Online learning programs are on the rise throughout the country. More students are turning to distance learning programs to continue their higher education than ever before, due to rising on-campus university costs and an overly competitive job market. These programs allow busy individuals to further their professional development from the comfort of their own home or while working full time.
In the “2015 Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States,” an annual report from the Babson Survey Research Group, researchers discovered that an estimated 5.8 million students were enrolled in at least one online learning course during the fall of 2014. This figure is up 3.9 million from the same time the year before.
While attendance is rising and online degrees are becoming more prevalent in the education community, common misconceptions about these programs still circulate among the general population. These misconceptions range from outdated perspectives of the institution of online learning to myths perpetuated by singular negative experiences. If you are looking to continue your higher education or even completely change career directions, but are unsure about pursuing an online strategic public relations degree, here are the top four misconceptions you need to consider:
Misconception #1: All online public relations programs/courses are the same.
Just as on-campus university programs are not all created equal, neither are online learning programs. Some institutions may lack the necessary budget they need to offer comprehensive coursework and a strong faculty presence for their online programs, but this is not indicative of online learning as a whole. Online learning can be just as rigorous and rewarding as any on-campus degree, depending on respectability and mindset of the school offering the program.
Choose an accredited, top-ranked program that is relevant, connected and specifically designed to challenge you. While there may be plenty of options to choose from, not all will support you in your journey throughout the communications field or equip you with the tools and knowledge you need to navigate the evolving modern landscape of public relations. Though competition for entry-level PR positions may be difficult, students who pursue a master’s in strategic public relations online will not only have the skills they need to be successful, but the advanced degree to put on their resume.
Misconception #2: The coursework is easy or low-quality.
Online programs are not inherently easier or lower-caliber than their on-campus counterparts, although quality certainly varies from school to school. For example, unlike in-person faculty interactions, professors for online programs must communicate with their students differently and may be more concerned about the effectiveness of their teaching style and promoting student engagement.
A high-quality online strategic public relations program will provide its students with a modern, transformative learning experience, all from the comfort of an online learning environment. Students are able to work full-time, live across the country or pursue other professional dreams, all while gaining a solid foundation of key PR principles, strategies and best practices.
As with any educational coursework, your degree can be as difficult or as easy as you make it. If your program offers meaningful coursework and you are dedicated to furthering your professional development, an online learning program will never be an easy or low-quality experience for you.
Misconception #3: Future employers won’t accept an online degree.
In recent years, organizations have conducted nationwide employer surveys to gauge specific perceptions about online degrees. Results from select studies from Excelsior College and the Zogby organization discovered that two-thirds of respondents stated they believed an online degree was as credible as one earned in a traditional on-campus setting. The public mindset toward online education is quickly changing with the rise in high-quality programs from respected institutions.
Additionally, many industry leaders, such as Starbucks and Verizon, are beginning to offer tuition reimbursement programs for their employees should they decide to pursue online degree programs. These companies realize that the heightened costs of traditional on-campus learning and the job market makes it difficult for many people to start or further their higher education. This phenomenon is shaping public opinion among potential employers, as well.
Furthermore, as much of the job market today emphasizes the importance of networking, especially in the PR field, many reputable online degrees have extensive alumni networks for recent graduates. After all, quality online programs don’t just offer degrees, they give a future for their graduates in their chosen career.
Misconception #4: Online public relations programs won’t adequately prepare me for the real world.
Public relations is far from being a stagnant industry. It’s no longer enough just to know how to write a solid press release. PR professionals are always trying to find innovative and exciting ways to connect with the public and spread their messages about their organizations. Another common misconception about an online strategic PR program is that it will not adequately prepare its students for the real world.
While not all programs are created equal, a high-quality online degree allows students to advance their knowledge, while working full time, taking care of a family, or living far from any worthwhile on-campus programs. Many online students already have many years of experience in the their field, yet are looking to gain additional professional growth. There are also students who are looking to transition into the PR field from an entirely different industry.
Meanwhile, unlike full-time, on-campus programs, students can bring real-life examples from their current careers into course discussions or projects. The diverse background of the students allows for lively debate within the virtual classroom environment. Students are able to have the flexibility to continue working and learning on the job, while immediately applying various strategies and knowledge gleaned from their coursework.
As the PR field is keeping up with the swift growth of the tech field, students need to be able to quickly use the knowledge they learn to keep up with evolving industry trends. There is no delay for students already in the PR field for furthering their professional development with an online degree, thus shattering the notion that an online program will not prepare students for the real world.
If you want to have a great career in public relations, a degree from the George Washington University may be just the professional development you were searching for. Check out our website today to learn more about this exciting and promising field.