Online Degrees Gaining Street Cred

August 30, 2010 ( – Degrees from an online university may still not have as much street cred as those from a traditional school, but a new survey suggests online degrees are gaining ground with hiring managers.

A news article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) about its recent poll on the subject said 55% of HR professionals reported it would not make a difference in their choice among two candidates if one had an online degree and the other a bricks-and-mortar school degree.  Some 73% of respondents said that individual courses taken online are equally credible with traditional university degree programs and courses.

Ninety percent say online degrees generally are looked at more favorably than they were five years ago, according to SHRM.

“As employers see that the skills and capabilities of employees with online degrees are on par with employees with traditional degrees, there is greater acceptance towards online degree credentials,” said Evren Esen, manager, SHRM Survey Research Center, according to the news report.

But SHRM says there is still room for improvement when it comes to online coursework credibility. Only 49% of respondents agreed that online degree programs are equally credible with traditional degree programs, with 60% of respondents saying that job applicants with traditional degrees are still preferred over those with online degrees, provided that the work experience is the same.

Job applicants are apparently sensitive to the differing views on online versus traditional degrees. Only 37% of respondents said that applicants noted occasionally or frequently whether their degree is from an online program; up from the 30% in 2009. Sixty-two percent of the 2010 survey respondents said applicants seldom or never noted whether their degree is from an online program, down from the 68% of respondents in the 2009 survey.

Only 11 % of organizations stated that job candidates frequently or always identified on their resumes whether their degrees were obtained through an online degree program.

Differences by Job Levels  

The SHRM survey also found a difference in how the online versus traditional degree disparity played out depending on job levels. The willingness to accept online degree programs decreased for managerial and executive-level positions. For example, approximately half of respondents thought that online degree credentials were acceptable or somewhat acceptable (20% and 37%, respectively) for supervisory and directorial positions, while nearly a quarter of respondents thought that this credentialing was unacceptable; less than 20% said it didn’t matter.

Approximately 450 human resource professionals, 70% of whom represented U.S.-based companies, were surveyed July 27-August 6, 2010.  For survey purposes, online degrees programs were defined as those that stipulated that the majority (80% or more) of the courses to complete degree requirements were taken online.

Traditional degrees programs were defined as those that stipulated that the majority of the courses (80% or more) to complete degree requirements were taken at a brick-and-mortar campus, with face-to-face instruction in a physical classroom.

More information about the survey is at