The Pros and Cons of Hiring Candidates With Online Degrees


image_12According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as many as 12.5 percent of current college students are exclusively taking classes online through distance learning programs, and an additional 13.3 percent take both online and traditional college courses [1]. This means that employers are facing an increased number of applicants with online rather than campus-based degrees. There are both advantages and drawbacks of hiring candidates with online degrees.

Pro: Basic Working Knowledge of Computers

In order to successfully earn an online degree, students will need to be relatively computer savvy [2]. In a world where most employers expect their applicants to have a minimum of a basic working knowledge of computing, it can be reassuring to know that an online degree holder is capable of posting in online forums, streaming live lectures and researching on the Internet.

Con: Less Prestige in Top Company Positions

According to one 2010 study, online education credentials become less acceptable to companies the higher the position being applied for [3]. While an online degree may be considered acceptable at the entry level, a full 42 percent of hiring managers surveyed would not hire an applicant for a CEO or CFO role with just an online education. This is partially because of the perceived prestige for a business that is led by executives with a traditional or even Ivy League education.

Pro: Demonstrated Capability of Self-Motivation

Unlike traditional campus degrees, online degrees don’t have the accountability of professors calling on students in class or student centers filled with frantic studying for finals. In order to complete an online program, students have to find their own motivation. According to Forbes, motivation is one of the top qualities to look for in a candidate as it shows a willingness to work hard whether or not someone is watching every step of the way [4].

Con: Potential for Unaccredited School or Degree Mill

One drawback of hiring a candidate with an online degree is the time it will take to determine whether their degree is accredited. The U.S. Department of Education considers a degree mill to be a school that essentially offers diplomas for a fee rather than for a passing effort [5]. Identifying these schools and ensuring the legitimacy of an online degree may require more resources when hiring ne