Respect for online degrees continues to grow, and more and more well trusted schools are offering online degree programs. Think, just a decade ago, the answer probably would have been an emphatic No, but that is not the case anymore.
According to a careerbuilder.com survey, 83% of the executives polled said that they believed an online degree was just as credible as one obtained in person. True, it may be difficult for some employers---ones who grew up in another era---to accept the viability of an online degree; you can't teach an old dog new tricks. However, the gap is quickly closing as the old brigade is being replaced by a new guard of the internet savvy persuasion.
Much of education is transitioning to an online format. According to a 2013 statement by the Online Learning Consortium, 32% of all graduates will take at least one course online.
Lastly, according to a survey by OnlineLearningSurvey.com, from 2003-2011 the faculty acceptance of online learning as being just as good or better than face-to-face learning has risen from 57% to 78%. If this trend continues, preferences between the two should be nearly indistinguishable within the next 10 years.
However, when evaluating the respectability of an online degree, there are a few factors that you need to consider.
Respected Online Degrees: Factors to Consider
1) The Type of Degree
The type of degree earned is a key factor in determining whether or not your degree will be respected. Certain academic tracks require a significant amount of in-person instruction that can't be replaced with internet lectures. Nobody wants a phlebotomist with an online degree! However, some schools feature a blend of internet lectures with in-person labs where students can get the hands-on experience they need. This is often only available to local students, though some schools may choose to partner with local labs for distance students.
In addition to these, some research sciences require access to specialized equipment. There is no online format that can replace physical interaction with beakers, chemicals, and live specimens. Furthermore, if desiring a post-baccalaureate, students usually need the benefit of personal collaboration with the faculty who oversee the projects.
Aside from these exceptions, most degrees are not contingent upon such factors that necessitate physical interaction. Just be smart when you choose your career and ask yourself: is there any part of the job that requires experience that you cannot get without an internship or apprenticeship? It is at this point you should exercise common sense.
2) The reputation of the school
One of the biggest threats to the reputation of online degrees is the presence of what are “degree mills.” These are schools that churn out diplomas like factories. Students take blow-off classes, check the boxes they are told to check, effectively purchasing their degree without earning an education in the process.
Degree mills fail to invest in quality education. Instead they defraud students, having them pay for hollow degrees that do not reflect any actual education. Fortunately, using the same internet that links you to these mills, you can check these schools across the Better Business Bureau or just check to see if they are Accredited with national organizations. And sources like this site can be used to distinguish real schools from degree mills.
The educational world has shifted heavily towards internet education, giving aspiring student tons of flexible, affordable options without having to sacrifice quality. As of 2012, over 86% of schools offer some kind of online learning platform and over 62% offer completely online degree options, almost double that of ten years ago.
In many cases, the fact that the degree was earned online is not indicated anywhere on the degree. In these cases, an online degree and an in-person degree are virtually indistinguishable. Unless an employer makes a point to ask, they may never know. They may figure it out if 1) the school doesn't have a physical campus or 2) if your work history at the time of your degree is in a drastically different location.
Regardless of what schools strike your interest, it is always a good idea to look into their accreditation. There are many national, regional, and subject-specific accrediting organizations. Accreditation agencies help guarantee that schools can prove their curriculum is rigorous, their standards are strong and fair, and their education is substantial. For more information on which accreditations carry the most weight, visit our page Accreditation of Colleges and Universities.
At the end of the day, your choice of school can matter a great deal, but there are usually a few options available to you. And with online options booming, you have even more of an educational buffet before you than ever before.
Wherever you are on your educational track, remember that formal education (college/university) is a key element but employers also look for a good attitude, availability, work history, and field experience.
Since traditional brick-and-mortar schools have limited availability and narrow time frames for taking classes, holding down a full time 9-5 job is nearly impossible. Online degrees can offer a stark advantage for non-traditional students and for students who want to work while going to school.
In many cases, online degree programs are the most efficient way to gain training for your field without sacrificing a proven work history. When push comes to shove, an online degree with 5 years of work experience will usually beat an in-person degree with no work experience any day of the week.