Are Online Degrees Credible?

Are Online Degrees Credible?

Just a decade or two ago, there would be no need for this article. The answer to the question in this title would have been an easy—no. Correspondence courses have been around since 1892. In the 1920s, some colleges even broadcasted classes over the radio. By 1953, degrees were offered through the TV and in 1989, the University of Phoenix had cornered the market in online education. But even with these alternative routes, brick and mortar education has long been the ‘standard’ when it comes to college education. But what about today? Are online degrees credible? Current research paints a positive picture.

Online Education Is Growing

A recent U.S. News report spelled out the number of students taking courses online—6.3 million. For 14 years straight this number has grown, especially in public schools, where 2 out of 3 online students are enrolled. The staggering growth in itself says a lot about the credibility of online degrees. After all, if degrees obtained through the internet weren’t worth much, would more and more students pay for them?

Learning House research echoed these thoughts, reporting that over eighty percent of online students thought that learning online was just as good as going on campus. Eighty-six percent of these same learners felt that the value of their degree either equaled or exceeded the cost. The positives of going to school online include:

  • A flexible schedule
  • Accelerated program
  • Lots of options when it comes to schools/majors
  • Less money—you save on room and board, food, etc.
  • Adult learners can use the programs to further their education.

As positive as this is, it’s not only the learner’s opinion that matters when it comes credibility.

What Do Employers Think of Online Degrees?

As students’ thoughts about online schooling have changed, so have their future bosses. Today, most employers accept online degrees and have the ‘a degree is a degree’ motto. Many respect the time and effort applicants have put into getting a degree online. Some may have even received their degrees from online schools themselves!

Even those who are ‘old school’ or skeptical about whether online degrees are credible usually won’t base a hiring decision on where you got your degree alone. This makes it even more important to ‘beef up’ your resume with stable work history and references.

Are Online Degrees Worth It?

Regardless of personal opinion on the matter, the truth is, there are a lot of reputable online programs that provide a solid education. The trick is being able to weed out the good seeds from the bad ones. When trying to determine a particular degree path is credible, consider the following:

  • Accreditation. A program that isn’t accredited is almost always a ‘no-go.’ The accreditation process is used to evaluate universities and make sure their program standards are up to par. It is also used to make comparisons between schools. For some degree-paths, accreditation might not seem like a big deal. For others, lack of would make the degree almost useless. Look and see if an online degree program is regionally accredited before making any major decisions.
  • Reputation. Another factor to consider is the school’s overall reputation. For example, Arizona State University is a nationally recognized college. Getting a degree there, online or otherwise, would look good on a resume. However, you couldn’t say the same if you chose a school with a not so great reputation (i.e., diploma mill).
  • Quality. Which leads into another factor to consider, quality. When trying to determine if an online degree is credible, look deeper than the surface. Are the program requirements rigorous? How long will it take to finish? How does it compare to other schools/degrees?

The bottom line: For some people, getting an online degree is the best option. If it works with your schedule, family needs, and budget, don’t be afraid to make the leap. Just make sure that you take your time to find the right program for you—an accredited one with a good reputation and high standards. This way, you will get a quality education with no regrets.


U.S. News & World Report, Learning House