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The basics
Study abroad : Career Prospects

Online courses: Career enabling or not?

Are online courses respected when entering the world of work? We explore the pros and cons of distance learning to help you make the best decision possible.

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There has been some scepticism from students around the quality of teaching and degrees that are offered online. There’s critique around the perceived lack of social interaction, student experience and job prospects that such courses may provide. However, there are also many advantages to learning online, particularly with regards to employability.


In fact, 6.6 million students enrolled in online/distance learning courses in 2017 and this is only expected to grow in the coming years (National Centre for Education Statistics). As an industry, online education is also expected to reach a net worth of USD 350 billion by 2025.


So, in this article, we’re going to show you why in 2020, online learning could be exactly what you need to launch your career.


What is distance learning?


Check the course accreditation

If you’re worried about the type of qualification that online/distance courses offer, make sure you thoroughly verify the type, of course, you’re applying for. For example, if you’re looking to gain a bachelor’s degree, you should not be applying for a Certificate Continuing Education (CertCE) as this equates to only the first 60 credits of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. Similarly, a Diploma of Education (DipHE) is not the same as an undergraduate programme as it counts for 2/3 of a bachelor’s degree.


However, these qualifications could be suitable for you and a way to develop your knowledge of a particular subject area. It’s important to understand the different types of qualifications so that you are receiving the teaching and outcome that you expect.


As a result of Covid-19, you may also have the chance to study a programme online that transfers to an on-campus setting at a later stage when it is possible to do so. In certain countries like Canada and the UK, starting your course online will not affect your visa conditions and post-study work rights.


Find more information on the types of course accreditations to avoid disappointment and confusion.


Are online courses as reputable as on-campus programmes?

It’s important to make these distinctions as some professions will have compulsory requirements. For example, if you want a career in engineering, medicine, nursing, veterinary science or law, you will generally need to start with an undergraduate degree in that discipline or a related field.


However, that doesn’t mean you have to study on campus. You can still study a full bachelor’s or postgraduate degree online of the same quality as a traditional course at a university campus. You should just avoid short courses if you’re looking to quickly climb the career ladder for that chosen field.


Online undergraduate courses

Listed below are a few examples of online undergraduate degrees from universities around the world:


Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Civil EngineeringGriffith University (Australia)

BA in Administration of JusticeUniversity of Pittsburg (USA)

BSc Crime and Criminology (Hons)University of Portsmouth (UK)

BSc Immunology and infection (Hons)University of Alberta (Canada)


Online postgraduate courses


Master of Architectural EngineeringUniversity of Canterbury (New Zealand)

LLM LawAberystwyth University (UK)

MSc Psychology ResearchUniversity of Southern Queensland (Australia)

MSc Applied Behaviour AnalysisNortheastern University (USA)


So, you can see here that there are opportunities to study popular subjects online to land the career you want without having to compromise on the quality.


Work experience and online study

One major advantage of online or distance learning courses is that you can work around your other commitments. This might be family, part-time or full-time work. In this way, online courses allow for more flexibility in comparison to on-campus degrees.


For example, an LLM in Law (master’s degree) would typically take one to two years in traditional study whereas online it can take up to five years to complete the programme. This means that you can earn money while qualifying at your own pace.


We recommend that you also enquire with the university about opportunities for work experience or internships as they may have connections with businesses either online or in your home country. Even though you will be learning remotely, you can still utilise the university resources and contacts. This would be beneficial to boost your CV to increase your chances of securing a job after graduating.  


It is also likely that there are more opportunities for gaining work experience from the comfort of your own home as a result of Covid-19. Many industries and employers have been forced into operating remotely which means that moving forward, online internships could become more widely adopted by businesses.


Limitations of online courses


Like anything though, it’s important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of online learning to make an informed decision about your future. So, below are a few issues that you may face with online courses:


Lack of lab work for science courses


Chemistry courses typically involve practical laboratory work which takes place in specialised labs at the university. So how can this be emulated for online studies? Some courses have lab simulations and hands-on labs at home. You may instead be required to purchase some equipment to conduct experiments from home.




Courses such as geology, nursing and education require students to complete fieldwork in the more practical modules. This is of course not as simple as on-campus students who are all based in the same area. Many universities have attempted to resolve this limitation by organizing one to two-week field trips in the year and virtual fieldwork assessments.


Social interaction


A major downside to distance or online learning is the lack of interaction with others on your course. However, if you’re looking into this type of learning, your priorities are likely to be centred around flexibility and/or cost and not necessarily meeting new people. However, universities have set up forums and discussion groups for students on distance learning courses to interact.


Will online learning affect my employment prospects?

While online courses have received some criticism over the years, more and more world-leading universities, are offering online and distance learning options, for example, Harvard and Oxford. This is particularly the case in light of the outbreak of Covid-19 as institutions have had to adapt to cater for their students who were forced to return to their home countries or have been unable to travel. Online courses are also gaining increasing respect and credibility with further investment and expertise being applied from universities and professors.


Employers are also starting to recognise the hard work that goes into balancing personal, family or work commitments alongside studies, as this is a relevant experience for the working world. In fact, 90 per cent of corporations now use e-learning for their employees. This reflects that businesses see the value of online learning to boost the skills of their workforce.  


So, now that you know more about online learning and what to look out for when researching, get started and start looking at online/distance courses for yourself!