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Seven Tips for Getting A Job With An Online Bachelor's Degree

May 26, 2007 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Online education is growing—and more students than ever are graduating with online degrees.  But will these students have a disadvantage when it comes to getting a job?

Despite the advancements in online education, some industries have not kept up with the times, and hiring officers’ perceptions of online degrees vary widely.  Opinions range from “I usually like these candidates more than those from traditional universities” to “I still view this as close to the equivalent of earning a GED through a Sally Struthers correspondence course.”

While your online degree is likely to prepare you for your new career just as well as a traditional college nowadays, you may face extra hiring challenges as an online graduate.  Here are seven tips for putting your best foot forward as an online graduate in a competitive job market.

1. Know your industry’s stance on online degrees. 

Some industries are much more accepting of online degrees than others.  Research indicates that marketing companies, e-businesses, technology companies, media and communication industries are much more accepting of online degrees than more traditional fields such as government, law, medicine, and finance.

In addition, many industries are in flux; higher education tends to be skeptical of online degrees, but k-8 schools and high schools often encourage prospective teachers to get certified online.

2. Don’t mention the “online” part—unless asked. 

Depending on how accepting your industry is, you may not want to bring up the fact that you have an online degree unless the interviewer asks you.  However, they will probably ask you to talk about your education—so you’d better be prepared to talk about it, just in case.

3. Include your college’s accreditation status on your resume. 

To the uninformed, “online degree” can sound an awful lot like “diploma mill.” While that’s not the case everywhere—and this attitude is changing fast—it’s still a good idea to assuage employers’ fears by including your school’s accreditation status on your resume

An online school with a regional accreditation looks much better than one with a national accreditation—so if your school is regionally accredited, put that front and center on your resume.  If asked, tell your interviewer the accreditation proves your school is held to the same standards as traditional schools in your area.

4. Emphasize your school’s connection to a traditional school. 

If some of your professors also teach at traditional schools, or if your online school is affiliated in any way with a brick-and-mortar college, emphasize this when you talk about your education.  It will make your school sound more legitimate to those with preconceived notions about online degrees.

5. Market your degree the right way.

It’s important to emphasize the strengths your online degree indicates about you.  Those include independence, a strong sense of motivation, determination, excellent digital communication skills, and good time management. 

Many online students choose this type of degree because they are working around problems traditional students don’t face, such as a lack of funds, a full-time job, or a family to care for.  Don’t be afraid to talk about the circumstances surrounding your choice of an online degree, if appropriate.  Emphasize your determination to succeed and your ability to solve problems.

6. Talk up your hands-on experience. 

Most online programs offer plenty of hands-on experience.  It’s important to mention this so your employers will understand what the program has done to prepare you for work.  Internships, individual and group projects of any kind will help employers get a more comprehensive picture of you as a candidate.

7. Know your statistics. 

It’s likely you’ll know more about online education than your interviewer.  If you get the chance, back up your belief in online education with statistics.  Here are some good ones, taken from the 2006 Sloan Survey on online education:

  • Over 96% of the largest institutions offer at least some online classes.
  • More than 80% of doctoral and research programs offer at least some online classes.
  • In 2003, 57% of those in academic leadership positions believe online learning is as effective—or more effective—than traditional learning.  In 2005, that number climbed to 62%.
  • Those who think online learning is in fact superior to traditional education is still small—16.9%—but it’s grown by 40% in the last few years.
  • There were over 3.2 million people taking online classes in 2005, and numbers are rising.

An online degree may mean you’ll have some challenges moving to your next job—but it can also be an asset that separates you from the pack.  Be informed about online education, talk about the strengths of online graduates, and emphasize qualities such as accreditation and associations with traditional schools, and you’re likely to come out ahead of the competition.


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