Online College Validity from an Employer’s Standpoint

businessmen shaking handsOnline College Validity from an Employer’s Standpoint

It’s a jungle out there. Getting a job, we know, is not always easy. Job markets are competitive and professional fields are changing – requiring new and better training, more comprehensive education, and a specific set of skills in order to land a job. So, what are employers looking for these days – and does an online degree count?

Quality Counts: How Can I Gauge the Quality of an Online Education Program?

There are advantages and disadvantages to pursuing an educational program through an online channel. When you are at the stage of deciding between online degree programs and schools, you need to do your research. The questions to ask are not just about price and flexibility, but also about quality, credentials, and accreditation. Here are a few key questions that every potential student should ask of each and every online program:

  • What credentials does the school offer?
  • Is the school accredited?
  • What programs are available and are they recognized by employers?
  • Are the faculty members recognized professionals, experienced teachers, or academically advanced in their fields?
  • Does this program grant me a recognized qualification in the job market?
  • Does the school offer post-graduation resources such as career counseling, job placement, or other alumni services?

Each of these questions should be answered by any school you consider prior to making a decision on a degree program. When you have this important background knowledge, you will be able to make an informed decision about what programs could be best for you in the short, medium, and long term, what the cost of the education will really get you in terms of value for money, and how recognized the programs will be by potential employers.

Do I Have the Requisite Training and Education for my Chosen Field?

Not all degrees are the same, and not all professions require the same skills and education. Some fields require only a training certificate in order to hire inexperienced workers, while others will ask for an Associates degree, Bachelors, or even a Masters degree.

If you have decided on the field you want to work in or the job you want to have, one of the most important steps is to make sure you know what the industry really requires you to have in terms of education and training, so you can confidently and efficiently obtain that professional qualification.

Whether or not you end up going the online route in that educational choice, being very certain about how well a given degree will prepare you for the job market is important. It will save you time and money in the long run, and improve your chances of being hired post-graduation.

Experts Agree: In Education, Online is Here to Stay

It’s safe to assume that online college is going to continue strongly in the future. This is not just because of the flexibility and improved accessibility that online degrees offer, but also because universities that offer online courses and degrees are well-positioned to develop new models education that combine lower costs, higher quality, and better alignment with the needs of the labor market and particular professional fields.

It is likely that even traditional campus-based universities will include online components as time goes by, which will be supplemented by small group work or collaborative learning in physical settings. Many universities are already experimenting with these mixed models.

Quality of Learning: Online Education vs. Traditional Education

Prospective students often wonder about the quality of learning offered by online programs. While there is little doubt that online education can enable students to flexibly study at their own pace while balancing personal and professional responsibilities with their academic duties, many students question whether the quality of learning is the same.

In 2012, an annual survey of over 2,800 academic leaders was carried out by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, which administers tests as part of the college admissions process. The survey report, entitled “Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States”, found that seventy-seven percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face.

A major reason for this could be that because online education allows many students to pursue education who would not otherwise be able to do so due to other responsibilities, students who pursue online courses are highly motivated, curious, and willing to take responsibility for their own learning process.

Moreover, online learning offers a considerable degree of personal interaction because students are often encouraged to personally contact their instructors or facilitators through email, phone, or Skype in order to touch base and ensure that they have understood course goals, materials and assignments.

In terms of the job market, employers who are familiar with the online college process know that these sorts of self-motivated, resourceful, responsible students make great employees.

Do Employers Prefer Traditional Graduates Over Online Graduates?

A 2012 article in Time magazine reports that according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employers’ views of online education have improved over the past five to 10 years. In fact, more than half of the human resources managers SHRM surveyed for an August 2010 report said that if two applicants with the same level of experience were applying for a job, it would not make a difference whether the job candidate’s degree was obtained through an online program or a bricks-and-mortar university. Seventy-nine percent said they had hired an applicant with an online degree during the previous 12 months.

However, there are still some human resources pros out there who are taking some time to get used to online education. “HR managers are normally pretty conservative and a little bit cautious,” said Margaret Fiester, SHRM’s operations manager for the HR Knowledge Center. “It boils down to how familiar they are” with online education, Fiester explained.

It bears pointing out that these statistics were from 2010, and the pace of online education is quickening – every year more and more educational institutions roll out online programs. The availability is changing and with it are attitudes about the validity of online college programs – on the whole, for the better.

The Bottom Line: ‘What Can You Do For Me?’

Imagine that you are a busy manager of a ten-person team, and in addition to your own work as well as supervising the work of ten people, you have to sort through a pile of resumes to hire someone for a new position.

The main criterion for the job is to find someone who has the training and education to get started effectively from day one. Wouldn’t you want someone who shows you in an interview that he or she is a quick learner, a responsible person, and has the requisite training to know what he or she is doing?

Most likely, where the degree came from is not the top consideration – but what the applicant can do for you is. Even as job markets and college programs change, the bottom line in hiring remains the same: the potential employer is going to ask applicants “what can you do for me”? As a job seeker, that’s your chance to show that manager what you can do. And that isn’t changing anytime soon.

Florida National University offers both online and on campus courses to students. To learn more about our programs and how we can help you achieve your career goals, get in touch with one of our career advisors today.