Do employers look down on online degrees?

The value of online college degrees is tethered to a university’s traditional presence, accreditation, and name recognition, according to series of studies and surveys.

Employers said accreditation played a big role in shaping their view of an online degree.

Colleges and universities have advertised their growing web-based courses as an alternative for nontraditional students who couldn’t possibly attend school the traditional way, spending hours a day in campus lecture halls and discussions sections.

If employers don’t view online degrees in the same light as their traditional counterparts, the question arises: will an online education — no matter how convenient and inexpensive — reap the same financial benefits?

Drexel University released an infographic summarizing what, exactly, employers think of college degrees earned through online classes. The findings were encouraging for many — but not all — online degree holders.

  • A Zogby International Survey showed that CEOs and human resource directors valued online degrees from established universities over degrees from “lesser-known” schools.
  • The Zogby survey showed a clear preference among employers for online degrees that come from schools with traditional campus-based programs, rather than online-only colleges.
  • Every executive surveyed by Zogby said accreditation is a key in how they perceive the value of an online degree. Regional accreditation was especially important.
  • Three in four campus officials said they view online and traditional education equally, although that number rose to 89 percent when the school has a traditional campus.

Do you think an online degree is equal to a traditional degree? Take our poll on Page 2.

Online education’s reputation has come a long way from 2006, when a Cleveland State University study showed 96 percent of employers said they’d prefer a job candidate with a traditional degree over one with an online degree.

Not even hybrid courses had much clout among employers in the mid-2000s. Three in four employers surveyed in the Cleveland State study said they’d hire a traditional degree holder over an applicant with a hybrid degree, earned through a combination of traditional and online courses.

Cleveland State researchers revealed that in the fields of telecommunications, data systems, insurance, finance, and rental businesses, there was a clear and present bias against nontraditional college degrees.

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