Online College and Career Success

Lessons students learn while earning an online degree -- proficiency in technology, critical thinking, time management, and organization -- can help them succeed in the workforce. First, going to school online means students must work efficiently and independently. Second, taking on concentrations within a major allows students to hone specialized skills. Finally, participating in internships and field experiences reinforces a student's academic and personal interests.

Keep reading this guide to learn how students can stay career-focused while in school.

10 Career Skills That Transfer From an Online College Experience

Skills students learn while earning an online degree, such as self-motivation, accountability, and tech-savviness, will inevitably prepare them for a smooth college-to-career transition. Take a look at these soft and hard skills that students may gain through an online education.

Hard Skills Gained from Online Education

Computer Skills

Online students must possess basic computer software and word processing skills to participate in classwork. Students learn how to conduct research online, download and upload course files, and install software.

Critical Thinking

Through active learning and open dialogue on online discussion boards, students develop critical thinking skills. They learn to solve problems, question assertions, and form their own arguments. Students also build a strong understanding of cause and effect.

Writing Skills

Distance learning demands strong writing skills. In addition to writing papers, online students must also rely on their writing skills to participate in online discussion boards and submit emails.

Organization

To succeed online, students must learn to work independently. Most online classes run asynchronously, so students must learn techniques to keep track of deadlines and maintain accountability.

Research

While earning an online degree, students learn how to conduct online research, including properly checking and attributing sources. Online learners also practice using online library resources and databases.

Soft Skills Gained from Online Education

Communication

To succeed in an online classroom, students must rely on their communication skills. When students need help, they must reach out to their professors and peers. Programs also require students to participate in online discussions.

Self-Motivation

Online courses do not work well for unmotivated students. Students in an online program study remotely, so they must be self-motivated to meet deadlines and participate in classes.

Time Management

Studying remotely requires students to build time management skills. Students learn to set goals, prioritize assignments, and minimize distractions to stay focused on their studies. Many apps can also help students to keep a task list.

Networking

Taking online classes teaches students how to tap into their networks. Students must regularly maintain contact with fellow students and professors to ensure that they participate. They learn how to use formal and informal communication to communicate with diverse individuals.

Accountability

Studying remotely means students must maintain accountability. They need to keep track of assignment deadlines and their other school responsibilities. Students learn how to create study plans and set aside time for studying.

How to Stay Career-Minded During Online Education

To get the most out of a college experience, students must stay focused on their career interests starting from their freshman year. Career-minded students can build their skills for workplace success while also earning their online degree. Campuses offer ample opportunities to help students make the college-to-career transition. Consider these five tips that can prepare students for their future careers:

  1. Pick a Career: It seems like a simple goal, but picking a career can prove difficult. With the help of their professors and career counselors, students can explore professions that suit their talents and interests.

  2. Go to Career Fairs: College campuses offer career fairs where employers seek out talented candidates. This provides a chance for students to meet with prospective employers and distribute their resumes.

  3. Visit the Career Center: College career centers typically offer a job database of work opportunities for students and graduates. Students can also get help with their resumes and receive interview tips.

  4. Earn a Specialization: Many programs offer specializations or concentrations that can help students build specialized skills. Students can also earn a minor to round out their education.

  5. Intern: In their final year of college, students often intern in their field of interest. An internship gives students the chance to gain work experience and to make contacts with working professionals.

Resources to Help Online Students Develop Career Skills

Resourceful students leverage resources to develop their career skills and find training opportunities before they graduate. Many government and educational websites provide free information about occupational trends and local job openings. The following resources may help you build your career skills, find jobs, and determine your salary potential.

  • CareerOneStop: Students can determine potential career paths by taking assessments available on CareerOneStop, a website for fledgling and seasoned workers. The website also offers help with writing resumes and cover letters and finding training opportunities.

  • CAREERS.org: This website helps individuals plan for their future careers through an online career counseling program. Users can get advice on writing resumes, negotiating salaries, and participating in job interviews. Job seekers can also search for jobs in the career directory. 

  • O*NET Online: This occupational information website, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, allows job seekers to find occupations by searching their skills and interests.

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook: Provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this handbook allows users to research hundreds of occupations to learn about employment outlooks. Users can also browse the highest paying jobs and find the fastest growing occupations. 

  • USAJOBS: USAJOBS, a U.S. Office of Personnel Management website, helps job seekers land positions in federal agencies. Applicants can post their applications to make them searchable for employers. The website also features virtual events for job seekers.