I’m worried about whether my online degree will be respected. I just completed my bachelor's online and am ready to send out my resume. Should I use my cover letter to reveal to potential employers that I earned my degree online? Are online degrees respected?
—Holly in Nashville, Tenn.
These days, earning degrees or taking post-secondary courses online is not an oddity. In 2012, an estimated 86 percent of traditional residential colleges offered college courses through online learning. More than one-third offered entire degrees online.
Online education is no longer the future. It’s right now. Employers are embracing online education in record numbers. Unlike a decade ago, employers no longer automatically perceive online degrees or distance education as inferior or second class.
Online degrees are gaining respect.
As a result, there is no need to reveal in a cover letter or resume that you “earned your degree online.” Details about why you chose any particular type of school—such as a private school versus a public school or a Christian college versus a secular college—are best left to discussion during an actual interview.
Even then, you’ll only want to discuss the issue of online education if asked.
We say "if asked" because GetEducated.com’s studies show that most employers are not overly concerned about how a degree was earned. They are, however, very concerned about overall school reputation and educational quality.
In the end, the name of your college and the type of degree you have earned is going to be much more important to your employer than the method by which you earned your degree—online or on campus.
Keep in mind that two kinds of colleges issue online degrees: those that are online-only (such as the University of Phoenix Online) and those with campuses that also offer online education programs (such as the University of Massachusetts).
Expect to encounter no stigma if the college you attended is already known to your employer and respected by your employer for the quality of its graduates. For most people, this means attending an online program offered by a college with a long and respected tradition of educating students via a local residential campus.
Check out the Get Educated video Can I Get a Job with an Online Degree? for more tips about presenting your online degree to your potential employer.
Which online degrees are most likely to suffer from suspicion or stigma?
Get Educated has researched employer perception of online degrees for more than two decades. We’ve found three specific instances where you are most likely to encounter questions about your online education during a job interview.
If any of these circumstances apply to your online degree program, you should arrive at your interview prepared to discuss these aspects of online education.
What should you do if your school is online-only? If a potential employer questions your online education credential, do the following:
Vicky Phillips was cited in 2009 by US News & World Report as "for 20 years the leading consumer advocate for online college students." In 1989 she designed America's first online counseling center for distance learners on AOL. In 1998 she authored the first print guide to online graduate degrees, Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools put out by the Princeton Review. In 2001 she authored Never Too Late to Learn the Adult Student's Guide to College.