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Are Online Degrees as Respected as Traditional Degrees?

When Holly was thinking about going back to school, she wondered if she should go to an online college or traditional on-campus college. She’d heard that online degrees weren’t as respected as traditional, but she’d also heard that some companies respect online degrees.

Do Employers Respect Online Degrees?

Online education was once an oddity and the value of an online degree was uncertain at best. In recent years, traditional, residential colleges and universities have begun offering college courses through online learning. More than one-third of brick-and-mortar colleges and universities offer degrees entirely online.

According to a recent study conducted by Online Learning Consortium,

  • More than one in four students (28%) now take at least one online course.
  • Public institutions command the largest portion of online students, with 72.7% of all undergraduate and 38.7% of all graduate-level distance students.
  • The total of 5.8 million fall 2014 distance education students is composed of 2.85 million  taking all of their courses at a distance and 2.97 million taking some, but not all, distance  courses

Unlike a decade ago, the majority of employers are now embracing online education. As more and more trusted schools offer online degree programs, respect continues to grow. Online education is no longer an oddity but the norm as online course enrollment climbs for the 10th straight year.

According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, 83 percent of executives say that “an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program.”

When asked, employers said that accreditation of the school, quality of its graduates, and the reputation of the college or university were among other things that make an online degree more credible.

Although employers see online degrees as reputable, the rest of America is slow to adopt the new education platform. According to a recent Gallup poll,

“Public perceptions about online education’s ability to deliver education in a format most students can succeed in, as well as its ability to tailor instruction to the individual, are more mixed, but tilt negatively”

The majority of Americans call online degree programs “only fair” or “poor” while 34 percent rate such programs as “excellent” or “best.” Adversely, 68 percent of Americans rated 4-year schools as “excellent” or “good” and 64 percent rated community colleges as highly as 4-year schools.

Americans' Views of Online Education vs. Traditional Classroom-Based Education

Quality of Education Ratings

An online learning study conducted by the United States Department of Education addressed the topic of online vs traditional face-to-face- learning at the higher education level. The study, undertaken from 1996-2008, concluded the following:

  1. Online higher education is more effective than traditional face-to-face learning.
  2. Hybrid/Blended learning (online learning combined with traditional learning) is the most effective.
  3. Face-to-face learning alone is the least effective method of among the three types of learning methods studied.

Lastly, according to a survey by OnlineLearningSurvey.com, faculty acceptance of online vs. face-to-face learning has increased from 57 percent in 2003 to 78 percent in 2011. Three-quarters of faculty see online learning as being just as good or better than traditional, face-to-face learning.

Tips for Finding a Respected Online Degree

If you’re looking to go back to school online, consider these six things to evaluate a quality online degree program.

  1. Reputation

Does the school you’re considering have a brick-and-mortar location or is it online only? Schools that have physical campuses are viewed as more credible. If the school only has a P.O. box or suite number, employers will view it as a red flag.

2. Accreditation

The Department of Education says that accreditation is essential to credibility. Make sure that the school you plan to attend is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Diploma mills are typically accredited by fake agencies.

3. How quickly can you earn the degree?

Be wary of schools that offer the opportunity to earn a degree in just months

4. Quality of the school’s graduates

Make sure to research data and information on what employers think of school’s graduates. One statistic that will help you determine graduate quality is job placement rates, which can be found using NerdWallet’s school comparison tool.

By choosing a college that is reputable and known by your employer, your online degree will have a higher chance of being respected. In the end, where you earned your degree is more important than how — online or on campus.

Further Reading

How Employers View Your Online Bachelor’s Degree – Online degrees still carry a stigma with some employers, but that’s quickly changing.

What Employers Think of Your Online MBA Degree – Most employers are receptive to reputable degrees, but some still need to learn more about online education, experts say.

What Employers Think of Your Online Master’s in Education – Those looking for an online master’s degree in education should make sure their program will lead to the right state credentials.

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