Distance Education—Reputation

When I first started with Athabasca University a lot of what I saw in the online groups were questions about the reputation of the university and how that would affect applications to grad schools and getting a job with that degree in hand.  These conversations made me wonder the same thing: was the degree I was getting going to hold the same weight as a degree from somewhere else? In the comments, there were always a few people chiming in and trying to reassure that, “Yes, the degree does hold the same weight, plenty of people get into grad school with it, etc, etc.”

There can be a lot of uncertainty around this, it is something that saw an influx around September when it seemed like a lot of new students were finding these groups.  I think it is something we all consider because the idea of choosing a school, the right school, is so ingrained in us that worrying about possibly choosing the wrong school is a heavy weight.

Of course, on these groups, there are plenty of people that have gone onto grad school in many universities holding an AU undergrad degree.  AU has a fine reputation and is properly accredited.  But, I wanted to share some of my experience since walking away from AU with a BA degree.

I made the decision to pursue a career in publishing.  This meant applying for remote internships and positions because my small town of 3000 does not have a thriving publishing community, there is a small publisher nearby but it is just a 2-person operation (yes, I emailed and asked).  The remote internships in publishing are difficult to find and get, it is a competitive marketplace.  Because these internships don’t pay, or pay little, doing so remotely, regardless of where you live, gives an individual time to hold a job and gain experience at the same time–committed office time that doesn’t pay is challenging to impossible for most people to maintain.

It took a while to land that first internship, but, once I had the first one, having that experience helped me land the second one, and those combined got me to where I am now climbing a little higher on the publishing ladder and making a decent income.  To get these positions though, I highlighted the fact that I completed my degree through distance, online.  This was very effective in showing my potential employers/mentors that I was capable of organizing myself and motivating myself.  If I could complete my degree under my own discipline then I could effectively complete these internships as well.

When I mentioned the distance education I was generally received with surprise, and then I felt the conversation shift and I knew then that they were no longer concerned about my ability to motivate myself or keep on top of the work.  Every time I mentioned this, even with the internships I didn’t get or the ones I pulled my name from as I landed another, it was not seen as a red flag, the method of getting the degree wasn’t questioned, but applauded.

Of course, just by doing the degree online doesn’t guarantee anything—even after that conversation there were application processes that needed to be completed.  But having that experience to work from home felt like it helped me to get my foot in the door, to get from the resume to the second step of the application process.

In this sense, having a degree through distance was not just on level with any other, but it elevated my resume.  Because wanting to work remotely means having the motivation to push yourself and to dedicate time to your work while being distracted by all the things in your home.  If you can complete a degree through distance, remotely, from home, it assures any potential employer that you already have key organizational skills.

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