If earning your degree, especially as a mid-life returning student, is about personal fulfillment or training to start your entrepreneurship, then where or how you get your degree isn't important to you. What's important is simply that you learn what you need to learn.
If, however, you're looking for a degree to start or advance your career and you'll need to impress an employer or potential employer with that degree, you may be somewhat at a disadvantage having earned it online.
It doesn't seem fair, and in the next few decades this will undoubtedly change as online degrees become more common. But for now there is some resistance on the part of employers to the idea that you have learned as much as you might have in the classroom. The most notable exceptions to this are in the areas where the job skills you'll tackle once you get your degree rely on your technical and Internet savvy: high tech, new media, and telecommunications. Many employers also value an online consultant-related degree as highly as one earned on campus.
Employers' concerns about online degrees are that the student is losing out on valuable career-related input because of failure to interact face to face with instructor and peers. They also say it's just such a new concept that the jury has to be out on whether students are really learning this way - unlike classroom-focused education.
The career choices for which employers are least likely to accept online training are in health care, legal professions, biotechnology, governmental and financial services.
A survey of hundreds of human resource executives resulted in several suggestions for online-degreed job hunters: (1) Be up front with the employer that you earned your degree online; (2) Come to the interview armed with verification of the courses' or degrees' value - textbooks, tests, course materials, information on accreditation and even testimonials from respected educators or graduates who now hold influential and respected positions; (3) Offer some real hands-on experience such as an internship in the field. (4) Intersperse your online courses with courses or outside activities that show your team and people person skills - join Toastmasters, hold an office (student, non-profit organization or otherwise, join the school debate team or write for the school paper).
With one notable exception these do seem like good suggestions. The first idea, to let your employer know up front that you earned your degree online, seems self-serving on the part of these human resource folks. Surely this is not good advice for a job candidate who is under no obligation to explain how she or he got the degree - unless of course she bought it.
But that's an ethics issue. This is not. What this is more likely about is the employers' desires to delve into things about which they have no business. In the minds of many, undoubtedly, those who earn their degrees online are those who are tied down as caregivers of children, older than the age of the typical college student (which isnt' really typical anymore anyway,) or perhaps medically homebound for a time. None of which is ever the business of a recruiter.
The best advice, ultimately, for those who earn their degrees or part of their degrees online, is that they do not share this information unless asked directly. This is probably going to be sound advice at least until there has been a decade or so of entrepreneur or executive level success as a result of online-degreed education.
About The Author:
Robert Michael is a writer for Degree-SU which is an excellent place to find degrees links, resources and articles. For more information go to: http://www.degreesu.com