There are many reasons to choose an online degree or certification. Career advancement, personal fulfilment, or simply a love for learning new things. However, if you want your online degree for professional reasons, there are a number of considerations that need to be factored into the equation. Notably, the degree has to be recognized by employers. It also needs to be relevant to your profession if you want it to contribute to advancing your career. Additionally, the institution offering it should have regional accreditation. These will ensure the degree looks credible on your resume, and is accepted by employers.
First, check the accreditation status of your chosen online college or university. The most reputable ones carry some type of regional accreditation with a formal accreditation body like SACS. This is your assurance that the institution’s teaching methods and course material meets or exceeds national standards. It will also guarantee that the certification or degree you receive at the end of your studies is recognized by employers, which improves your chances of getting a job, or advancing your career. In the US, regional accreditation is the highest nationally recognized accreditation available for universities and colleges.
Second, be aware that whilst many employers now recognize and accept that online degrees and certifications are perfectly valid and the equal of those earned on campus, there are still some companies around who remain suspicious of them. This is partly because of the many places offering bogus certificates and degrees in exchange for your hard earned cash – the so-called ‘certificate mills’. One way to allay these suspicions is to ensure you choose a regular college or university that also has a campus. Even though you may never attend that campus, you can present your degree as being one that comes from a ‘normal’ educational institution that just ‘happens’ to offer some of its programs online.
Third, do your research. Legitimate online colleges and universities are only too happy to have information about them readily available online. This includes testimonials and feedback from other students, detailed information about the courses they offer, information about the teachers teaching your course and a range of other details. You can also research their track record – look for negative and positive reviews on forums, message boards and social media. If an institution appears to have a track record of producing unsatisfied students, it’s probably one you should cross off your list.
Fourth, make sure you, and future employers, can easily contact the institution. They should have an office with regular office hours and published contact details for that office. There would be nothing more suspicious than going for an interview only to have the recruiter try and contact the issuer of your degree to verify it, and find there are either no contact details available, or that the available contact details lead nowhere.
To sum up – it’s vitally important you ensure your online degree comes from a legitimate and industry recognized online educational establishment. That way it will be accepted without question and also look good on your resume. For professions like the fire services, this means going through training centers authorized and approved by the various state fire colleges ie the Florida State Fire College or Tennessee State Fire Academy.