The Career Benefits From Online College
Going to online college provides several major career benefits including regular practice in value, modern workplace skills, and the power to balance work and education.
In the early days of online education, the online college career benefits were met with skepticism by employers and industries, even by working professionals and adult learners themselves. It was common for hiring companies to express skepticism about the value of this emergent learning strategy. Are online colleges really as good as a degree from a traditional college? Some employers had their doubts.
But online education has evolved dramatically in just the last decade, and so too have employer attitudes on the subject. In fact, there are a few clear career benefits to attending online college that may actually make it the preferable path forward, both for you and for your current or future employer.
To seize these benefits right away, check out The Best Online Colleges. If you’d like to learn more, find out how going to online college can provide you with a critical advantage in today’s job market.
Do employers respect online college degrees?
Employers have come increasingly to respect the value of online degrees. To some extent, the question above is actually somewhat passé. In fact, for many job hunters, the question of learning medium may never even come up during the interview process, unless of course, you wish to highlight the amazing skills and knowledge you’ve gained during your time in an online college degree program.
A reputable online degree program offered by accredited colleges and universities typically don’t even contain the word “online” on their diplomas. In fact, the only difference between their on-campus and online programs is the mode of delivery.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), employer attitudes toward online degrees have evolved considerably over the last decade, and especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Enrollment in online undergraduate and graduate programs spiked dramatically between 2020 and 2021, highlighting its increasingly ingrained status in higher education. According to GMAC’s 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey, roughly 63% of prospective employers either held a neutral or favorable view of online education.
The vast majority of those surveyed viewed online education as equal to in-person education (or held no view at all…which is effectively the same thing if you happen to be a job seeker with an online education).
Of course, it helps to go to a great school, the kind where you’ll connect with brilliant classmates, learn under influential professors, and ultimately enjoy a high-quality educational experience. All of these factors can significantly improve your post-graduate career prospects, when you attend college in-person or online. Make sure you know what to look for in a great online education, from accreditation and curriculum to student services and academic support structures.
If you are interested in furthering your education (and career!) with an advanced degree, did you know that your employer may be willing to pay for online grad school? Find out more in our article How to Get Your Employer to Pay For Online Grad School.
With that said, here are the specific benefits that you can enjoy from attending an online degree program in your field of choice.Back to Top
Achieving Work-School Balance
Online degree programs are more than just beneficial to students who must work. It may actually be the only option for those who wish to advance their skills or credentials but who can’t afford to take a step away from the workplace. Online college offers a pathway that won’t deprive you of your income or disrupt the progress you’ve already made in your career.
One of the great career benefits of pursuing your degree online is the opportunity it provides for continuity. Career advisory company Pongo Résumé points out that “by keeping your job, you won’t have a work gap on your résumé—something future employers could view negatively, even if it was to return to school.”
Online courses allow busy adult students trying to balance school and a professional life to attend classes from anywhere with an Internet connection (i.e., synchronous courses) or even anytime and anywhere (i.e., asynchronous courses). Indeed, flexibility and convenience are among the foremost advantages of online degree programs!
Students can also customize their learning pace, meaning you can progress according to your own schedule—either taking extra time to understand the more challenging concepts or moving more quickly to more challenging material if you’re a fast learner. Such an individualized learning approach ensures that students gain a better understanding of the topics that, in turn, will benefit their careers, particularly in fields where continuous learning is a must.
Getting Your College Education from Online College Degree Programs without Geographical and Financial Barriers
Distance learning removes geographical barriers for students in remote or underserved areas that may otherwise have issues accessing higher education. Earning your degree online without having to travel to the college campus of your school opens up career advancement opportunities that may have remained closed until now.
You can keep your current job, pursue an online degree program, and meet your personal obligations at the same time, although we must say that juggling these responsibilities demands good time management skills. You may even be able to make a smooth transition from your bachelor’s degree to your master’s degree in the same school!
Furthermore, effective time management skills are valued by employers because it demonstrates superb organization, planning, focus, and efficiency. Indeed, According to Northeastern University, online classes keep you on a regular schedule of making and meeting deadlines, allowing you to practice managing your time and staying productive week-to-week.
Aside from geographical barriers, cost barriers can also be eliminated by earning a degree online! Online degree programs usually have lower tuition and fees—and in some cases, the same tuition and fees for in-state and out-of-state students—as well as make online resources like textbooks and materials free of charge.
Many online students enjoy faster completion time, giving them a higher return on investment, contributing to the cost-effectiveness of online learning.
If attending an accredited online program, online students also have access to the same financial aid opportunities that their on-campus counterparts receive.
Finding Programs Designed With Your Career in Mind
In addition to being tailored to the scheduling demands of working adults, many online degree programs are designed with the learning goals of working adults in mind as well. This means that online education can come in many forms, and can be built to advance very specific career-related goals.
According to Pongo Résumé
Many schools now offer single courses for alumni needing to update their knowledge, certificates in new skill areas or leading-edge degrees in fields that promise to be the hot careers of the future, such as medical information, green technologies and cyber security.
Such diversity in programs, courses, and degrees online allow students to explore various areas of study and, in the process, identify their true calling. Online students can also tailor their online education according to their unique interests and, thus, enable them to acquire a specialized set of skills that will make them stand out from their competition.
Tip: Check out the niche areas of study where the competition for jobs is also less competitive. Think of areas such as the renewable energy industry, organic agriculture, and recommerce.
Be sure to consider a specialization or concentration when pursuing an online college education from a reputable higher education institution. While being a generalist has its merits, such as flexibility, being a specialist can result in better career advancement prospects and higher earnings potential.
Don’t forget, too, that there are merits to an interdisciplinary education that stimulates innovative thinking and creative problem-solving, both of which are sought-after traits by employers. If you strengthen your interdisciplinary approach with a multicultural perspective, then all the better for your career.
You may even consider an accredited competency-based education (CBE) degree program. For instance, CBE-based schools like Western Governors University provide a model of education that is unique to the online medium, and is meant to train students entirely in areas that correlate to career goals.
CBE programs don’t waste your time on electives or prerequisites. You only study subjects that connect to your career. With an online CBE program, you can get right down to the business of building skills and earning your degree.
Building Valuable 21st Century Work Skills
For all the discussion about whether or not employers respect online degrees, it may be overlooked that many employers actually place a premium on the specific skills and abilities attained through online education. According to the University of St. Augustine for Health Services,
Online learning can help boost both the soft skills and technical skills employers want to see from applicants. Nearly half of employers say they are unable to find candidates with the skills they need.
Successful completion of an online degree program requires the demonstration of valuable 21st Century Skills like communication skills, collaboration, and critical thinking. Some online employers may view your successful navigation of the online educational experience as evidence that you have these skills and are ready to apply them in the workplace.
The importance of career-focused skills in career advancement cannot be overemphasized! Career-focused skills are the professional abilities and competencies with direct applications to a specific occupation, career, or industry. These are skills that employers look for in new hires and consider in promotions.
The best online degree program collaborates with industry experts and leaders in their curriculum development and course learning outcomes. Students then receive industry-specific education that aligns with the current demands of the job market while also upgrading their skills for future demand.
In terms of importance, enhanced digital literacy ranks high among the career-focused skills that online students acquire! Students become more proficient in the digital technologies and tools that the online learning management systems use—and we all know that digital literacy is a must in the 21st-century workplace.
The career-related benefits of enhanced digital literacy include increased adaptability in the Information Age, more remote work opportunities, and better digital content creation (i.e., many online college courses require digital content creation like videos, portfolios and presentations). Students also become more proficient in information management, data analysis and digital presence management in addition to their improved digital communication skills.
Applying Newly-acquired Knowledge and Skills in the Workplace
Since most students in online degree programs are working professionals, it’s easier and faster to immediately apply their newly-acquired knowledge and skills to their work. In fact, there’s a strong emphasis in online programs for classroom-to-workplace applications that, in turn, makes students more valuable to their employers.
As previously mentioned, online college courses are usually designed for practical applications in real-world situations, thanks to industry input. Students also gain hands-on experiences in online college degree programs through laboratory sessions, internships, and practicums.
Additional experiences like community immersions strengthen a student’s problem-solving aptitude, demonstrate their experience, and contribute to their professional learning and advancement. With these hands-on experiences outside of the online classroom, students also develop their confidence in their competencies that make them more resilient against the challenges of dynamic industries.
And lest we forget, the outstanding networking opportunities cannot be missed as among the best benefits of online learning! Keep in mind that people move companies, particularly hiring people, which can make or break your career advancement plans.
You can grab or miss out on career advancement opportunities depending on who you know—of course, what you know will also boost your chances. The global reach, virtual communities and forums, alumni networks, and virtual and in-person career fairs and employer events as well as career support services are all benefits of online learning as well.
All of this helps to underscore the importance of choosing an online college that actually offers a full range of career services. Evidence suggests that students graduating from online schools with career service departments or designated career service advisors enjoy greater opportunity and success in the job market.
For more, check out The Importance of Career Services for Online College Students
Making Your Time Work For You
In addition to the workplace skills that you must apply to earn an online education degree programs, there are certain practical abilities that must inevitably factor into your success. Time management is one of these.
On one side of the coin, online education is your ticket to educational freedom and flexibility. But the price of this independence is discipline. Organization, planning, focus, and efficiency are all essential in online college programs.
So in addition to refining these skills in anticipation of future workplace responsibilities, your online bachelor’s degree will provide employers with practical evidence of your abilities. Indeed, According to Northeastern University,
Online classes keep you on a regular schedule of making and meeting deadlines, allowing you to practice managing your time and staying productive week-to-week. Employers often appreciate the time management skills needed to complete an online degree program and view these skills as a valuable asset in potential employees.
Demonstrated Remote Capabilities
Life in the shadow of a pandemic demonstrated that telecommuting is a valuable skill, one that benefits your employer. Certainly, more American workers than ever before were required to tap into their remote working capabilities over the last two years.
But the adjustment isn’t always a quick and easy one. Some employees may struggle to channel the discipline, communication skills, self-pacing, or technical agility needed to remotely perform functions once completed in an office setting.
By contrast, graduates of online college or grad school programs will face no such difficulties. According to Northeastern University,
Learning to work with others in a virtual environment can make you a more effective leader. You’ll develop critical leadership skills by utilizing specialized knowledge, creating efficient processes, and making decisions about best communication practices, such as what should be discussed in-person or electronically.
In an era where telecommuting is becoming a far more mainstream experience, graduates of online college may actually be at an advantage as we all adjust to the rapidly changing 21st Century workplace.
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