In the United States, distance learning at the college level has some advantages but also some disadvantages that are pertinent to your ability to get the job you want with your online degree. It becomes especially important for graduates of distance learning institutions to take steps to overcome this deficit when applying for a job. Your résumé is where you'll start.
Deficits the Résumé Can Help Overcome
Employers often have some reservations about hiring graduates of online institutions-an attitude confirmed by a doctoral research study, "The Market Value of Online Degrees as a Credible Credential," as well as by reports in U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, and elsewhere.
The research study and news reports indicate that some reservations about distance learning graduates are simply the consequence of a lack of familiarity with the quality of education some online institutions offer-a reservation probably exacerbated by the well-publicized downfalls in of a few online degree institutions in recent years, especially the widely reported failure of The University of Phoenix.
Beyond general (and sometimes not fully informed) objections to online learning by corporations considering new hires, there are some recurrent specific objections in the research study and news reports that you will need to address, including:
- Objections to degrees from unaccredited institutions;
- Objections to degrees from unfamiliar institutions;
- The belief that science and engineering (and some other) courses require hands-on classroom experience unavailable online;
- The absence of the kind of social experience available in brick-and-mortar institutions that prepare students for corporate employment-especially experience working in teams.
How to Overcome These Deficits in Your Résumé
Here are some of the things you can do in your résumé to combat these perceived deficits.
Make it easy for whoever reads your résumé to believe in the validity of your institution. There's no one right way to do this but consider footnoting the first mention of your institution with a short but specific reference to its government accreditation. Don't simply supply the U.S. Department of Education's general website. Report concisely on the specifics of the government's accreditation of your particular institution. In no more than a sentence or two, differentiate your institution from others of lesser repute. If your institution has some famous alums, mention one or (at most) two.
Briefly-this is the most important word to remember when drafting your résumé-point to whatever you can that establishes that while your institution may not be widely known, it's an institution that's been in business for a while and is widely respected.
If you've had other kinds of hands-on experience (and many distance learners have) state this early in your résumé to dispel the idea that your online degree hasn't provided you with real-world experience. Make it clear you've had other experiences related to your field that are equally valid.
Show that you're comfortable and experienced working with others, either in some program that your online institution provides or through your life experiences. Help your résumé reviewer understand your strong points by using a few adjectives that point them out.
Strong Resume Adjectives
- A team player
- A self-starter