How Do Employers View Online Degrees?

Acceptance is on the rise in an emerging industry

Increasing numbers of older students are participating in online courses or seeking full degree programs online. These programs are an attractive alternative as they help busy adults balance hectic schedules. As the numbers of interested students steadily increase, the number of colleges and universities providing these online programs also continue to rise. According to recent statistics, over 90 percent of traditional institutions provide or plan to provide some kind of program through distance learning.

For example, Keller Graduate School of Management has several online master’s degree programs for busy working professionals. Programs include a master’s in business administration, project management, account and information systems management, and some graduate certificate programs. DeVry University is offering an online bachelor’s degree in business administration with concentrations in accounting, business information systems, e-commerce, information technology, and project management – all online.

Many other nationally recognized universities are offering full programs through the Internet as well. Professors who teach the online courses have commented that the quality of work is typically higher from the online student than the traditional student who is physically attending a class. In addition the degree earned online is the same credential earned when attending a traditional class.

Traditional, brick-and-mortar universities often make no separation between their programs and the type of degree awarded. For example, students can take 90 percent of their coursework in the classroom at New York State University, and the remaining 10 percent online, and receive a degree from New York State. Students could also complete 90 percent of their classes online, take only 10 percent on campus, and be awarded the same degree. If a student is interested in taking some courses online at a regionally accredited university, and then transferring them to the traditional university next door, the transfer credits will be accepted 90 percent of the time, according to John Bear, author of Bear’s Guide to College Degrees by Mail and Internet.

For profit universities, such as the University of Phoenix, are wholly targeted to working adults. There are over 19,000 students enrolled, and all coursework can be completed entirely online. Programs include associate, bachelor, and graduate degrees. The University of Phoenix is fully accredited, and is quickly growing in recognition and popularity among older students. Up to 59 percent of students at the University of Phoenix receive tuition assistance from their employer.

For more examples of featured online programs and to request information, see our degree directory.

It is vital that students interested in online programs do their research before selecting a program. Some institutions lack the appropriate accreditation, or provide poor interaction between students and faculty. Other universities, termed “Degree Mills,” award diplomas not worth much more than the paper they are printed on.

Recognized institutions with online degree programs carry more weight with employers than degrees awarded by lesser known schools. A study reports that 77 percent of hiring managers say that an online degree received through an established university such as Duke or Stanford is more acceptable than a degree earned through an Internet only university like Capella or Jones International. However, some say such an assessment is unfair, as Capella and Stanford have the same regional accreditation and uphold rigorous academic standards.

Despite concerns, acceptance of online degree programs is on the rise. Many corporations are hiring applicants with online degrees, or providing tuition reimbursement. As more traditional and quality institutions begin to offer these programs, they will become more common and widely accepted. According to a report from Market Data Retrieval, colleges providing online degrees doubled in just one year. The survey of 4,000 institutions showed promising figures: in 1999-2000, 34 percent of colleges offered degrees on the Internet, up from 15 percent just the year before.

The Sloan Consortium found that complete online degree programs are offered by 34 percent of institutions. Among public institutions, 49 percent are offering full online degree programs. 80 percent of public and 37 percent of private institutions offer both online and blended programs. For profit institutions expect to increase their online programs more rapidly than any other type of institution, anticipating an increase of more than 40 percent. In addition, according to Consortium findings, three quarters of academic leaders at public colleges and universities believe that online learning quality is equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction (The Sloan Consortium: Entering the Mainstream, October 2004.)

As increasing numbers of professionals receive their degrees and professional training on the Internet, employers uncertain of online degrees will need to re-evaluate their position. These programs are coming on strong in the education industry, as technology becomes more sophisticated and the demand grows.

For more information, see Online Education Gets Accolades, Should You Get Your Degree Through Distance Learning?, and Tackling Online Degree Programs.