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 Thinking of Adding an Online Degree?

By Joe Stein

In this competitive market, a savvy Job Seeker should be evaluating their Resume for what might provide them a competitive advantage. Likewise, you should also be determining what flaws you may have that will place you at a disadvantage. This type of self-awareness will allow you to determine your strategic next steps.
There are several situations that may result in someone contemplating a degree, among them:
·         For many who have stayed with one company for a considerable period of time, often working your way up internally, these times may have you contemplating a move to another company. In this situation, many times the person lacks a degree that was not necessary then, but may be crucial later in a job search. 
·         In many situations, the degree program was started but not finished as work and family responsibilities increased. A finished degree will look a lot better on your Resume than partial course study.
·         You may be already degreed, but looking to change careers and will need some specialized learning in order to do this.
·         You may already possess a degree, but feel that you need an advanced degree such as a MBA in order to give yourself a completive advantage.
Online Degree Positives:
·         Many traditional institutions have created a process where individuals who currently hold credit hours can pick up where they left off online. Before you enter into any online program make sure that your current earned credit hours will apply to their program. This also applies in reverse in that you should make sure your online credit hours apply to a traditional institution if you decide to physically go back on campus.
·         Online degrees can help expedite the process in obtaining your desired degree. This may be due to a variety of reasons. An online degree can often be a compressed program containing more classes in a smaller window of time. You also just may be able to enroll in more classes online at home than if you were going physically on-campus. All of this means you may be able to place this degree sooner on your resume than by other means.
·         An online degree program is convenient. You can learn from your home using your home computer. What can be easier than that? For many such as those actively working and/or raising a family, this may be the only viable option to receive their needed degree.
·         An online program may allow you to receive a degree in a subject that our local institutions do not offer. If you are pursuing a highly specialized degree, then this may allow you to secure that diploma that might have otherwise forced you to leave the area to gain.
Online Degree Concerns:
·         You need to be motivated in order to make this type of program work. If you are someone who has to have a little bit of prodding in order to be motivated, then an online program probably is not a good fit for you. You will have a Professor, but this person will facilitate chat groups and provide feedback; they will not be there to take headcount and push you along.
·         You need to have an environment, at home, where learning is possible. A key will be your ability to carve out space that is quiet and conducive to learning.    You also will need to have the necessary equipment, such as your own computer and a broadband connection. A fast internet connection will be important as, often in these programs, there will be video streaming and/or instant messaging.
·         There are still some “old school” Recruiters and Hiring Managers that value a traditional program higher than the online route. The thought by these individuals is that the traditional program is more challenging than doing it remotely. There are also memories of those “overseas” programs where people could literally order, by mail, a degree. Studies have, however, shown that the “cyber diploma” is gaining more respect as individuals become more familiar with it and companies have success stories with people coming from these online programs. Many very recognizable college institutions have an online program offered. Before you dive into a specific program, you should do some research to gauge its reputation in the marketplace. Look to make sure your desired program is accredited by a respected independent agency.
A savvy Job Seeker will place themselves in the eyes of the Recruiter and determine how they can best market themselves to these individuals. A degree may allow you to either close the gap that currently exists, or allow you to distance yourself from your competitors.
As always, best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNY Jobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.