Is that online degree going to get you the job?

WASHINGTON — The airwaves and websites are flooded with advertisements from schools offering online degrees to busy adults looking to improve their educational credentials. Many are legitimate, but online degrees still don’t always carry the same weight as those earned on campuses, according to several local hiring firms.

“I know that most companies advertise, absolutely, that they are equal opportunity employers. But they have criteria and they will tell us ‘I don’t want online degrees, I don’t want online education,'” Catharina Zavertnik at Tysons-based staffing firm Spectrum Careers told WTOP. 

Despite the stigma, many online degree programs are quite good, and Zavertnik said the stigma is not always justified.

“I don’t want to say they are fake universities, but a lot of times that is what’s going on in the staffing industry. But it’s not justified. Somebody still had to work hard. They still had to sit down after hours, at home and study for tests,” she said.

Beth Sears, at staffing firm Robert Half’s Washington, D.C., office, said online degrees have their place.

“In our experience, degrees that are earned online can work in the job seeker’s favor. As long as the programs are accredited, earning a degree online can speak to the work ethic and dedication of the individual,” Sears said.

There are also inherent drawbacks to even legitimate online degree programs.

“Brick-and-mortar colleges and universities help people develop socialization skills and encourage people to engage with one another,” said Trey Barnette, also at Robert Half’s D.C. office.

“Online colleges cannot create that same skill set,” he said

Employers tend to more favorably view follow-on degrees earned online, the hiring firms found.

“It’s different if somebody received their bachelor’s degree from a university where they actually went to the school, and then maybe got a second degree or an online Masters,” Zavertnik said.

The hiring firms said employers are likely to also look more favorably at online degrees earned from brick-and-mortar campuses. Locally, schools like University of Maryland University College and University of the District of Columbia offer respected online degree programs.

“Everybody nowadays is wanting to get higher education and I think that’s something that’s fantastic. I think also universities are making it a little bit easier because now everybody has a degree,” Zavertnik said.

But student beware.

“I keep hearing new, online degrees popping up everywhere that I’ve never even heard of. Everybody somehow has a 4.0 GPA. I think it’s gotten a little bit out of control,” she said.

“It’s been an interesting trend to see what’s going on in staffing.”

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up