What Employers Look at When Assessing Online Degrees

Some employers may ask job candidates why they decided to pursue a degree online, recruiters say.

By Jordan Friedman, Editor | Aug. 3, 2017, at 9:48 a.m.

Among employers, perceptions of online degrees have shifted in recent years.

More and more, employers are aware that these types of college and graduate-level programs provide “a work-life balance for individuals that might not have had the opportunity to go to the traditional school and take time out of their schedules, or needed to work while they’re doing it as well,” says Steve Logsdon, account manager at the global recruiting and staffing firm Aerotek, headquartered in Maryland.

Often, job candidates don’t explicitly state on their resumes that they earned a degree online, recruiters say. But the topic may come up in job interviews or conversations during the hiring process.

A potential employer may ask about several aspects. The first is the school’s accreditation, which verifies that a university and in some cases a specific program meet certain standards of quality.

At the institutional level, many employers prefer regional accreditation over national accreditation, with regional often being perceived as more rigorous, experts say. Prospective online students can read more about the importance of being accredited in the following graphic.


“The rigor of the program and accreditation, I think, are top of mind,” says Sara Luther, managing partner of the human resources search division at The Lucas Group, an executive search firm headquartered in Atlanta.

As is also common for on-campus programs, a school’s name alone can tell employers something about the quality of a job candidate’s education, recruiters say. For example, there may still be somewhat of a stigma toward online degrees from for-profit schools, which have faced criticism in recent years for questionable recruitment practices and low graduation rates – though experts say overall, employers are becoming more receptive to them.

Here’s what one expert says about how heavily employers weigh an online school’s reputation.

Experts may also ask job candidates why they decided to earn their degree online rather than on campus, recruiters say.

“If I find out that they are working full time while also attending an online program because they need to and they’re raising a family, I certainly find that that pulls a lot more weight to me because it shows strong work ethic and a drive to succeed,” Luther says.

You can also hear thoughts from Logsdon, the Aerotek account manager, below.

In addition to asking about those topics, “Due to the skills gap today, soft skills are something that are becoming increasingly more and more important,” says Amy Glaser, senior vice president at Adecco Staffing, a worldwide employment agency.

One of those skills is the ability to work well with others, Glaser says. Check out the following graphic to understand the different ways online students may interact.


Ultimately, recruiters acknowledge that a job candidate’s degree is only one part of the equation.

“Maybe 80 percent of the time, they’re not going to not talk to someone if everything else looks good, just because someone went and got their online degree,” says Luther, of The Lucas Group.

Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.