Human Resources News & Insights

Do hiring managers care about online diplomas?

You get a resume from a candidate with the education and qualifications you’re looking for. Do you care if the person’s education took place online?

HR managers care less than they used to, according to a recent Society for Human Resources Management survey. Nearly all (90%) of HR managers say online degrees are viewed more favorably that they were five years ago. And individual courses taken online are as credible as traditional courses, according to 68% of HR managers.

But still, more often than not, companies would rather see applicants who’ve attended traditional schools: 63% said, all other things being equal, their organization would hire someone who went to a traditional college over one with an online degree.

What’s your company’s take on applicants with online degrees? Does it make a difference? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below.

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  • HRWI

    As long as the degree from the online school comes with the proper accreditations, I would have no problem. For a number of individuals, online schooling is the only option, whether it is due to having children at home, working full-time or not being able to afford the “traditional” degree. Many of my classes were taken online and some in-person and I found the online courses to be harder than those I attended in-person.

  • HRIL

    I have problems with online courses/degrees due to the fact that anyone can submit “homework” as his/her own, regardless of who actually did the work. Only if there is independent testing done, which shows the applicant has acquired the knowledge, done the work, and has the skills needed would it appear that the applicant has done the work and “earned” the degree.

    Of course I realize that even in the “traditional” college or university setting, others do homework that gets “passed off” as the student’s own.

    I also question the validity of some “degrees” that have no comprehensive exam or rigorous educational requirements to receive the “degree” online.

    Some employers view a “degree” (regardless of how acquired) as a favorable tipping point in selecting a candidate. For some positions, I would much rather see experience than a degreed applicant with no experience in the industry. But then, I am “old school!”

  • I started out going to the “traditional” college for my BSBA. Then, switched over to online, and I can assure you, online courses are much harder than sitting in the classroom. It is a ‘must’ to participate and keep up with all the assignments, weekly quizzes and required reading. I believe one has to be even more discipline to complete an online course due to you can’t sit back and let other classmates do all the talking during topic discussions, all the while, you’re getting credit for just showing up. I’m responsible for the hiring in my organization and, though, I can relate more to the online learner/candidate, I view online and traditional degrees equally. Other accomplishments I am proud of while I was an online learner would be I joined a Soriety, Honor Society, and was able renew my SHRM membership at the discounted student rate, as opposed to a regular member!

  • Having attended an online school for the completion of my BA degree and a traditional school for the completion of my Masters, I believe that online schools are just as challenging if not more than traditional schools. One big difference I noticed is that with online schools, one must have more discipline. You can not rest on the expectations that someone else is going to carry their weight and they can slide by while others do the work of group assignments. In my experience, there is much more independent and critical thinking involved with online schools. Honestly, depending on the type of the degree and the accreditation of the schools being compared, I would likely hire the candidate with the online degree over the traditional degree.


    These days it can be difficult to tell whether a degree was obtained online or not since so many brick and mortar schools offer online programs. Also, we hire a large number of military personnel so online education is often their only way to earn a degree. All told, it doesn’t matter to us if the degree is online or not, the experience is the deciding factor.

  • Heather

    I did receive my Bachelors Degree Online and for those that believe the online courses are less rigorous and you are not able to determine whether someone understands the material is quite inaccurate. In order to obtain my degree I had to show that I understood the material, take exams, turn in daily and weekly homework assignments, as well as write two papers a week regarding the material we were currently reading and/or discussing to ensure a correct understanding of the topics. I may not have been at a regular campus to take my studies but I sure worked just as hard to obtain my degree as those who went to a regular campus. The studies were not only on an indiviudal basis but also on a team basis with others within the group so for those who work better on an individual basis were able to learn how to work on projects as a team.

  • MNHR

    I have done the traditional learning and am currently finishing up online to obtain my BA. Both ways of learning take effort, but online is definitely harder and really makes a person more disciplined and organized. Plus computer skills are learned on top of it all. I have had a few people tell me online is easy, but they haven’t taken any online courses. I would look at both equally as long as the schools are accredited.

  • Lilly

    You guys are so right. If the school is accredited, I’d say the online course is putting out the same quality & they are tough. Interacting with other faceless students isn’t comfortable, but you get over that soon enough. Discipline; you MUST put the time into it and it is easy to get distracted by children, pets, the phone, etc, but at least you have flexibility in schedule. My biology lecture was aired on tv. Some have online videos. Questions were posted on the online bulletin board. Labs & tests done on campus or online. All in all, online courses are a great alternative for those who are focused & have time or distance constraints.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who chooses to go to traditional school because she needs to get away from the distractions @home, and also because she doesn’t have the discipline to devote the time in front of the computer.

  • I guess to get back to the question at hand, Do Hiring Managers Care about Online Degrees? Being the Director of Human Resources and the hiring manager I, definitely, view the degree as a plus when weighing the factors of which candidate to extend the job offer to. But, given the decision to make, of who I would hire between a well seasoned and experienced individual without a degree vs. an individual with a degree, but limited to no experience, I go with the first candidate.

  • RandiG

    Experience and skills are more important than where the degree was earned. I would never presume to know the best college or learning method for anyone else. The end result is what counts.

  • LC

    I agree with RandiG. I would choose the experience and skills over a degree any day. Most of these applicants got their degrees thru the school of ‘hard-knocks’ and generally have better work ethics and smaller egos as well!

  • AJ

    I agree, an online courses are much more difficult then the in-house classes. I have been taken classes for the past two years. I take a mix of both, because I work fulltime, and I’m a single mother who simply cannot be on campus three nights a week. I do however like campus classes better for the simple fact they are easier. The teachers are more willing to for go certain material then an online instructor is willing to do.

    As an HR assistant, and hopefully one day be a manager, I would like to see at least campus classes, and or a mix of both. The reason being, I have a friend who has been working on a degree for the past year now, and I know our other friend does most of her work. The girlfriend who is doing the work is also getting a completely online degree, and I have encouraged her to take a least a few campus classes. She didn’t understand why, until I explained her doing our other friends work, is the reason. The one friend, who isn’t doing any work, is still earning credits towards a degree she doesn’t deserve. I don’t condone their actions, but knowing what I know, is why I would like to see an applicant who has a mix of online and campus courses. A totally online degree is just too easy to forge these days.

  • Cynthia Jones

    AJ you make a good point but attending a traditional school allows for the same dishonesty as online. Who says that everyone who attends a traditional school does their own homework, research papers, etc? So I disagree with your statement in that context. I am an online student who has earned her Bachelors Magna Cum Laude and currently pursuing my Masters online and you can best believe I put in the work to get the grades I do.

    As for your friends, I believe they are the exception, not the rule when it comes to online degrees. The big reveal will come when the friend who is not doing the work gets a job and is clueless as to what she is doing.

  • I would definitely consider someone with an on-line degree, but I am in the same boat as several other people who posted replies and would chose a well experienced person over a degree any time. I have been in Human Resources for 16 years, 14 of them on a Director level.

  • Susan

    I am currently attending both online and on campus classes. Being single and working 48 hours a week is tough. I respect those who complete online classes it is tougher than you think. Campus class you can get more out of your instructor.

  • Tom

    I attended a brick and mortar school for my first master’s degree. Classes where suppose to run 4 hours once a week for 6 weeks. Many professors wasted the first 45 minutes of class, lectured about one hour, gave some team work for about 30 minutes, and then said class was over. We received about 7 hours lecture out of 24 total hours of class. My second mater’s degree was online. If the course required 24 hours total of lectures, there was 24 hours of lectures and plenty of homework after. I agree with people that online courses are tougher.

  • Marva

    I tried to grasp a particular skill, enrolled in 3 separate schools and always left in the middle. I was frustrated I could not grasp the basics. I did the course on-line and bam! I got it. the course came with easy to understand text books and I am now preparing for exams to be a Certified Accountant. Because the subject was technical, Online learning really required me to sit down & practice, and contrary to what people think online learning is not without challenges, you can’t move on to the next module until you master the present module you are on. Now because of the way I learnt, I can teach someone from scratch/explain something to a co-worker & they get it right away