If you’re looking to apply to an online degree, some of the questions that cross your mind are: 'How employable am I going to be with an online degree and how can I make my application shine and avoid being disadvantaged on the job market?'
But you don’t need to have nightmares about being laughed at the interview for taking classes over the Internet. While online students face some unique challenges, distance learning is quite common today, and it is possible to find a reputable, fulfilling job with your online degree.
Here are 5 essential tips to use before, during, and after you finish an online degree to make sure you are as employable as any on-campus student.
1. Choose to study at a respected, top online university
In the field of online education, there are also rankings and tops which show you which are the best universities you can choose to do a Bachelor’s or a Master’s. Don’t underestimate your employers by thinking they have no knowledge of it. Plus, even if some employers are unfamiliar with the field, you can always mention during your interview that you are studying or have graduated from a top online university such as the ones listed by US News for Bachelor’s programmes:
- Ohio State University-Columbus
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
- Temple University
Another way to go about this is to choose to do an online degree at a top traditional university. Many on-campus universities have opened distance learning programmes if not entire online branches for their institutions. As their reputation precedes them, even if your degree is online, your employer will not ignore the fact that you completed your programme at a prestigious university. Some examples are:
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
- The University of Exeter Online
- University of Birmingham
- University of Essex Online
- James Cook University
- RMIT University
2. Choose accredited universities that have good industry connections
If you earned a distance degree on your own, it’s important that you know all the facts about your degree and are able to answer any questions that your future employer might ask. You should know the accreditation status of your school and be able to explain how and why your particular degree is legitimate.
You should also check out if the university you are considering has partnerships with any business and industry leaders that could be future employers for you.
3. Know when to be direct about doing an online degree and when to omit it
The first tools to help you stand out when you are job hunting are the CV and the letter of Intention. If you plan to be straightforward about your online degree, then you will need to focus on how your online education will bring value to the workplace.
You should choose this approach if the university you attended explicitly includes the word ‘online’ in its name such as Kettering University Online, for example. In this case, it’s best to note it as such in your CV and try and show employers in your cover letter what special skills you have, precisely because you followed an online degree:
- your familiarity with video conferencing software.
- experience in managing teams remotely.
- being accustomed to troubleshooting technological issues on your own.
However, there are also instances in which you can omit the online aspect from your CV. For example, if the name of your university makes no reference to ‘online’, then you should not explicitly insert this in your CV. Say you attended an online degree at Glasgow Caledonian University. You do not need to state in the description that your degree was obtained online. And in your cover letter, you should focus on the subject-related skills you gained.
BUT, very importantly, you should be honest about getting an online degree during the interview. Omitting it from the CV might be ok, but it won’t work during the interview, especially if the interviewer asks you about your studies!
4. Use your interview to show the relevance of your degree in practice
Degree programmes designed for adult learners are offered to prepare students for real jobs in the current workforce. You can learn career-specific skills that can be applied to the real world as soon as you graduate. Make sure your employer understands the skills and tasks you are capable of, based on your online training.
5. Add extra skills to your studies
Yes, studies matter and some employers might still be picky about what and where you study. But in today’s world, another aspect has become more important: not what you know but what you can do.
That’s why it’s important to tell your employers about how completing an entire programme through an independent study format is a testament to your ambition, self-discipline, organization, and ability to set and achieve goals.
Then you should move on to volunteer or work experiences that set you apart from your online degree program peers. Some online degrees require students to complete internships or residencies, and if you have on-the-job work experience, include it on your resume and in your interview. Proving that you can work alone with technology, as well as contribute to a traditional work environment, should make you a valuable asset in any office.