Whether you are trying to move up in your career, or just want to make yourself more marketable to new employers, many of us think about getting a degree or enrolling in a professional certificate program. Getting a Bachelor's degree, or enrolling in a Graduate program can certainly open up more career opportunities, but when you are working full-time, finding time to fit a class schedule into your day is a challenge.
This is why many people have started looking into getting a degree online. It used to be difficult to find an online college program, but these days, more and more well respected Universities have begun to offer online degree programs. These programs can be the answer for working professionals who want to continue their education on a time schedule that suits their needs. But, not all online degree programs are created equally.
When evaluating a potential degree program, be on the lookout for Diploma Mills. These are companies that market themselves as a quality degree program, but they actually just churn out degrees for anyone who is willing to pay for them. Because they lack accreditation, the degrees aren't worth the paper they are written on. These diploma mills give degrees to people who haven't actually earned them and they make money by acting like they are a real college or university.
Some of these programs commit fraud by selling degrees, academic references and even phony transcripts to people who are willing to pay for their degree. While others look just like a true university but they don't actually evaluate academic work from their “students”. You can spot some of the more obvious diploma mills because they claim that you can earn your degree in just a few weeks and make claims that you can get credit for “life experience”.
There are even programs that actually assign coursework for their students, but the work is at a much lower level that an actual university. These programs can fool people who are looking for an easy way to get a degree. But, once they graduate, they are surprised to find that their degree is not respected in the workplace and is basically worthless.
Diploma mills sell all levels of degrees and allow their customers to purchase honors in addition to their degree. And while some people who go to these diploma mills are aware of the situation, they are looking for a short cut to obtaining professional credentials and are willing to commit fraud in order to achieve their goal. But others end up signing up for a program that sounds like a dream come true, without realizing what they are getting themselves into. So, when you are looking for an online degree program, don't let yourself get fooled by these sham programs.
Here are some signs that the degree program you are looking at is a diploma mill:
- No accreditation by a legitimate accrediting agency
- No physical campus. If the address is a post office box or has a suite number, consider it a red flag.
- Your coursework has no bearing on your degree.
- Little to no contact with professors.
- Degrees can be obtained in a short time frame.
- The degree program costs considerably less than a four year college.
Diploma mills lure people in with the idea of getting a degree fast, and for less work and money than a traditional college. And while I can understand the temptatation to look for an easy solution, it scares me to think of how many people have fake degrees that they aren't at all qualified to hold. Can you imagine the harm someone with a couple of fake medical degrees could do? Or someone with a phony degree in Nuclear Engineering?
When looking for the right online degree program for you, be sure to do your research. Check out the school's accreditation, and the accrediting agency. If the program is legitimate, they will have no problem giving you this information, and in fact, they will be glad that you asked. Do a Google search on the institution to see if there is any negative mention of the school being a scam. It is also a good idea to Google map the address to see if it is an actual college or just a mailbox store. And, as with spotting any type of scam, if it seems to good to be true, it most likely is.
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By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer, along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.