading online university, at more than 115,000 students.

Given the magnitude of these numbers, it’s difficult to imagine that employers can long overlook online grads as potentially valuable new employees. However, a frequently cited study by Vault.com, the online career information site, showed that not all degrees are created equal. Degrees requiring actual physical attendance at traditional brick-and-mortar universities were still preferred over online institutions by a substantial margin. When it comes time to hire, online graduates can expect to meet with at least some resistance from human resource managers looking for on-campus grads from a big name school.

But there’s more to a degree than name recognition and whether or not that degree was earned solely through an on-campus program. More recent studies – some commissioned by online universities themselves – show that job applicants holding a degree from an accredited online university now enjoy more or less equal footing with graduates from their brick-and-mortar competitors. Accreditation, a voluntary process in which colleges and universities are reviewed by a regional accrediting agency, seems to underlie the change in attitude. Successful accreditation ensures that an online college or university meets a uniform set of standards that applies to all institutions of higher learning – including traditional brick-and-mortar institutions as well as online universities. The Department of Education maintains a database of accredited colleges and universities at www.ed.gov.

There are situations in which employers appear more willing to accept the qualifications that go with an online degree. A case in point is the existing employee eager to improve his or her career qualifications. In a situation like this, many employers are eager to help existing employees become a better-educated and hence more valuable employee. At the University of Phoenix Online, for example, fifty-nine percent of students receive all or part of their online tuition from their employer.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, online learning is expected to grow faster than any other part of the education landscape in the years ahead. Assuming it’s a regionally accredited college or university that grants an online degree, distance learning grads can be confident that their diploma will find favor in the workplace.

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