Why Employers Need to Give the Online Graduate a Chance

Online graduate

Growing up, I’d always dreamt of going to UCLA. It wasn’t that I was from California nor had some special relation to that school in any way, shape or form. My parents didn’t even go to college. But at 6-years-old, I knew college was in my future and that was the school my heart was set on.

I never did attend UCLA. In fact, I didn’t attend any brick-or-mortar institution, period. Surprisingly, my choices in life took me on a different path and I ended up doing something I never fathomed as a little girl: I enrolled in an online college to earn my bachelor’s degree and became an online graduate.

I struggled. With a family, part time job and my classes, earning my degree was no walk in the park. All the commercials that make it seem like it’s so easy to “balance” it all are liars. But I did it. And I entered the entry level job market ready to take over the world.

For months I sent out resumes without any luck. The job market wasn’t substantial, but deep down inside I knew something was wrong. Then it snapped: Was my online degree too much of a foreign concept to employers? Did they find my skills inadequate because I attended an accredited school via the Internet instead of inside of a classroom? Unsure if that was the issue, I decided to address the fact that I went to an online school in my future cover letters. I made sure to briefly address the strengths online education gave me and stated I felt I deserved a fair chance.

Someone finally bit, and I got a call back for an in-person interview. As any applicant should, I made sure I was prepared for my interview by researching the company I could potentially work for; came up with answers to popular interview questions; and I even came up with a few questions of my own to ask. I also brought a secret weapon that I would whip out just in case things started to go south: an old course syllabus.

As I had predicted, the interview went great. The interviewer seemed to like me a lot, until we got on the subject about my education. He just couldn’t wrap his head around it. Did I actually learn all of the proper skills needed to preform my possible work duties? How did classes work? How did we communicate with each other? I took a few minutes explaining the power of video chatting and instant messaging and decided to whip out my syllabus and explain to him that I knew my “stuff.”

I got hired and was quickly promoted with a hefty salary increase a short year later. My boss even pulled me to the side one day and confessed, “I can’t believe I almost threw your resume in the trash.”

The point of this story is that employers could end up missing out on some quality talent simply because they have a prejudice against online graduates. Admittedly there are a few illegitimate diploma mills that award people with fake online degrees, but this is something that can be transparent with a simple interview. Someone who took an accredited course will know the ins and outs of the industry and will be able to answer all of your questions.

So give the online graduate a chance the next time you’re shuffling through resumes. Not only will he or she be proficient in computers, know how to be an independent worker, and help with remote communication during business meetings but might also be a refreshing new change to your team. We are in a digital age and an online education should be able to provide some of the same opportunities to a graduate as a traditional degree.

Are you an online graduate too? Do you know someone who is? Share your thoughts!

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Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online colleges, online degrees etc. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.


  1. Sabrina on the 11th June

    I am not a graduate yet but hopefully in a year I will be. I’m taking classes 100% online, but my school is a private university that has been around for a century and just happens to also have online degrees available. Will that help me over people who go to a school that’s 100% online? I don’t know, maybe no one will notice that I’ve never even been to the state where my school is located.

  2. Maria,

    It’s a shame a lot of people try to take shortcuts in assessing other people. Looking just at their degrees is one of those shortcuts. You’re not the only one who might have been overlooked just because you didn’t have a traditional college degree. So would Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg among others!

    Some people are more self-motivated or just very busy and can’t manage the traditional route even though they’re just as talented as anyone with a traditional degree.

  3. Jennifer Parker on the 11th June

    For some reason, employers think that applicants from online schools are not competitive compare to applicants from non-online schools. Online and non-online schools have different qualities and they preferred the non-online schools because of the socialization learned from non-schools. They are exposed unprofessionally in different types of school programs in which the students learn how to manage or handle a particular school program and in online school, they are only focusing on studying online and school programs don’t happen in online schools. But of course, Online schools give high quality of teaching and sometimes graduates from online school are even competitive than non-graduate school.

  4. Caleb Mellas on the 28th June

    Great article Maria!

    I agree with you that employers should give “online” degree holders a chance. One thing that I love about online learning, and that many companies are recognizing is that those who can learn independently through non-traditional methods will be life-long learners. When they need to learn a new search or research a topic – they will learn it on their own through many different ways to get the skills needed.

    @Steve – Yes, I totally agree that some of the most successful people ever, never went to college. Their life experience was worth more to them than a college degree.

    One great example of a company who recognized life experience above a degree is PayPal. PayPal’s CEO is paying students $100K to drop out of college to start businesses and develop products in the real world! http://www.fastweb.com/student-life/articles/3146-paypal-ceo-pays-students-100k-to-quit-college

    I’m not saying that no one should go the traditional brick-and-mortar route, but that people should weigh their education options, and make sure they are proactively learning, and not just passing tests. Many times getting into the workplace and learning from a mentor who is successful in the field you are interested in is way more productive than going to school for 5 years.

  5. Tahli Wright on the 15th August

    I found your article as I was searching the “chances of earning employment/career after graduating/completing an online course”. I am currently in the process of enrolling at an accredited college that has a online program. They have several campuses all over Texas and they also offer classes online. I have the option of waiting until next year and attending a college (in person) here in my city. Thing is, I don’t want to wait all the way until next year, when I can have that education and piece of paper RIGHT NOW! By this time next year, I could be complete with my classes and working. I just wanted to know what would the chances be to get that employment. After reading your article and all the comments, I gather that it’s more about the individual rather than the school. As you said, the interview will reveal that. However, I am curious to know the chances of getting an interview. Today, schools are not mentioning that their students who attended their school online are actually online students. The online student would receive the same diploma/certificate that a student who attended the school in person would receive.
    I am anxious to get the ball rolling on my career however, I don’t want to make the wrong decision in haste. I don’t want to waste my time and create future regrets.

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