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Are Online Degrees Looked Down Upon?

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If you are thinking about earning an online degree, you may be wondering how well the degree will be received by hiring managers when applying for jobs. Can you get a job with an online degree, or will hiring managers deposit your resume in the circular file? Are online degrees looked down upon?

The utility of an online degree depends on the school it was earned from, whether the school is accredited, and whether the degree program completed is in a field that companies are looking for. Online degrees are now very common, and many highly respected schools offer them.

Before you enroll in an online degree program, it’s definitely important to consider a few things. Some schools and online degree programs may be perceived more favorably by employers than others. It’s the same way with traditional degree programs – hiring managers have different preferences.

Are online degrees looked down upon? Here are a few things to consider:

Things Are Rapidly Changing

There was a time, just a few short decades ago, when colleges and universities started offering evening and weekend classes and degree programs for those who worked during the day. Some people made fun of those who were enrolled in these programs – as though the time of day that classes are held somehow determined the quality of education.

Nobody laughs at evening and weekend programs anymore. These programs are now so common that they are pretty much universally accepted.

Online education is going through a similar transition right now.

Online degree programs are now so common that it’s actually hard to find a school that doesn’t offer them. How common are they? Consider these schools that offer online degree programs:

  • Stanford University
  • Duke University
  • Columbia University
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Online degree programs are here to stay, and they are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate degree levels. It’s even possible at some schools to earn a doctorate online without ever setting foot on campus.

Is the School Accredited?

are online degrees looked down upon

One of the most important things to consider if you are thinking about enrolling in an online degree program is whether the school offering the degree is accredited. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple yes or no.

The problem lies in the fact that there are many legitimate accrediting agencies in the United States that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. A school can have regional, national, and specialized program accreditation.

Do you see why the issue of accreditation is so confusing? A school can be accredited by one of many accrediting agencies and legitimately state that it is “fully accredited.”

To understand accreditation, it’s necessary to take a closer look at the issue and to discuss each of the three different types of accreditation.

What Is Accreditation?

What does it mean for a school to be accredited? Does it mean a school is a good school?

Accreditation means that a school has voluntarily allowed an outside agency to review its operations. The purpose of the review is to see if the school meets a set of standards established by the accrediting agency. If those standards are met, the school is awarded accreditation – which is an official endorsement from the agency.

Regional Accreditation

Are online degrees looked down upon? Regional accreditation is a major factor that many employers look for when considering online degrees.

In the United States, regional accreditation is considered the best form of accreditation there is. This is the type of accreditation that the large private and state schools have. All of the Ivy League schools and other top-tier colleges and universities in the United States also have regional accreditation.

First, what is regional accreditation?

This form of accreditation gets its name because there are seven accrediting agencies in the United States that each accredit schools that fall within their respective geographic regions. A school only has to be accredited by one of these agencies to be accredited – and not all seven.

The seven regional accrediting agencies are:

  • The Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • The New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • The Higher Learning Commission
  • The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • The Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

How Do You Know If an Online University Is Accredited?

If you aren’t sure if a school you are interested in earning an online degree from holds regional accreditation, you can contact the U.S. Department of Education to find out. You can also go to the website of the regional accrediting agency for your region and see if the school you are interested in is listed as being accredited.

It’s important not to assume a school is accredited just because it has a big campus. Sometimes schools are put on probation by their accreditors. In some rare cases they may have their accreditation revoked. It’s always best to check.

National Accreditation

In your search for the perfect online degree program, you may encounter a school or program that is accredited by a national accrediting agency. If you want to see if a national accrediting agency is legit, you can check it out on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

It’s important to point out that while there are several legitimate agencies that accredit schools at the national level, this form of accreditation typically does not carry the same weight as regional accreditation. Schools with regional accreditation usually do not also have national accreditation because it would be redundant and unnecessary.

It’s also important to note that some schools with regional accreditation may not recognize degrees earned through schools with national accreditation. Some do and some don’t. Each school will have its own policy on accepting credits from these schools in transfer and for admitting graduates of these schools into their graduate degree programs.

A few examples of national accrediting agencies include:

  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission (TRACS)
  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
  • Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE)
  • Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools (AARTS)
  • Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCS)

Program Accreditation

Another form of accreditation you may encounter while you are evaluating online degree programs is known as program accreditation. This type of accreditation is for degree programs or schools within a college or university. The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), for example, is an organization that accredits college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.

A few more examples of program accreditation include:

  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • The American Psychological Association (APA)
  • The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • The Counsel on Social Work Education (CSWE)

Some states may require you to graduate from a degree program with program accreditation to obtain professional licensure or certification. If you are unsure whether program accreditation is needed for your future career, contact the state agency that oversees certification or licensure for the career as well as related professional organizations.

Is a School For-Profit or Non-Profit?

Another factor to consider when evaluating whether online degrees are respected is whether the school is a for-profit or non-profit organization.

What’s the difference?

The primary difference in the two designations is how the school is structured. For-profit schools are structured like businesses. The primary reason why they exist is to earn a profit for the owners of the company – its shareholders or investors. Non-profit schools, in contrast, are structured so that the income they generate is reinvested back in the organization after all expenses are paid.

It’s important to point out that a few for-profit schools have been in the headlines in recent years for their aggressive enrollment tactics, high tuition, and sub-standard quality of education they provide. Some graduates of these schools ended up deep in debt and were not able to land good-paying jobs with their degrees. Because of this, some employers are biased against for-profit schools and will not hire their graduates.

It’s very important to mention that not all for-profit schools are bad. Some, in fact, are excellent. Unfortunately, some hiring managers don’t take the time to find out which for-profit schools are good and which ones are not-so-good and they view all of them similarly.

In-State Schools

If you earn an online degree from a college or university that is located in the state you live in, many employers – especially ones that are in your state – may view it more favorably than one that was earned from a school located far from you.

If a school is located in the state you live in, many employers may not question how you earned your degree. For example, if you live in Texas and you earn an online degree through The University of Texas – Arlington, some employers may assume that it was earned the traditional way.

What if schools in your state don’t have the program you are looking for?

If you have to earn an online degree from an out-of-state school, earning the degree from a well-known and highly-respected school will help when hiring managers see it on a resume.

Do Online Degrees Say Online?

If you are considering earning an online degree, you may be wondering whether anything is mentioned on either the diploma or transcript that it was earned online.

It depends on the school.

Some schools do indicate on their diplomas or transcripts if degrees were earned online. Other schools treat their online degree programs the same as on-campus programs – how the degree was earned is not mentioned.

If you are considering an online degree program, definitely ask an admissions representative whether the school states that the degree was earned online on either the diploma or transcript. Again, some do and some don’t.

How Do You List an Online Degree On a Resume?

If you are thinking about earning an online degree, you may be wondering how to list it on your resume after completing the program. Do you have to indicate on your resume that it was earned online?

When you list a degree on your resume, you do not have to indicate that it was earned online. No one ever bothers to state that their degree was earned “on campus,” for example. No one ever bothers to state that their degree was earned through an evening or weekend program, either. They just list the degree they earned and leave it at that.

The way you earn your degree is irrelevant when listing it on your resume. A degree earned online is supposed to carry the same weight as one earned on campus. Therefore, you do not need to indicate that it was earned online.

Is an Online Degree Better than a Traditional Degree?

Whether a degree program that is offered online or on campus is better is a subject of much debate. Some argue that campus-based programs are better because you can listen to lectures and participate in classroom discussions in person. Many people are also really into the college life and like joining clubs and organizations and making new friends.

Some people believe that online programs are better because they give you an incredible amount of flexibility in life. If you are in a position where you have to work full-time to support yourself, for example, quitting your job to go to college somewhere may not be possible.

With online degree programs, you can continue working and complete your degree at the same time. Most online degree programs don’t require you to log on during specific times. As long as you complete all of your assignments and other course requirements by their due dates, you can work on your courses during times that are convenient for you instead of during times that may not be convenient.

Another benefit of earning your degree online and working at the same time is that you can gain valuable professional experience that you can put on your resume. This experience may help you work your way up the career ladder faster than someone who was in school for several years and didn’t work during that time.

Location flexibility is yet another great benefit of earning your degree online. If you live in a rural area, for example, and you want to earn a degree in computer science, you can do that without having to quit your job and move to a new place. You can stay right where you are.

Is It Cheaper to Go to College Online?

Are online degrees more affordable than attending a traditional degree program?


Whether an online degree program is more affordable than a program offered on campus depends on a variety of factors like which school you choose, how much transfer credit you use, and other things.

One way that some people save money on earning their degrees is to complete the first two years at a community college and than transfer to a four-year school to finish their bachelor’s degrees. Some who qualify for the PELL grant obtain enough grant money to cover all of their tuition, books, and other expenses at community colleges. Many community colleges also offer courses and degree programs online.

Selecting an affordable school is another way to save on the cost of earning a college degree. The cost of earning a degree is not consistent from one school to another. One school may be very affordable, for example, while another that offers the same degree program is five times more expensive. Making sure the school you choose is affordable can result in big savings.

Choosing an online degree program that is located in the state you live in is another great way to save on tuition. Out-of-state tuition could be several times more than in-state tuition.

How Hard Is Online College?

There is a common belief among many that earning a degree online is easier than earning a degree the traditional way. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a strong argument can be made that earning a degree online is far more difficult.

One of the reasons why many online degree programs are hard is because schools make them difficult on purpose so people will not think they are receiving an inferior education.

Many online degree programs have the exact same requirements as their on campus counterparts. You have to complete the same reading assignments, write the same papers, complete the same quizzes and exams, and other things. The primary difference is in how the educational content is delivered.

While some online degree programs do have lectures that you can watch, others don’t. This is great for those who prefer to read textbooks for courses instead of listening to boring lectures. Many people do fine in school without listening to lectures (like me).

How Do You Survive Online Classes?

Online classes are definitely different from campus-based classes. Success in these classes requires self-discipline and determination.

It’s important to log on to your online classes every day, even when you know you are caught up and you have plenty of time until your next assignment is due. An important announcement could be made in one of your classes, for example, and you don’t want to risk missing it.

If your online classes don’t have a lecture component, it’s vitally important that you complete all of your reading assignments. This is where the majority of your learning will come from. It’s also important to post regularly in the discussion forums.

Many People Earn Their Degrees Online

Online degree programs are now very common, and many prestigious colleges and universities offer them. Don’t be surprised if some of your coworkers or a manager completed an online degree.

Are online degrees looked down upon?

Online degrees have come a long way from their humble beginnings. Nevertheless, if you want to complete an online degree program but you don’t want it to be obvious that you did so, you can opt to complete an online degree from a school that is located in the state you live in – the closer to where you live, the better.

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