It’s hard to get ahead in today’s work force without a degree. Sometimes, even when you have a degree, it’s not enough to land you a well-paying job or to get you the role you want in your field. When it’s time to go back to school for a certificate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, but you already have a full-time job, bills and perhaps a family to support, online education is the answer.
But how can you be sure an online degree will translate into the better job you want? Some prospective students find the convenience of an online degree appealing but worry that the stigma of online education will cancel out any career benefit they might otherwise expect from earning an additional credential. Fortunately, most employers care more about the reputation of the school from which you earned your degree than whether or not you actually attended classes on campus.
Enroll in an Accredited Program
The first step toward turning an online degree into a better job is to make sure the program you choose is accredited. Online degree programs got stuck with a bad reputation thanks to for-profit colleges that failed to meet accreditation standards, didn’t support students to complete their degree paths and didn’t emphasize favorable employment outcomes for graduates. But that reputation is, to a large extent, unwarranted in the modern educational landscape.
In fact, these days, many reputable, accredited, brick-and-mortar colleges and universities are offering online degree programs that are every bit as academically rigorous as the programs taught on campus. The key to choosing a good program is to make sure that the college or university you’re considering is accredited by a regional or national accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Check specialized accreditation, too, if that’s important in your field.
Don’t Discount the School’s Reputation
Most employers are more interested in the reputation of the school you earned your degree from than they are in whether you attended classes on campus. Choose a school that has a strong reputation in your field, and your online degree will carry more weight. For example, if you’re looking for online degrees in Ohio, you can earn a degree from Kent State Online, and it will carry the same weight with employers as any other degree from Kent State.
If you choose an online degree program offered by a brick-and-mortar school, then most employers won’t even know you earned your degree online unless it comes up in the interview — which it might, if your resume indicates that you worked at a company located far from your school during the years in which you worked on your degree. However, if an employer asks how you managed to juggle full-time employment in New York with academic studies in San Francisco, for example, don’t be afraid to explain that you went to school online.
Spin the Online Degree to Your Advantage
If it does come up in your interview that you went to school online, take the opportunity to advocate for the value of your distance education. Some employers worry that online students don’t develop the same soft skills that students in traditional programs do because they don’t get the socialization experience of working face-to-face with other students.
But that doesn’t mean your experience as an online student didn’t teach you important lessons that most employers will value in a potential hire.
For one, you learned to work well with geographically disparate teams — a skill that’s becoming more valuable in a world where more people than ever work remotely. You should also emphasize the strong time management skills you developed as a result of balancing the demands of full-time employment, family and study for the time it took to earn your online degree or certificate.
Mention your aptitude with technology since you’ve had to rely on it so heavily to complete your studies, and play up the strong work ethic that allowed you to complete your degree while juggling so many other responsibilities. Your commitment to earning a degree online will show that you’re invested in your professional growth and in building a career.
If you’re thinking of going back to school online, you may be worried that an online degree won’t give you the career boost you crave. In fact, employers these days think just as highly of online degrees as they do traditional degrees — and in many cases, won’t even know the difference! Enroll in an online degree program now — the sooner you start taking classes, the sooner you can advance your career.