Online degrees are becoming more popular than ever before. Returning to school to obtain an advanced degree or choosing an online college over a traditional one is very exciting and rewarding. However, many people cannot make the full-time commitment that pursuing a degree requires. With flexible class times, affordable prices, and the ability to conveniently study anywhere, online education solves many of the obstacles individuals face when considering going back to school. Yet, the question of whether employers will value and respect an online degree is a concern shared by many.
Times are changing and the quality of applicants who have received a degree online is much higher than most people might think. Most employers realize that the ever-growing pool of online applicants is nothing to be ignored. In fact, in a survey done by Excelsior College and Zogby International, 61 percent of CEOs and small business owners nationwide said they were familiar with online or distance learning programs. In addition, 83 percent of executives in the survey said that an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program.
The popularity of online education is rapidly increasing. Applicants with an online degree have very distinct advantages over their competition. The practice of directing their own education online gives them specific skill sets that employers are eagerly searching for. Choosing an online education says a lot about an applicant’s values, work style, and abilities. Those pursuing online degrees should feel confident entering the workforce and, if they haven’t already, employers should start putting online education into their hiring equation. Here are ten reasons why:
1. Technology-Savvy Graduates
The current job market demands workers who are experts with computers or are at least very familiar with technology. Online education graduates are already comfortable with technology and communicate well using that medium. More often than not, they chose an online education because they know they thrive best in that environment. They can navigate the web with ease, write clear and professional emails, and are accustom to the language of social media.
2. Independent Learners
Employers will always stress that they are looking for “team players,” but more often than not, your job will require you to be a self-starter who can easily work independently. Independent learners turn into independent workers, who can solve problems without much assistance. Online education uniquely qualifies graduates to perform well without having to someone hold their hand. They tend to enjoy figuring things out on their own and are self-motivated. Employees who motivate themselves are like gold to an HR representative. Successful online learners are more likely to be self-motivators, who also create and accomplish goals without the need for constant outside encouragement.
3. Time Management
During the hiring process, many employers will ask, “How do you manage your time?” Online learners are already ahead of the game because successfully completing an online degree requires intense time management and organizational skills. Efficient online learners have balanced work, family, social, and school. They have developed methods and schedules in order to work effectively and efficiently, making the most of their limited time. With that time management, also comes work ethic. Getting through an online program requires a high level of perseverance, which is very valuable in the work place.
4. Thinking Outside the Box
Employers know that the traditional, “normal” university experience is what most people move into after high school. Those with online experiences stand out during the hiring process and it can be very telling to find out why these students chose a less conventional path. In order to create a well-rounded work place, filled with different strengths and knowledge, employers need to consider the far more diverse experiences online education graduates may have. You may be an older applicant with decades of experience in the industry. Maybe you backpacked around Europe for a year before returning to school. You could be an avid volunteer who learned to speak Spanish while teaching in South America. There are so many positive experiences and skills that your unique story, and education detour, could bring to a new job.
5. Practical and Budget Conscious
Of course this isn’t true for all online learners, but because online education is cheaper than traditional coursework, many online graduates are more practically minded when it comes to money. Employers will see this as a good thing and may view you as responsible. If you are applying for a position that has anything to do with numbers or finances, your background in online education is especially good. Companies are all about saving money and your money-saving mindset will be an asset to them.
6. Quality of Work
It is difficult to brown nose the professor when she’s thousands of miles away. Online students cannot easily rely on charm to get them through a class. If you arrive late to a lesson, there’s an instant time stamp of it. If you don’t turn in an assignment, there’s proof of that in your instructor’s inbox. Everything you do, every comment you contribute, is documented and reviewed. In online courses the work speaks for itself and online learners must produce quality work in order to succeed.
7. Research Skills
Research skills are a must in today’s job market. Almost every job in every industry can benefit from employees who can research well, both on and off the Internet. Finding the answers to questions, obstacles, or simply learning about the newest technology in the field is beneficial in the work place. The ability to decipher between valuable and invaluable information is something online learners practice every time they engage in the e-learning process.
8. Current and Cutting Edge Training
Online curriculum is much easier to update and keep current than printed textbooks. Graduates with an online degree will typically have the most current information in the industry and be in the know about the latest online trends. Online learners also have access to more variety when it comes to subjects and can often take very specific courses in their fields.
9. Willing to do Continuing Education Online
Many companies require employees to complete additional coursework in order to stay current in their fields. Having an online education also comes in handy here. Because these graduates are very familiar with the format of learning on the Internet, these employees will be more flexible in this area and more willing to complete continuing education online. This in turn, saves the company time and money– two very important things employers consider when making hiring decisions.
10. Global Acceptance
The world is expanding and getting smaller all at the same time. Online programs are growing everywhere in the world and are accessible internationally. Having an online degree means you’ve probably interacted with various people from all types of cultural backgrounds. The ability to communicate across the barriers of country lines is a positive, especially for large international companies.
Although more and more employers are hiring applicants with online degrees, not all online degrees are created equal. There are a lot of scam colleges and bogus online degrees that promise a quality education in only a few months. Make sure your program has a strong reputation, is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, allows you to easily access faculty, requires a realistic investment of time, and requires the same amount of work as you would find on a traditional campus.