For many years — especially in the early days of the Internet — online education was greeted with suspicion and skepticism.
Online colleges were often considered sketchy or fly-by-night, with online colleges being mocked or their degrees even considered invalid and useless.
But that was a long time ago, and the Internet has changed a great deal since then. Much like online dating and buying things over the Internet, what was once a curiosity is now just part of our daily life.
Today, more than one-third of brick-and-mortar colleges offer degrees entirely online, which has proven especially desirable with the rise of the pandemic.
The statistics bear this out: more than one in four students (28%) take at least a single online course during their college careers, and online courses are a significant part of many, if not most, curriculums.
But do employers consider online degrees worthwhile? Will you be able to land a job in your chosen field? The numbers on this might surprise you as well.
According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 83% of executives are just fine with online degrees, saying they’re every bit as credible as a more traditional degree.
As a matter of fact, if you don’t specifically mention it in a job interview, your prospective employer may not even know your degree was gained entirely online.
It’s common for hiring managers to not recognize an online degree unless the school has a particular reputation for being online-only. For many employers, the fact that you have a degree is all they care about — it’s not particularly important what school it comes from and whether it’s online or not.
And even if they do find out, there are plenty of employers who respect the focus and time management skills a student with a full-time job needs to complete a degree.
Having good time management skills is important to employers because it shows a drive to further both one’s education and career.
Of course, the credibility of the degree depends on the accreditation and reputation of the school in question — not every online school is created equal.
That’s why it’s important to employ caution and plan ahead when it comes to choosing an online degree in accounting.
Choosing a Credible Online Accounting Degree
So what can you do to make sure your degree is worth what you paid? Here are some steps you can take to ensure your accounting degree is credible.
1. Choose a Reputable Institution
Unfortunately, although employers mostly see online degrees as perfectly reputable, the public perception of online degrees is not quite so forgiving.
The majority of Americans think online degree programs are only “fair” or “poor,” and online degrees from brick-and-mortar institutions tend to be more trusted than degrees from institutions that exist only online.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent online-only accounting programs out there. Many programs are approved by the Department of Education, meaning, public perception notwithstanding, they’re just as good as any degree from a brick-and-mortar institution.
2. Choose an Accredited Online Program
For example, the master’s in accounting online degree from Maryville University is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), one of the most reputable and sought-after accreditations for business programs in the United States.
3. Compare Accounting Programs
Much like online colleges themselves, not all accounting programs are created equal.
The course curriculum can differ greatly from one institution to the next, and you should choose not only a path that aligns with your personal ambitions and interests, but one that offers a comprehensive curriculum.
To get the most out of your accounting degree, you’ll need a curriculum that will teach you skills like management, strategy, and critical thinking, in addition to organizational skills, communications skills, and, of course, mathematics and analytics.
4. Be Wary of Short Degree Courses
There are plenty of reasons why students are drawn to an online degree. Online courses are more flexible and time-friendly than in-person classes, especially for students who are already working or have other major time obligations.
Being able to learn on your own schedule is more valuable and important than ever in today’s increasingly online society.
Another perk of online learning is developing your aptitude as a self-starter and self-motivator. Being self-motivated is considered a mark of high employability among companies seeking new hires.
All those advantages in mind, be careful about institutions that say you can complete your degree — especially a master’s — in six months.
A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, while a master’s degree in accounting (online or off) is generally completed in 1-2 years. If a school is telling you you can get a master’s in six months, there’s a reason that sounds too good to be true — it is.
The stigma of the online degree has not quite gone the way of the dodo — but it’s fading fast, and within a few years, it’s likely that even in the general public perception, it won’t be considered any different from any other degree.