How to Treat Online Education on Your Resume

By Adrienne Erin - Writer

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Whether you’re applying for your dream job or trying to end an unemployment streak, crafting your resume can be a harrowing pursuit. How long should it be? What is the best format? Is your volunteer work relevant? What’s the best way to present your accomplishments or transferrable skills?

As if those questions weren’t enough, many job-seekers now have a new concern to add to the list: how do I address my online degree?

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To List or Not to List

Many applicants’ primary concern is whether to include the words “online degree” on their resume at all. Will noting that the degree was earned online earn your resume an immediate one-way trip to the rubbish bin? Will omitting the word “online” label you a liar if it comes to light later?

There seems to be little consensus on which path is correct. However, the lack of consensus seems to stem from a general lack of concern on the subject. By and large, the decision to disclose an online degree on a resume is largely treated as a matter of personal preference for the applicant.

Of course, this does not mean that you will never encounter an employer with clear preferences or beliefs on the subject. For the most part, however, employers are less concerned with how you disclose your degree and more concerned with where you earned it.

Do Your Research

Just like brick-and-mortar institutions, there are differences in quality between online schools. Before you enroll in an online program, it is in your best interest to check the school’s—and the degree’s—accreditation status. The United States Department of Education provides a database of accredited post-secondary institutions and programs on their website. Employers may not care how you address your degree, but they will care whether or not it came from an accredited university.

Reputation will also carry weight with potential employers. Many online universities possess excellent reputations, but many do not. Thankfully, many established institutions see the value in online education. As such, many students are now earning degrees online through programs offered by long-standing, highly reputed brick-and-mortar universities.

Accentuate the Positive

Where you received your degree will usually matter far more than when you disclose your online education: on your resume or during the interview process. In fact, your time will be better spent thinking about how you will address your degree during the interview, rather than needlessly worrying over how to word it on your resume.

Lying during a job interview—about any matter, not just your degree—will only hurt you. However, there is nothing wrong with crafting an answer that accentuates the positive. Whether on your resume, during your interview, or both, be sure to point out the discipline necessary for and the skills honed by an online education:

  • Online programs tend to require a greater degree of time management, self-motivation, and self-discipline than traditional degrees.
  • Online programs require students to master—and oftentimes troubleshoot—a variety of technological tools, programs, and platforms.
  • Online degrees help students gain and improve communication skills and long-distance collaboration or management skills.
  • Online degrees are often obtained by students who are also holding down a job and/or managing family life.
  • Online degrees enable students to continually pursue education, regardless of physical location, employment status or other commitments.

Bottom line: the interview is not the time to play coy about your online degree. Instead, it is your chance to use your online education as another way to showcase your worth as a potential employee.

Remember, an employer is more likely to find fault with a lie or a disreputable institution than they are with whether or not you noted your degree as “online” on your resume. So stop worrying about the wording on your resume and start practicing for your interview instead.

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