how credible are online degrees

Are Online Degrees Respected? Finding a Credible, Online Degree Program

Online education is here to stay. For years, colleges have been integrating online courses and degree options into their program rosters—and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, online learning became the norm. Today, we are more equipped than ever to handle online education. We have the technology, the resources, and now the practice to successfully complete college courses online. We also acknowledge, perhaps more than ever, the benefits of doing so. Online learning allows college students to continue working their jobs and managing their home life, all while achieving a college degree. The question is, do employers recognize and respect the value of these online offerings? Are online degrees respected – and seen as legitimate credentials – on a resume?

In short, the answer is yes.

Employers are recognizing the credibility of online degrees as their popularity grows.

The Growing Credibility of Online Degrees: By The Numbers

New federal statistics show that, during the 2019-20 academic year, roughly 52 percent of postsecondary students in the United States took at least one online course. This number does not include courses that were moved online on an emergency basis, due to the pandemic. In other words, more than half of college students chose to enroll in an online course. About 23 percent, or 5.8 million college students, were enrolled in a fully-online degree program that same year. This number is up from 15% of fully online college students in the year 2018.

With these figures in mind, the nation—including the employers and recruiters within it—are recognizing the value of online degree programs. On top of this, more colleges and universities have embraced online education. Today, some of the most trusted institutions are now offering online degrees, as well as hybrid degree programs, to provide students with flexibility.

This isn’t surprising, as research has shown the benefits of online learning in the past. One study from the U.S. Department of Education, last updated in 2010, found that online higher education is more effective than traditional, face-to-face learning alone. More notably, hybrid learning (a blend of online and on-campus courses) was found to be the most advantageous format for college students.

That same year, a survey from found that 83% of executives believe “an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program.” Employers also reported that certain factors make an online degree more credible, including:

  • Accreditation of the college, university, or program
  • The reputation of the institution awarding the degree
  • The quality of its graduates

It is normal for prospective students to have hesitations about earning a degree online. However, as the above statistics show, the nation is shifting its perspective of online learning as a whole. With the benefits of online degree programs clear, the respect of online colleges has grown substantially. As long as you choose an online school that is reputable, accessible, and supportive of its students, you can count on your future success.

What Do Employers Think of Online Degrees?

Pursuing a degree online does not mean you have to sacrifice a quality education. In fact, an online degree program can help you prepare for your career and provide you with invaluable skillsets outside of your core major. According to U.S. News, many employers find that graduates of online degree programs have strong time management skills, decision-making skills, and commitment to their field.
Below are just some examples of what employers might think of your online degree:

1. You have great time management skills.

Many students pursue an online degree because they have other priorities, such as a full-time job. Taking classes and working full-time, therefore, requires balance and good time management. Many employers will find this an attractive quality in candidates. Online degree holders have the ability to balance school alongside work and other obligations, and find success in their college coursework.

2. It shows you are a practical decision maker.

As noted above, students often choose an online degree because of the flexibility it provides. However, as you apply for jobs, you may be asked, “Why did you pursue a degree online?” This is your chance to highlight your rationale and in turn your decision-making skills. Did you choose to pursue an online degree because you wanted to maintain your career? Was it a financial decision? Was it because of family obligations? As cited by U.S. News, “Answering that question can reveal a candidate’s decision-making abilities, particularly about working in different types of settings.”

3. Many view online education as a doorway to new opportunities.

Online education can have its perks when applying for jobs, but it can also come into play in your current role. If you are in a career field that you love, but are looking to advance your title or skillsets, an online degree can be a great solution. And many employers agree. Employers recognize that online degree programs can help their employees further their education, enhance their career skills, and bring more to the table in their job. In fact, it’s reported that 60% of online college students had access to employer reimbursement for their tuition.

Despite the benefits above, it is unlikely that employers will make their decision based on whether a degree was earned in-person or online. In fact, many do not look at the format of degree at all, but rather the degree itself. Does the degree you earned apply to your field? Did it provide you with the skills, the knowledge, and the credentials needed to practice in your line of work? Was the degree program accredited? Was the degree earned from a reputable and trusted school? These are questions your employers will ask when assessing your education. This brings us to the next section:

What Should You Look for in an Online Degree Program?

As you evaluate your online degree options, there are certain qualities to look for to ensure that the program or school is legitimate. The following factors will help to ensure that your online degree will be credible, respected, and valued after graduation day.

1. Accreditation

Accreditation is the process in which an outside entity evaluates a school or program and ensures it meets set standards of quality and rigor. The accrediting body will assess a college’s success rates, faculty, curricula, and more to determine whether it is a high-grade institution. Both schools as a whole and individual programs (whether online, on-campus, or hybrid) can be accredited.

There is also regional and national accreditation. Generally speaking, regional accreditation is considered to be top-notch and is therefore most widely recognized. This is because regional accrediting bodies have more rigorous standards when evaluating colleges and universities. Regional accreditation is also important for transfer students, as credits easily transfer between regionally-accredited schools.

It is important to seek accreditation in higher education, as it validates a degree program, asserts its credibility, and ensures a school’s reputation. Employers may look at whether your degree came from an accredited institution, especially if the name of the school is unfamiliar to them. Learn more about the benefits of choosing an accredited, online university here.

2. Student Success

If you are unsure about an online school or program, speak with their admissions team about student success, graduation, and job placement rates. You can also research what employers think of the school’s graduates. Additionally, ask the school about their student support and career services. Even if you are pursuing a fully online degree program, your institution should be there for you throughout your educational journey. This means guiding you through the process of online learning, job searching, and applying for potential careers. If your school does not offer support services, consider this a red flag.

3. On-Campus Options

Pursuing a fully online program is great choice for many students who need flexibility. However, knowing that your college or university has a brick-and-mortar campus, as well, can be a source of comfort. According to, schools with physical campuses are viewed as more credible, with a more widely known reputation, than fully online schools. Additionally, the campus option is a nice-to-have, if you decide to pursue hybrid online/on-campus courses down the road.

4. Non-Profit College

Finally, consider whether your college or university is a for-profit or not-for-profit institution. Historically, there has been a great stigma associated with for-profit online schools. While they have been improving in recent years, for-profit colleges and universities (particularly those online) have faced criticism about low graduation rates, low quality standards, questionable admissions processes, and high student debt. With that in mind, it can help your marketability to choose a reputable, non-profit college or university that offers your desired online degree. Non-profit colleges and universities are also more likely to be regionally accredited, have strong student support services, and high student success rates.
At the end of the day, however, it’s most important to look for an online degree program that is accredited and credible, that aligns with your career goals, and that offers you the support you need. The best online degree for you will be one that meets all your needs, through graduation day. When you find this program, you can rest assured that your online degree will be respected and valued by employers, as well as yourself.

Goodwin University is a leader in online education, with fully online as well as hybrid degree programs available to students. Whether you are transferring schools, going back to school, or simply looking for a more flexible degree option, explore our online programs here. We understand students have other obligations. We understand you need a degree that works with your schedule, not against it. We believe you should not have to sacrifice a quality education for flexibility. You can earn a credible, respectable, official college education from the comfort of your own home.

Are you ready to start your online degree? Contact our admissions team at 800-889-3282 to learn more. Or, request more information online here.