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How to Present Your Online Degree to Employers -

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How to Present Your Online Degree to Employers The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that a record number of graduates ( will complete postsecondary degrees in 2013.

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According to the report, over 1.8 million new bachelor’s degree holders ( /programs/projections/projections2021/tables/table_33.asp) and 955,000 new graduate degree holders ( will enter the U.S. job market. As these graduates seek jobs, they must put together a resume that demonstrates their talents, experience and educational achievements. It’s no secret that


online degrees are still met with skepticism by some employers and recruiters who are trying to initially weed applicants from their pool. If you received your degree online, you will need to make a decision about how best to present your degree and demonstrate its merits during the earliest stages of this application process. Keep in mind that you cannot mislead or lie to any employer regarding your educational background. But as with any component of your application, your goal as an applicant is to maximize your opportunities to explain your education and how it makes you a unique and valuable candidate. There are three options for presenting your online education on your initial resume: 1. 1. You can embrace your online degree and present it directly. 2. 2. You can omit the “online” descriptor on your resume. 3. 3. You can omit your online degree from your resume altogether.

STRATEGY 1: BE DIRECT ABOUT YOUR ONLINE DEGREE Your resume is your strongest tool to differentiate yourself from other candidates early in the application process. Potential employers will examine resumes before deciding to move forward with face-to-face interviews. If you plan to be direct with your degree acquisition, then you will need to focus on how your online education will bring value to the workplace. Here is an example of a straightforward depiction of your online degree as it should appear on your resume: Education and Activities Washington State University Online - M.B.A. with a Marketing concentration, 2008-2010. - B.A. in Business and Marketing, 2004-2008. WSU Academic Honors - Dean’s List, 2006-2010. - Graduated Summa cum laude, 2010. - Phi Beta Kappa, 2010. WSU Organizations and Activities

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- Editor in Chief for the WSU MBA Webinar on Administrative Policy, 2010. - Tutor for the WSU Center of Advising and Career Development, 2008-2010. List distinguishing honors and in-depth volunteer or leadership experiences that set you apart from your online degree program peers. If you’ve participated in online group projects or assisted faculty with web-based meetings, be sure to mention it. This shows prospective employers your online education has given you greater technical fluency than many traditional schools would have. When you are called in for your interview, you will need to emphasize how your distance learning experience gives you an edge in the workforce. Here are some practice questions and answers. Q: How would you say your experience at Washington State University has prepared you to work with clients? A: Businesses seek marketers with a good balance of interpersonal savvy and technical knowledge. At WSU, I was selected to coordinate a webinar from the administrative level, allowing my peers to speak with our dean, alumni, and internship partners through a streaming conference. I was responsible for the audio-visual instructions, participant scheduling, and social media broadcasts, all done remotely. Our Marketing webinar went off without a hitch, and over 260 students attended the live stream. Over 12 people in my Marketing 402 class, including myself, began internships from company connections they made during the webinar. The experience I gained with digital communications can translate directly to the marketing responsibilities here at your company. Q: Do you feel like your school’s online format prevented you from developing business social skills? A: No. I exchanged dozens of communications daily via voice chat, email, message board, and video streams. After the remote webinar earlier, I was able to make a significant connection with the marketing firm SynthCo, and become their marketing intern in 2009. I worked on-site with them, managing their online brand image. At SynthCo, I was able to raise customer satisfaction by over 80% through an aggressive social media and email campaign. I don’t think my technical skills would have been up to par without the experience I gained daily working with WSU Online. The interview samples above highlight two main college experiences – the Marketing Webinar and the SynthCo internship, which are also mentioned in the resume. The interviewee shows how their technical knowledge and social media netiquette have benefited both their academic peers and SynthCo. Before your interview, think of your greatest academic accomplishment and how your earned skills will be useful to an employer. Was your college a flagship institution that offers both online and traditional degree programs? Or are they strictly a distance learning institution? Schools with greater brand recognition, such as the University of Phoenix, are known to offer online degrees and many employers regard them favorably ( However, the reputation of your school shouldn’t impact your resume presentation too much. In a recent survey conducted by Zogby International and Excelsior College, 83 percent of company executives ( /03/29/ polled acknowledged that online degrees are

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as credible as traditional degrees. Online degrees are by no means rare amongst applicants, and they are constantly gaining recognition in hiring departments. Before deciding how to present your school’s online format, you will want to also consider the type of degree you have. If you have majored in a field that relies on technology, such as digital photography or computer science, you may find that employers are more receptive to an online degree. However, if your field requires a lot of experiential learning or social interaction, then you will want to bolster your interview by discussing internships and other professional opportunities, in addition to your academic credentials.

STRATEGY 2: AVOID THE “ONLINE” DESCRIPTOR Some professionals believe that you should avoid mentioning a school’s online format, since most employers will assume that you received a degree from a traditional brick-and-mortar university. Institutions like National University recommend that you omit the “online” status ( from your resume, since distance learning graduates are held to the same rigorous academic standards that traditional campuses provide. Here is an example of how you might structure the Education section of your resume. Education Villanova University – Master of Public Administration, 2007-2009. - BA in Communications, 2003-2007. Since this academic institution offers both campus-based and online courses, an employer may not even bring up your school’s format. However, it is critical to arrive at your interview prepared to explain the format of your online degree. It’s difficult to predict employers’ reactions during an interview, when they learn that you have received a degree online. The best way to counter resistance is to inform prospective employers of how online institutions work and how your degree brings value to the workplace. Here is an interview scenario to illustrate this: Q: How did your experiences at Villanova inform your professional aspirations? A: Actually, I earned my MPA through Villanova’s online program. Q: Ah, I see. I’m sorry, I actually don’t know too much about how online programs work. Are your credentials still the same as other MPAs? A: Yes, online academic institutions must earn accreditation and meet the same academic standards as brick-and-mortar schools. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools granted accreditation to Villanova online programs. Before you attend an interview, you will want to brush up on your institution’s credentials, notable alumni, and industry-specific programs. If an interviewer seems unsure about an online degree, you can highlight your school’s achievements and connect your academic experiences to your prospective role at a company. 3. Obscure or Omit Your College Education Completely It is extremely rare to find employers willing to hire someone who doesn’t list education

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credentials on their resume. However, there may be some unusual scenarios where you can benefit from omitting your college education. For instance, some graduate students will leave off their master’s or doctorate degrees, with the fear that they will seem overqualified for a position. Others will omit their education if they dropped out of an online college early or were expelled before completing their degree programs. Statistically speaking, it can pay off to mention your online degree at some point during the application process. In 2011, 74.5% of college graduates ( /art1full.pdf) were employed during the same year they graduated, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their data shows that only 50% of those without a college degree are employed ( Ultimately, it is usually best to be forthright with a potential employer during the application process. If you still decide to omit your education from your resume, then you will want to prepare for interview questions regarding your academic performance. Here is an interview scenario involving an applicant who has omitted their academic background. Q: I noticed that you left your education off your application and resume. Would you be able to fill in the blanks for me? A: Certainly. I began my bachelor’s program in English Literature at the University of Phoenix in 2003. However, my academic performance suffered due to family and work responsibilities. I did want to discuss a few crucial experiences I’ve had in my professional life, which I think will translate well into my work for your company. Ultimately, if you have earned a degree, you shouldn’t omit it completely just because of your school’s online format. Your postsecondary education required serious time and financial investments, so don’t be ashamed of holding a degree from an online program. If for some reason, you decide to omit your educational background, then you will really need to emphasize other parts of your resume, including your career experience, volunteer work, skill sets, and awards. You will need to set yourself apart from other applicants who disclose their education histories. You can do this by emphasizing your non-academic experiences and your interest in the organization by asking questions of your own ( Study the organization before your come in so that you can ask intelligent and informed questions about their work environment, company culture and the company’s greater mission and directions. It can be difficult to decide how to present your online degree to employers. It relies on multiple factors – what kind of degree you obtained, what school you attended, the industry you’d like to work in, and what kind of job you’re applying for. However, there is no reason to go into a job interview unprepared. No matter how your present your education on your resume, an employer may ask you unexpected questions about your degree. Research your school’s credentials, make lists of relevant skill sets, and learn to speak about your education with confidence!


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How to present your online degree to employers