Diploma Mills and Fake Degrees

Diploma Mills and Fake Degrees
  • Opening Intro -

    A diploma mill is a company offering a college degree for a flat fee in a short amount of time with little or no coursework required.

    These "schools" are bogus, as are the accreditation organizations which state the schools are legitimate.


There are many schools offering genuine distance learning or online degrees, such as the University of San Francisco’s online masters in nursing. There are nursing degrees, such as those offered by Must University, which are not legitimate. Street vendors in Bangkok, Thailand will print a university diploma or press pass while you wait

Fake Accreditations for Fake Schools

The U.S Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation recognize certain agencies as authorized to accredit schools and their courses of study as being legitimate. The accreditation agencies accept the university degree programs and online colleges as being real programs bestowing genuine degrees. Many students think that because their school has accreditation, their school is a genuine institution of higher learning. What they don’t realize is there are more than 40 fake accreditation agencies giving bogus accreditations to dishonest schools. Must University has accreditation from the International Accreditation Organization, a fake agency.

Recognizing Diploma Mills

The Federal Trade Commission and consumer guide Web sites have compiled lists of how a prospective student can recognize diploma mills. Many diploma mills charge a flat fee for their degrees on a per degree basis and not by the credit hour, course, or semester. Diploma mills often advertise that a student can earn a degree in days, weeks, or a few months.

Degrees are sometimes granted for life or work experience alone, without the student having to take any classes. Legitimate colleges may grant students a few credits for life or work experience, but not an entire degree. Students at diploma mills are not given assignments and do not have to take exams. They might have a write a paper to receive a fake doctorate. Diploma mills use tacky advertising, including spam e-mails and online pop-up ads. Telemarketers do not want to take "no" for an answer.

Recognizing Legitimate Online Schools

There are many schools offering legitimate online courses and degrees. GetEducated, The Consumer’s Guide To Online Colleges, is a comprehensive resource for properly credentialed online education, and a great place to start your research. The web site screens every online college listed and indicates whether the school is a legitimate educational institution or a diploma mill.

Many educational institutions and employers consider it a lie to claim academic credentials not earned through actual coursework. If a person applies for a job or receives a promotion based upon a degree from a diploma mill, they are chancing not being hired or being fired after their employment begins. In some states and in some professions, it is illegal to use a degree from a non-accredited school for job seeking and other employment purposes. In the worst cases, the offense might be "fraud," and the person involved in the deception subject to prosecution.

Image via Flickr by  kristina wilson


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Categories: Academics