Are you stuck in your current career, longing for a change, but unsure if an online diploma can help you pursue your goals? You’re not alone! One of our current online students, Missy M., has shared what it took her to decide on starting her online career program:
“The advisors at Sundance College put up with my uncertainty and fear of signing up and patiently answered all my endless phone calls and text messages before I finally made my big decision to enroll in the Addictions & Community Health Professional program,” she recalls.
Her uncertainty is no surprise. Online learning is relatively new, whereas in-person classes have already stood the test of time.
Like Missy, you may be wondering: Will an online college diploma have the same value for employers as the one you'd earn on campus? Will attending online classes allow you to develop relevant skills that impress recruiters during an interview? Will your online diploma pay off? The list goes on.
It’s time to set the record straight! In this article, you'll find answers to most, if not all, questions that may be holding you back from changing your career with an online college diploma: how to tell whether an online education is right for you, what employers think of online diplomas, and how to market your diploma to employers.
But first things first.
With or Without Going to College: What Options Do You Have to Change Your Career?
Chances are, we all know someone who started working, let’s say, as a kitchen helper and, years later, held the position of a restaurant manager. Over years of experience, they’d gained the knowledge and skills to advance without a college education.
Why not go this way? Is it still possible in today’s job market? If you don’t attend college, what are your options for making a career change?
- Career counseling. A career counselor can help you identify your strengths, interests, and skills and match them with potential career paths. But, that doesn’t actually prepare you for that path.
- Networking. If you’ve already chosen the industry of your interest, you can use networking to find new career opportunities. You can attend industry-related conferences, join professional associations, and contact friends and family members who work in the same fields.
- Volunteering. Thanks to volunteering, you can also enrich your resume with relevant work experience. If handled well, volunteering allows you to enlist the support of people who later could recommend you for paid work or vouch for your skills to a potential employer.
These methods can work, however, they share one common drawback: Searching for new career opportunities with these methods can last indefinitely — meaning years, not months.
It’s essentially like sending vacation photos to your friends through snail mail instead of texting them.
The reality is that our modern job market increasingly emphasizes the importance of formal education and a diverse skill set. Employers often use educational qualifications as a benchmark to assess a candidate's skills and abilities. Without formal education, it is much more challenging to demonstrate your skills and knowledge.
Career College Education
For those who don't want to wait years to switch careers and advance their life to the next level, career college diploma programs are worth considering.
And here’s why:
- Career college programs are taught by industry-experienced instructors, which means you’ll learn the relevant knowledge, skills, and technologies that current employers are looking for in job candidates.
- Forget 4+ years of school – with a career diploma program, you’ll be ready to transition into the workplace within a year or so. For example, completing one of the Sundance College career programs can take you from 32 weeks (about eight months) to 60 weeks (about one year and two months).
- Quality diploma programs offer a range of resources to support your job search: Career Services, practicum placements, and networking opportunities – all in one place!
Online Diplomas vs. Traditional Diplomas: What Employers Really Think
Once you’ve made up your mind to study in college to secure new career opportunities, you may wonder which learning format — online or in-person — to choose. Is an online diploma as desirable to employers as an in-person education?
When it comes to employer preferences, the news is promising for online college diploma holders:
- 61% of HR leaders believe that online learning is of equal quality to in-person education.
- 52% of business owners believe that, in the near future, most post-secondary programs will be completed online.
- 71% of employers said that they had hired a job applicant with a diploma completed online in the last 12 months.
Today, employers are more concerned with whether certified applicants have relevant skills and knowledge rather than how they obtained their diploma, experts say. Fundamental skills, previous experience, and the value a job applicant can bring are the decisive factors for hiring. However, if an employer has to choose between two qualified candidates with online college diplomas, the institution’s brand and reputation will come to the fore.
Greg Keller, chief operating officer at Bloomfield & Company, shares that whether an education was delivered online or in person might make a difference for companies from the "elite worlds of big law, big consulting, big tech, etc."
"But in the day-to-day workforce that most people are employed in? I think online vs. in-person is increasingly irrelevant to employers," he says. "I’m sure COVID accelerated that."
Online Diplomas vs. Traditional Diplomas: Student’s Perspective
Now let’s analyze the pros and cons of online learning. Your first concern may be related to hands-on training. Don’t some skills need to be practiced in-person?
This is true, to an extent, although with the advancement of technology, you can even find First Aid & CPR Certification courses going online. Many online diplomas include in-person workshops and practicum training, particularly for students studying healthcare.
Of course, there are missing pieces in online learning which mean it will never replace on-campus education for everyone:
- The joy of face-to-face communication
- Coverage of all learning styles
- Clear home-school boundaries
- Sense of routine
But online learning has much more to offer than on-campus learning in terms of:
- Flexibility of learning schedule
- Balancing work, family, and school
- Creating a self-designed learning space
- Studying at a custom pace from anywhere
- Transportation and child-care cost savings
- 24/7 access to learning materials and more
More and more students are choosing online college diploma programs thanks to a fully flexible experience that fits into their work and family commitments — and this advantage is quite hard to top.
“Today's busy adults need an effective way to access career education that fits into their lifestyle. Online learning provides greater flexibility and access than we’ve ever had before. And we're happy to provide this career learning opportunity for people who didn’t have it in the past."
— Dean Olsen, President of Sundance College
Tips to Successfully Change Your Career with an Online College Diploma
Now that you’re aware of the benefits an online college diploma can offer, we’d like to share additional tips you can apply while studying as well as after graduation to facilitate your career change.
Assess Your Career Goals
Before diving into an online college diploma, take the time to assess your career goals. Are you looking to switch careers entirely or simply advance within your current field? Understanding your objectives will help you choose the right online college diploma program and ultimately determine whether an online diploma is the best path for you.
Choose the Right Program
Selecting the right online college diploma program is crucial for your career success. First, research the curriculum, faculty, and graduation rates of the programs you're considering. Next, contact college advisors to ensure the program aligns with your career goals and offers support services such as career and job placement assistance. Finally, check out Google reviews from current students and alumni.
Develop Transferrable Skills
An online college diploma can help you develop valuable transferable skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and adaptability. These skills are highly sought-after by employers across various industries and can significantly improve your chances of making a successful career change.
Network and Build Connections
Building a robust professional network is essential for career success. Online college diploma programs often provide opportunities to connect with classmates, instructors, and industry professionals. By actively participating in online discussions, attending virtual networking events, and leveraging social media platforms like LinkedIn, you can expand your network and increase your chances of finding new career opportunities.
Prepare for the Job Market
As you approach the end of your online college diploma program, it's essential to prepare for the job market. Update your resume to highlight your new skills and experiences, create a solid online presence, and practice your interview skills. In addition, take advantage of any Career Services offered by your online institution, such as resume critiques, job search assistance, and networking events.
Marketing Your Online Diploma to Employers
After graduation, you’ll want to build your online diploma into your professional brand, to show employers you’re a qualified job candidate. Here are some tips to help you:
- Enhance your resume: Use your resume and cover letter to describe the skills and knowledge you have gained through your online diploma. Highlight the coursework and projects you completed and explain how they have prepared you for your desired job. Create an online portfolio and link to it in your resume or cover letter.
- Improve your online personal brand: Use social media platforms like LinkedIn to display your online diploma and connect with potential employers. Be sure to update your profile with your diploma information and share relevant articles or insights demonstrating your expertise in your field.
- Seek recommendations: Ask your online diploma instructors to provide recommendations on LinkedIn or other professional platforms. These recommendations can demonstrate to potential employers that you’re skilled in your field and can bring value to their business.
- Demonstrate how you can benefit the company: Take your most impressive skills and provide examples of how you plan to use them to benefit the company. The best way is to show what you can do. For example, with a Digital Marketing & Social Media Management diploma under your belt, you can create a sample landing page for one of the company’s services and a few accompanying Instagram posts. If done well, this could make all the difference in your job search.
I’m Ready to Study — Now What?
An online college diploma is a valuable asset for individuals wishing to change their careers. Online learning has become increasingly popular and widely accepted by employers, providing students with flexible schedules and the ability to learn from anywhere.
If you're considering changing your career path with an online college diploma, choosing a reputable institution with relevant programs and resources will help you succeed in your new career.
Sundance College will provide you with guidance and support throughout your educational journey, from selecting the right program to introducing you to a potential employer during your practicum placement.
With our expertise and your dedication to the learning process, you'll successfully earn your online college diploma and launch your new career!
Request more info to speak with an advisor about your career goals.