I want to study online, but what will an employer think of my degree?

19 May 2021

I’ve lost count of the number of data points I’ve seen over the last year suggesting more students will study online in the future. CarringtonCrisp’s Tomorrow’s Masters report found a growth in students considering online study from 12% to 18% in the last year while our Tomorrow’s MBA study saw 15.5% prefer online study, up 4% on the previous year. None of these increases seem vast, and it may be that undergraduate students have found the experience of online learning difficult during the pandemic making them uncertain about more online study.

However, you don’t have to look too far to find evidence of growing numbers of students choosing to study online. Launching just five years ago, the Gies College of Business, University of Illinois, currently has 3839 students living and working in 90 countries on their iMBA. If nothing else, the Gies example proves that success in the online marketplace has little to do with geography or being located in a well-known global city. Gies is based in Champaign, about halfway between St Louis and Chicago.

For some the opportunity of online study has meant being able to choose to study at one of the leading business school brands. Previously, such brands may have been out of reach with students unable to take the time away from work to study for a year or two in another country. Even if they could afford the fees at one of these leading brands, the additional travel and living cost, together with income foregone from full-time study may have put schools out of reach.

Online, or at the very least blended, may well become a predominant from of learning for short course programmes in the future. A data points from our soon to be published study on the future of lifelong learning and executive education found 79% of employer respondents anticipate online learning becoming the standard approach to developing people in their organisations.

However, prospective students have often expressed concerns that employers may not value an online degree in the same way as one delivered face-to-face, making them uncertain about embracing online study. This too seems to be changing. In the study of lifelong and executive education 75% of employers agree that their organization will/does recognize qualifications gained online in the same way as those completed in a traditional face-to-face setting.

With such strong employer recognition of online learning, there are clear signals to business schools and to prospective students that online degree offers will lead to graduate employment. A degree market that has been growing slowly may be set to expand more quickly.

To find out more about the findings from ‘The future of lifelong and executive education’ look out for articles in the June edition of our newsletter.


Photo by Meruyert Gonullu at pexels.com

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