Hiring Managers Slow to Accept Online Degrees

According to a recent survey, it appears that the growth in online education is outpacing the acceptance of the quality and legitimacy of such education by hiring managers.

Gap Between Awarding of Online Degrees and Employers’ Acceptance

According to Vault.com’s 2008 Online Degrees Survey, 49% of those who make hiring decisions have encountered applicants with online degrees, a 15 percentage point increase from three years ago.

However, only 19% have actually hired a candidate who only possessed an online degree, a one point decrease from the last survey.

Asked if they would give equal consideration to job candidates with online degrees and those with degrees from traditional colleges and universities, 63% said they would favor job candidates with traditional degrees while 35% said they would give them equal consideration.

The times are changing, though. 83% of employers and hiring managers say online degrees are more acceptable than they were five years ago.

The survey was conducted in early June 2008. It consists of responses from 172 employers and hiring managers in various industries across the United States.

Vault CEO Erik Sorenson said, “Everything has moved online, including education. Though more and more Americans are getting educated online, there is still a bias toward traditional classroom education, especially for high-end careers and top-ranked companies.”

“A candidate with an online degree would have to be truly extraordinary otherwise to merit serious consideration,” said one hiring manager. “I don’t think online degrees reflect a serious commitment to education on the part of the degree-holder.”

So what’s a potential online student to do?

I’m no expert in either higher education or hiring and education, but it seems one can play a conservative strategy that still takes advantage of the flexibility of online learning by obtaining a degree based on a mix of online and classroom learning.

Many brick-and-mortar schools offer online courses, so the degree will have greater acceptability. Though many courses may have been taken online, the resume will still say, for example, “MBA, ___ University School of Business,” and the university will not be one known as online-only.

Brick-and-mortar schools may also accept for credit some online courses from elsewhere, just as they may accept transfer credits from other brick-and-mortar schools. Standards vary, so investigate this carefully.

If you already have significant job experience in your field of choice and are pursuing the degree mainly because it is a required or preferred paper credential for the job you hope to get, you may be better off with an exclusively online degree than a young person who obtained the online degree immediately after high school, in lieu of attending a brick-and-mortar school.

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