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Online Degrees and Employers: Ponyboy or Donnie Brasco?

posted by Peter on December 4th, 2008

There’s one big question that surfaces any time a student considers taking an online class, enrolling in an online university, or pursuing an online degree. How acceptable will the education be to employers?

Since the value of any college degree is really determined by whether or not an employer accepts it, the question is especially important with online degrees, whose history has been somewhat shrouded in skepticism. With an online degree, would you be like Ponyboy, the lost, downtrodden outsider who can’t seem to gain a strong foothold in anything, or would you be like Donnie Brasco, the FBI agent who walked into the Bonanno crime family and became a trusted associate?

Ok, that’s a strange analogy. But putting aside the contextual details (14-year-old greaser, undercover cop), one of these is a strong position to hold, and one is not. Which will apply when you walk into a job interview with a bachelor degree from an online university on your resume?

According to sites like About.com and CareerBuilder, employers are becoming more accepting of degrees earned online. And surprisingly, it’s mostly because they’re just seeing them more often. Where two years ago, 96% of employers said they would prefer to hire someone with a brick-and-mortar education over someone with an online degree, more recent accounts say employers now consider an online school’s accreditation and prestige, just as they would a traditional degree.

That’s because with more working adults trying to find ways to better their income and education, taking classes online is looking more like the best option for someone with a busy schedule, and less like an easy way to crank out a diploma — especially when you consider that most college professors consider online course material to be just as valuable as the face-to-face kind.

Does this mean you can walk into a chair position at IBM flashing your University of Phoenix diploma like you’re Johnny Depp joining the mob? Not likely, just yet. But at least you’re no Ponyboy.

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