What Is the Pay Scale of an Employee With an Online Degree Vs. A Traditional Degree?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

careertrend article image
Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Pay scales are similar for employees with online degrees from accredited and recognized universities compared to traditional graduates. The average starting salary for bachelor’s degree holders was $45,327 as of July 2013, according to data gathered on more than 400,000 employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Starting pay was $80,000 to $105,000 for employees with MBAs, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2013 Hiring Report, which surveyed 935 major employers worldwide.

Online Push

An October 2013 Gallup poll of more than 1,000 adults across the U.S. revealed that most people believe that online degree programs offer course variety and value for the price that are at least as good or better than on-campus programs. Increasingly, employers are embracing online education as a worthy qualification for entry-level and knowledge-based jobs. Writing in CNN Money, John A. Byrne of "Poets and Quants," says graduates from well-established online MBA programs are experiencing pay raises and upward mobility as a result of their degrees.

Traditional Entry

Students just entering the workforce in 2012 with their bachelor’s degrees earned average starting salaries of $44,455, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Campus-based MBA graduates earned an average starting salary of $90,000, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council. Over a 40-year work life, the average employee with a college degree earns 65 percent more than the average employee without a college degree, according to a 2013 “Education Pays” report by the College Board.

Between the Two

More people view a degree earned on campus as a mark of a better quality education than a degree earned online, according to Gallup. Still, when Learning House asked 1,500 past and current online degree graduates if their educations were worth it, 58 percent of respondents said they received a raise after earning their degrees. Additionally, 47 percent received promotions.

Employer Perceptions

Skeptical employers claim that online education doesn’t provide the same high testing, interaction and grading standards as traditional education. The majority of employers see the value of online degree programs more for older employees aiming to advance their careers than for younger students aiming for a quality education, according to a September 2013 report by Public Agenda, which surveyed 656 human resource professionals. Additionally, the Public Agenda report found that the majority of employers see the greatest value in degrees from programs that incorporate both online and campus-based classes. Information in 2013 by EdTech Magazine revealed that hiring managers also favor online degrees from universities they recognize. Meanwhile, more traditional and well-established colleges and universities are offering hybrid degree programs that combine online and on-campus studies.