For many people considering an online graduate program, concern over the credibility of a degree earned online often weighs heavily in their minds. They may fear that their education is considered less valid in the eyes of their peers and employers than those who earned their degrees on campus.
While this is an understandable line of thought, there are several reasons why these concerns over the value of an online graduate degree can finally be put to rest.
University Reputation Outweighs Any Stigma
These days, college or university brand recognition is much more of an advantage for students than the method by which they earned their degree.1 As more well-respected on-ground colleges and universities understand that prospective students enjoy and expect the benefits associated with online learning, they have begun to integrate these degree programs into their educational offerings. This increase in traditional universities offering online graduate degrees has gone a long way toward breaking any lingering negative stigma in the minds of recruiters and employers.
In fact, because so many people are earning online MBAs, or taking a combination of online and in-person courses, most employers don't even ask about the format of an applicant's degree program. It may only come up in specific cases, such as when an applicant earned a degree in one city while working in another.
Employers Are Learning the Advantages of Online Degrees
In the past, employers may have questioned the value of an online education. However, now that more colleges and universities have adapted this model, they've begun to realize that online degrees provide students with the same real and actionable value as on-campus programs.
For example, some employers may have previously questioned whether online students were gaining skills such as teamwork and group collaboration, because they weren't working with others face to face. The development of technology has given MBA programs the ability to replicate these group experiences—and given that so many businesses are now working in virtual environments, with teams widely dispersed around the world, one could argue that online students are even better prepared for a modern collaborative environment.
Another advantage to employers is the fact that earning an online degree allows employees to keep their full-time jobs. This is a win-win situation. The employer can receive more value from their employee's time and work as their skills increase, and the employee can add more value to their organization and to their career down the line. In fact, some employers may find it to be such a valuable investment that they will reimburse the tuition.
And for those MBA students looking for new opportunities, prospective employers are often impressed with a candidate's time-management skills. Juggling school and work, along with other responsibilities, requires a high degree of motivation and excellent time-management skills. Students must carve out time to not only attend classes online, but complete reading and assignments, work on projects and conduct research. This drive to excel in both career and education is impressive to employers, who want to hire individuals who are organized and able to prioritize competing demands.
Therefore, if you are concerned about a potential employer's perception of your online MBA degree, you shouldn't be. Should an employer ask about your learning format, chances are the questions will be focused on your experience with collaboration, as well as your reasons for choosing to study online as opposed to in person. Some employers are also concerned about accreditation, but when you choose a program like William & Mary's Online MBA, which is AACSB-accredited, that shouldn't be an issue.
Online MBA Students Have More Work Experience
According to one survey, more than half of all MBA students are attending classes part time.2 The majority of these students also work while earning their degrees. The stats also indicate that students who attend online MBA programs are generally older, with more work experience than those who attend on-ground programs. In William & Mary's Online MBA program, for instance, the average work experience of students in the Spring 2017 cohort is 12 years.
So, what does this mean?
Graduate programs are generally collaborative in nature. The courses are informed by the experiences and perspectives of the students who attend them. The more experienced a cohort is, the more wisdom there is for a professional to gain. And for students who are working during their MBA program, the workplace essentially becomes a lab for testing out the skills being taught in class, increasing the relevance of the courses. This generally leads to highly engaged and committed students in online classes.
And of course, you cannot ignore the opportunity cost that comes with enrolling in a full-time, in-person MBA program. By taking online courses while you work, you don't have to forfeit two or more years of salary in addition to the cost of your tuition. If you employer covers some or all of your tuition, the savings are even more. And best of all, the sooner you finish your degree, the sooner you're able to benefit from the salary increase that often comes with an MBA.
The Times, They Are A-Changing
If you're a professional who's been too wary to consider an online graduate program, don't be. The perception of online degrees from traditional colleges and universities has changed and the times are rapidly catching up with technology.
If you're interested in learning more about this subject, try reading about the pros of earning an online MBA.
1Retrieved on January 31, 2018, from usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2016-05-09/what-employers-think-of-your-online-mba-degree
2Retrieved on January 31, 2018, from forbes.com/sites/ronaldyeaple/2012/06/04/does-it-pay-to-earn-a-part-time-mba/