Online degrees can make higher education accessible for a wide range of learners, whether they are starting their first careers or managing career transitions into new fields. As graduates of online programs demonstrate their skills and qualifications in the workplace everyday, the distinction between online and face-to-face learning is becoming less relevant.
Unfortunately, in some job markets employers may still have questions about whether the education received from an online school is as strong as the education received from a traditional college or university. Be prepared to discuss your experience as an online student, particularly in professional networking and job interview situations.
Consider these five strategies for finding a job with your online degree:
- Work with your career center. The professional counselors and advisors in your school’s career center are actively networking with employers who are already interested in hiring your online program’s graduates. Ask about virtual information and networking sessions, as well as online career fairs. Your school may also be involved in partnerships with companies to provide continuing education for existing employees. These employers may have fewer questions about online learning in general, and be familiar with your program requirements.
- Focus on your course work. How did you change as a result of being an online student? Share information about the courses you completed, projects you were involved in, and the specific skills you developed. Reflect on why you chose your specific program and discuss the value you found participating in the learning environment and interacting with your instructors and classmates. Be ready to share examples of your work and stories about what you achieved as an online learner.
- Discuss accreditation. Do you know what kind of accreditation your online school and program holds? If not, take the time to research this information and add it to your conversations about online learning. Accreditation is a process through which academic programs, online and on- campus, are reviewed and evaluated to ensure that they meet established standards of quality. This was an important part of your research when choosing a program, and it will be important to many employers as well.
- Connect with alumni. Though alumni directories, associations, and local networking events you can learn a lot from others who have graduated from your school and program. Where are they working and what were their career paths? Ask for advice about not only the job search, but also marketing your online learning experience with potential employers.
- Provide a big picture view. Your educational achievements as an online student represent just one part of your ability to excel with a new company. Explain how your online degree complements your previous work experience, training and certification, and prior education. All of these experiences contribute to your skill set and inform your performance on the job.
Many employers do recognize online colleges as a valuable source of continued education, and many larger companies are providing online alternatives for professional development and training. As the number of options continues to increase at both online and campus-based institutions, so do the number of graduates. The advent of more blended, or hybrid, courses that incorporate both online and in person strategies also blur the line.
What matters is how well you can perform your duties and help the organization reach its goals. From practical internship experiences to time management, collaboration, and communication skills, let others know how your accomplishments as an online student prepared you for your next job.