How do tech companies see a degree from an online institution ?
I have recently started my computer science degree at WGU, and I was wondering what people, companies, and experts think about online education nowadays. How does is affect a candidate in a possible job interview in comparison to other candidates who have the same degree in a traditional institution?
Companies that I have worked for look for your college degree to be from an accredited program. I got my masters degree in online program, so the quality of the programs are often similar. I actually felt that going to school online was to my advantage in the long run, especially now. Because of COVID, I work full time from home. The transition was not that bad since I had already learned how to work with people geographically removed from me. As others have said, your challenge when interviewing is going to be showing your knowledge and how it would benefit the company. It will be important for you to create a portfolio of your work to share if you do not have real world experience yet. They are going to need to know what work you have done and how you have done. Being in school or a recent graduate can be a strategic advantage for you. You have the latest knowledge that some existing workers do not have. Your challenge will be to make sure that you are ready for the future interviews. I know that some of your online classmates may already be in the workforce. Network with your classmates and have them help you prepare for how you should interview. You should practice how you can translate what you have learned into practical information that any employer will see as valuable.
I was homeschooled through high school, and then went on to earn two online degrees (bachelor's in computer science at Baker College, and master's in software engineering at Harvard Extension School).
In my experience, the quality of education you get from online education is fine. As others have mentioned, the main thing is to ensure your educational institution is accredited. The main thing you lose out on is opportunities to network and build relationships with your peers outside of the classroom. It's possible, but it's harder and really depends on the motivation level of your classmates.
At Baker College, I had bad experiences with team projects. I didn't leave with any lasting relationships, and while I had no problem getting a job, it was probably more due to the fact that I did five internships while in college, and less due to the specifics of my college experience. In contrast, when I went back to the Harvard Extension School to earn my master's degree a decade later, I was overwhelmed by the quality of every interaction I had with other students. Same online format, but it felt like my peers wanted to be there and wanted to build those relationships and apply what they learned to their lives outside of class. I even ended up doing a startup after graduation with my capstone team.
So I'd say that the trick with online education is that it's much less about where you go (as long as it's accredited) and more about the people you interact with during your time there. The same is true of jobs, for what it's worth. A fully remote company can be as good or better than a traditional office job, it's really about the people.
As far as interviews go, nobody ever cared that I was homeschooled or that my college degrees were earned online. Good companies want to see that you're continually learning and good at solving problems. If you're rejected because you went to school online, that should be a huge red flag. Same for being rejected because you don't have 10 years of experience or the right certification. The only thing that matters is whether you're qualified to do the job, and there are far better ways to demonstrate that than the format in which you received your education.
Online degrees vs Brick N Mortar have always been a discussion amongst employees and employers. In today's environment, the focus should be more on the educational institution's accreditation rather than whether it was online or onsite. When you apply for a position and you provide your degree and which institution you obtain that degree from, it will be matched against the accreditation that the institution has. That accreditation will decide how much weight that degree will have compared to others that applied for the same position.
Also note, that unless you are applying for an entry-level position, experience is also very important to have. Along with obtaining your education, I would also focus on building up your experience via internships, shadowing, and hand-ons if possible.
Is the university fully accredited? If your online degree comes from an accredited organization, it is on a level playing field with any others in that category.
Is the program up to date? As you know, technology changes quickly. In many respects, an online program may be in a position to pivot more quickly than a traditional "brick and mortar" institution.
Does the applicant have a portfolio to demonstrates some of the skills or talents that I'm looking for? I strongly recommend that you start building an online portfolio while you are still in school. If your institution doesn't already support this, look into a way to start one on your own. You can update the portfolio with projects you do for assignments, your friends, or as a volunteer.
And here is my own personal opinion: In many respects, an online school is a better choice because they have already learned how to deliver quality education in a digital environment. Schools that trying to use virtual education as a delivery alternative during COVID are still struggling - and so are their students.
Margie recommends the following next steps:
If I was going to hire you, I would probably just glance at your degree and check up to ensure you actually did go to school there. I would put more focus on 1) looking at your experience, 2) giving you a series of on the spot technical questions that would relate to the job you would be performing and 3) giving you a coding quiz (where you are expected to build a small application to solve a problem in a language that is relevant to the job - in my case, Java. This is not uncommon in the IT industry. Finding yourself an internship will go a long way - not just in experience, but making connections as well.
Personal opinion: If there is an emphasis on online versus brick and mortar, I would probably re-evaluate whether or not I want to work there. You will have to demonstrate skills/qualities during your interview process and show that you can complete objectives.
As long as you are able to demonstrate skills/ability to answer their questions, show credentials, capabilities, project/work experiences and such to convince and speak to them confidently, the fact that you came with online/traditional brick wall should hardly matter.
Even if you had degrees from brick wall campuses, you may still have to upskill, keep learning and adding to your profile over time. Not everything need to be achieved the old fashioned way. Work is getting done in a geographically distributed way world over. Employers will go where skills and capabilities are available. You will do great as long as the interview convinces you coming across as a great team player, fast learner and willing to do what it takes to accomplish what is needed.
Technology changes so fast that online learning has become a critical, expected way to learn and earn a degree. As COVID persists, I would pursue online learning. Udacity has free online courses you can take to see how you like it.
Bonnie recommends the following next steps: