How will employers see my online master’s degree?

An online masters degree is ideal for the busy, working adult. Though no report demonstrates the growing popularity of online master degrees in particular, between 2000 and 2008, the National Center for Education Statistics showed that the number of undergraduates enrolled in distance degree programs grew from 2% to 4%. And as online education becomes more popular, people have begun to wonder how employers approach a potential employee who earned their masters degree online. After all, a masters degree is no easy feat. It requires money and involves hard work, and people want to see that results of such work reflected in their careers.

Luckily, according to a survey conducted by Career Builder in 2010, not only are more employers becoming familiar with distance education options, they’re also coming to understand such degrees are reputable. The study found that 61% of the small business owners and CEOs surveyed knew about online degree programs. Meanwhile, 83% of executives surveyed said they viewed online and traditional degrees equally in terms of credibility.

While online master’s degrees are just as credible as traditional ones, the 17% of executives who doubt online education makes it is worth noting that it is not necessarily the case that employers will know that your degree was earned via distance learning. This is especially true if you earn your degree from an educational institution that offers both traditional and online degrees because online diplomas look the same as traditional ones; there is nothing on a diploma that states that a degree was earned online. Of course, if you attend a purely online university with “Online” in its name, your employer will know that you earned an online degree.

Tthere are things to consider when choosing a school and online program that impact whether an employer will view your online degree positively or negatively. The first of these is accreditation. Accreditation is a status schools hold if they have been reviewed by a U.S. Department of Education-approved accreditation agency. Being accredited is one way to show that an institution has met the requirements established to objectively measure its quality; thus, the best online masters degree programs are typically those offered at accredited schools. Institutions can provide regional or national accreditation. The easiest way to determine if a given institution is accredited, and what type of accreditation it has, is to run a search on the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs search tool.

Second, the reputation of the institution you attend can also affect your employment opportunities. If you attend an online school with a reputation for churning out unprepared graduates, your employer is going to view your degree the same way he or she would if you attended a traditional institution with a similar reputation. Be sure to do your research. Attending a high-quality, reputable online school is one of the most imperative factors in terms of your career’s future.

If you come across an employer who doesn’t know about online degree programs, there are a few important points to make to him or her. First, you should make it clear that your degree is from an accredited institution. Many of the same accreditation agencies that accredit traditional schools and degrees do the same for online schools and degrees. Be prepared, also, to inform your prospective employer of the various achievements your school boasts. Second, explain that the curriculum you were required to complete is the same as that of a traditional program. Moreover, because you were a distance learner, you were required to be more organized, complete work more independently, and have more discipline than a traditional student, as these are all skills employers seek from their employees. If necessary, go into detail about the projects and materials you were required to complete. Overall, it is important that you solidify the fact that you received the same education and instruction that a traditional student did, with the main difference between the two simply being location.


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