Click vs. Brick – Online vs. Traditional Education
by Logan Kugler
We’ve all seen the advertisements. Strayer. University of Phoenix. E-Cornell. The solicitations for online learning programs and E-Degrees are thick on websites catering to career minded professionals. For IT, software and engineering professionals, continuing education is an essential tool for climbing the career ladder. But, here’s the big question: does a “click” learning institution stack up to a “brick and mortar” one in the minds of hiring managers and HR professionals? We talked to four different people in charge of hiring at companies like Google and Cisco Systems and found out. Here's what they had to say:
Cisco Systems - Jim McGrath, Human Resources Manager
"Traditional degrees are still our preference," says Jim McGrath, Human Resources Manager at Cisco Systems. "This is not a reflection about the quality of the programs, but rather what we're comfortable with - the known vs. the unknown. At this point, online degrees really haven't built up enough of a reputation to compete with traditional degrees. However, depending on the amount and type of experience of the candidate, the degree becomes less important. Most of Cisco's entry level positions have a minimum requirement of a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, but a candidate with three to five years of real life experience in a comparable field will be competitive for roles, and that experience is looked at more closely than the degree or what school the applicant went to. On the other side of the table, without experience, the degree and school play a large part in how seriously a candidate is considered," explains McGrath.
Google, Inc. - Sunny Gettinger, Spokesperson
"We look at each candidate on a case-by-case basis to see if they would be the best fit," says Sunny Gettinger, spokesperson at Google, Inc." Googlers are a diverse bunch and we have both people here who are PhDs and who never finished college. We're focused on finding the right people who will thrive in our culture and while university degrees certainly play a part in our recruiting, they compliment a variety of other factors like work experience, the interview and references. When evaluating candidates, we look at much more than a university's name and want to know what classes were taken and what they directed their passion towards. In the end, that's really what we look for," reveals Gettinger.
DV&A, Inc. - Brad Kugler, Chief Executive Officer
"Everyone knows you can do an Internet degree in your spare time. If you go to a traditional college there's no shortcuts and it shows commitment on the part of the person you're interviewing," says Brad Kugler, chief executive officer at DV&A, Inc. "If two people were to walk in interviewing for the same position and one had a degree from University of Phoenix and the other from Florida State University, I'd be immediately partial to the guy with the degree from FSU. That's not to say I would automatically choose the one with a degree from FSU. However, real life experience can't be beat. So if the person with a degree from University of Phoenix came with years of real life experience or incredible statistics, it wouldn't matter if someone else came in with a Masters or Ph.D., the guy with the experience would win the position," says Kugler.
Belkin Corporation - Donna Van Gundy, Director of HR
"It's all about how much experience someone has," says Donna Van Gundy, Director of HR at Belkin Corporation. "If you've been at your career for a while, where your degree came from is less important. I think a lot of it just depends upon your career path, your time working and why you're getting a degree," explains Gundy. Worth noting is that Gundy got her degree from an online school." A lot of it also depends on what the requirements are for the job. For example, we have some roles where it's very important that a person has an engineering degree. Regardless of how much experience a person might have, they are just not going to be able to get into that job without that degree. So a lot of it depends on the type of job they are applying for. Bottom line: "If the person has the skills and knowledge and the experience, unless the job demands it, I'm not too concerned about what type of degree they have or where they got it," says Gundy.
In the end, after talking with all of these hiring managers, the conclusion is that an online degree does not stack up to a brick and mortar degree, at least not now. However, if you don't have a degree from a traditional college there are steps you can take to stay competitive and without having to get one. Which brings me to the moral of the story: If you don't have the time or simply the interest to spend two or more years at a traditional college, get an Internet degree. Really learn the information so that you can actually apply it and not just memorize it. Then, go out and get the real life experience, by interning or offering your services on a freelance basis if necessary. Once you have the “real life” experience, your options will increase tremendously, as these hiring managers have explained. So, instead of spending several years at a college, spend one getting an Internet degree and the other three obtaining invaluable experience in the real world. Now get out there and get started!