The Open University
When you complete a degree course via online or distance learning, you receive the exact same qualification you would get, if you studied that university course on campus. There is no difference.
Your degree qualification would only be viewed differently if you studied a different course, if you studied with another university, or if you achieved a different award classification (e.g. a first class honours compared to an upper second class honours).
Yes. Employers accept degrees achieved through online learning, and view them the same as an identical qualification that was studied on campus.
Before you apply, you should check that your course for additional accreditation – especially if your course leads to a particular profession, such as accounting, engineering, or nursing Accreditation means that a degree course has been endorsed by an appropriate professional body or organisation in that field. For example, a psychology BSc (hons) degree may be accredited by The British Psychological Society.
Search for and learn about a degree course, including its accreditation.
You should also check that your university is a recognised body. This means it has the power to award degrees.
Employers understand that individuals achieve their degree via many different routes, including online learning. Therefore, you shouldn’t worry that this will hold you back. In fact, there are a number of ways this can benefit you, especially in terms of the skills you walk away with.
Be aware, an employer may ask you about your education and career history, including your decision to pursue an online degree, in order to learn more about you. So be prepared to talk about this.
A common concern for online learning students and graduates is that they’ll be viewed differently from – or even, inferior to – those who studied the ‘traditional’ way, on campus. However, the fact that you’ve taken this route can help you stand out from candidates vying for the same position, and make employers remember you.
Like in your personal statement when applying to university, when applying for a job, you have to frame your relevant skills, knowledge, and experience the right way, in your CV, cover letter, or interview. You should do this in a way that sets you apart from other candidates, who have the same academic qualifications.
While you still need to demonstrate the necessary skills and experience for a job, you may be able to do this in ways that your campus-based peers can’t – especially if you already have work experience, that they don’t.
Here are some key skills that employers look for, which online learning graduates can demonstrate:
- Time management – being able to prioritise tasks, meet deadlines, and simply arrive to work on time are basic requirements for any job. While the flexibility of online learning gives you a lot of control around your study time, you can show how you’ve effectively managed this.
- Organisation – an average day at work may involve working on multiple projects, managing long processes, or attending back-to-back meetings on different topics. This requires excellent organisation skills, so you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.
This is something online students get a lot of practise in, when flicking between different roles and responsibilities – like being a student, parent, partner, employee etc. – in a single day.
- Working with different personalities – campus-based graduates who went straight to university from school, miss out on the wide range of ages, backgrounds, and nationalities that online learning attracts. They may even feel less confident around older individuals, if they’ve only ever studied with those the same age.
Whether you’re working in a small start-up where personalities can easily clash, navigating a large organisation with many departments, or pitching to clients from overseas, this diversity can inform your knowledge, as well as the way you work.
- Independence – as valued as the ability to work well with others is, employers may be just as attracted to candidates who take initiative, are self-motivated, and can make things happen on their own.
While you do receive a lot of support on an online degree course, studying remotely means you may be accustomed to working alone, or figuring out solutions single handedly.
- ‘Agile working’ – this principle basically means that employers allow their employees more flexibility in the way they work, but without sacrificing productivity or performance. Technology plays a big role here, as it allows individuals to work remotely from different locations, work unconventional hours (not 9 to 5), and stay connected with others even if they’re not in the same building.
Online students will already be familiar with these ways of working.
- Ambition – pursuing online learning demonstrates a strong desire to learn, grow, and develop. The fact that you’ve risen to this challenge – perhaps while juggling a job, caring responsibilities, or other personal circumstances – is inspiring.
While an employer will be hiring for a particular role now, they may well be looking three, five, or ten years ahead into the future, and considering how you can grow with their organisation.
- Work ethic – employers will always be impressed by those willing to put in the time and effort to get the job done. Studying a degree online is a massive undertaking, particularly if it means sacrificing your weekends, or knuckling down in the evening after working all day.
Don’t forget, the material is the same as that which campus-based students on an equivalent course study.
A lot of these are ‘transferable skills’ that all employers value, regardless of industry or profession. Having these under your belt can benefit you – especially if you decide to move into a different sector, or change careers completely.
Don't forget: you'll need to explain the skills you've developed, giving practical examples where you demonstrated a particular skill, and what the result was.
Learn more about the pros and cons of online learning, including who can benefit from it.
Here are some final career-related tips when pursuing a degree online.
- Look at job adverts – if you have a role or profession you want to work towards, look at job adverts for these to see what employers look for. They may specify certain degree qualifications, skills, or knowledge which can inform your course search.
- Speak to your employer – if you’re pursuing online learning to move up in your current job, talk to your line manager about what qualifications or skills you’re missing. Plus, your company may be able to fund your studies, or support you in other ways.
- Examine modules and course content – courses that sound similar may differ in terms of what you actually study. Make sure these align with your interests and career goals.
- Check your course is accredited – once you’ve found a course you’re interested in, check which professional bodies endorse it. If you’re an international student, is this accepted in your country?
- See what current students and graduates say – discover what their experience on a course was like, as well as what graduates have gone on to do. Did employers view them differently? How did studying online benefit them in the recruitment process, or in their current roles? This can be reassuring, and even inspiring, if it’s someone from a similar background, or who overcame the same struggles, as you.