Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

Online Degrees Losing Favor Among Employers, Survey Reveals

Worldwide employers value online degrees less than last year, however perceptions of skillsets and overall value differ across regions

Tue Jul 18 2023

Global employers are less likely to view graduates of online and in-person programs equally in their organization in 2023 than before, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council's (GMAC) Corporate Recruiter Survey

While approximately half of global employers say their organizations value online and in-person degrees equally, nearly two-thirds of employers report graduates from in-person programs tend to have stronger leadership, communication, and technical skills than those from online programs.  

This follows a trend of online programs decreasing in popularity. Earlier this year, a report from Tomorrow's Master's by CarringtonCrisp found fewer business master's students are considering online or blended learning compared with last year.

Despite the global drop in renown for online programs, opinions of graduates vary significantly between regions. 

In the US, just 27% of employers said they valued online and in-person degrees equally, down from 29% in 2022. However, 43% said they valued the technical skills of in-person graduates over online graduates–roughly 17% below the global average–suggesting US employers were relatively ambivalent when it comes to the skills difference between studying online and in-person. 

Asian employers had an entirely different view of online degrees. In Asia, employers valued online and in-person degrees equally but believed in-person programs equip graduates with stronger leadership, communication, and technical skills. 

In Central and South Asia employers largely valued online and in-person degrees equally, with 90% agreement among respondents from those regions. A total of 71% of recruiters from East and Southeast Asia valued the formats the same. However, around three in four of those employers said in-person graduates' leadership, communication, and technical skills were superior to those of online graduates.

Employers from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Western Europe followed the global trend, except on the perception that in-person candidates have stronger leadership and communication skills. Employers from the Middle East were more likely to agree with this view and Western European employers were less likely to agree with it. 

At an industry level, only 32% of employers in consulting said they viewed online and in-person degrees equally, while less than half said in-person graduates bring more technical skills than online graduates. 

Online degrees saw a huge rise in popularity during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, as people were restricted to working from home and found new ways of elevating their leadership and business skills. 

This shifted the composition of online degrees dramatically, recently many business schools have added online options, including elite universities such as The Wharton School and University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business.