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6 Questions Employers Ask About Nursing Applicants with Online Degrees

Prospective nursing students may wonder if employers will look down on an online RN to BSN as opposed to a more traditional program. Though this may have been the case in the past, hiring managers are starting to understand the added value that comes with an applicant who earned their degree online while continuing to work. Some employers even prefer it. Job seekers who have completed an online RN to BSN program have an advantage over those who earned online degrees in many other areas: They have experience on their side. Employers also know that these experienced nurse candidates juggled school, work, family and other personal activities, which points to their dedication, time management skills and work ethic. There are six questions hiring managers want to know when considering a potential employee who earned a degree online.

1. Is the Program Accredited?

Hiring managers — no matter what the industry — look for applicants with degrees from well-respected, reputable and accredited institutions. This goes for both online and traditional programs. One of the best ways to discern the quality of education provided by program is accreditation. Accredited universities and colleges have gone through a rigorous process to prove to an accrediting body that they have quality faculty, resources and curricula. There are regional and national accrediting agencies, and those should have recognition from the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education.

2. Why Did You Choose to Pursue a Degree Online?

Many hiring managers may ask prospective employees why they chose an online RN to BSN program to get their degree, says Charles Mitchell, CEO of All About People, a staffing agency out of Arizona. This question — the answer really — often shows what kind of a decision maker the applicant is. What process and skills did the applicant use to come to the decision? Was it a snap decision or was it well-thought out? The employer wants you to share your entire process. Many applicants will say that they have full-time jobs, families, and other obligations that would not allow a traditional program. This answer shows that the applicant examined all aspects of their situation carefully before making the commitment. It also shows that the applicant was able to juggle family, work, and other personal responsibilities while successfully pursuing their education.

3. Did You Develop Skills in Teamwork?

Employers know that nurses who have completed traditional programs have many opportunities—often required—to work in teams with their classmates. They may assume that applicants who completed a BSN program online had few, if any, collaborative assignments to train them to work as part of a team. Today, teamwork is critical to any employee in any industry, but especially in nursing. It is your job to convince the person interviewing you that online programs do teach teamwork and give collaborative assignments. Unfortunately, this may not be any easy sell.

Studies show that students who work in groups score significantly higher on tests than students who study alone. Luckily, online does not mean alone. With the speed of technology, comes programs, applications and websites that help students collaborate from anywhere at any time. Google Docs, for example, allows students to share a document, edit in real time with their group and track changes made to the document. There are other programs even more specific to online learning. Online collaborative learning can actually be more convenient than traditional methods. If students can work from anywhere, they don’t have to worry about a commute, making scheduling much easier. Students can work on their part of a group assignment at a convenient time, and their team can look over the work later, adding notes if needed and seeing where changes were made. In those ways, collaborative assignments may be even more effective in an online environment.

4. Were You Able to Interact with the Other Students?

Some employers may the see the online learning experience as isolating, not allowing students to learn from the different perspective of their fellow students. In fact, online learning actually promotes the understanding of different people. Students at traditional schools are more likely to live in the same area as the school, whereas students in an online program can take classes from anywhere in the world, adding diversity to the “classroom” where there would be less in a brick-and-mortar school. Having classmates of different cultures, races and ethnicities is essential for nurses to connect to their patients.

5. Were You Able to Interact with the Instructor?

Online nursing students have a variety of ways to stay in contact with their instructors—maybe more than “live” classes. Instructors of online courses hold virtual “office hours” during which a student can chat, get prompt responses to email and anything else they may need. Because there is no need to go to the instructor’s actual office, it is easier for students to make time for meetings. There is no commute or other class in the way of the office hours. Online instructors are also encouraged to check their email more often that other instructors.

6. What About Clinical Requirements?

A hiring manager may ask what kind of clinical experience you had while working on your RN to BSN. A great question! Since you are already an RN, any clinical assignments can be completed while you work. In this case, your assignments take place in the real world as opposed to a lab setting where you may be using mannequins instead of patients. This also reminds the employer that you were working while you were in school.

In the quickly changing digital world, it can be hard to figure out which way to go—in any aspect of life. When it comes to education and the job beyond, your questions carry a lot of weight. How can I move up the career ladder? Do I have time to go to school? Will a hiring manager look down on my online degree? Employers now have great respect for graduates on an online program. The online RN to BSN program at Purdue University Northwest prepares you for the job interview, and, even more important, the bedside.

Learn more about the Purdue Northwest online RN to BSN program.


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