Get your online college degree in less than a week!
by: Professor M. Latreille
Gotcha! You looked, didn't you? That's the thing - you see a catchy article title and you look, saying to yourself: "Maybe, just maybe, this is for real ...".
I got news for you: it's not!
Most of those ads are for companies called degree mills whose only purpose is to sell phony degrees online. They usually have an official-sounding name, the package they sell may be quite elaborate in its details but it's all basically fake.
That's not to say that all online degrees are phony. There are many degree-granting institutions that operate online. And there will be many more in the years to come. Those are almost always accredited by the governing body in the area where they operate. It is usually possible to verify the accreditation of the institution by going to the appropriate government. See below for US accreditation.
What you're buying online when you go to one of those degree mills is not a degree, it's a piece of paper. A degree is the certification by an educational institution that you've attained competence in a field of knowledge, usually as the result of hard work. A piece of paper looks good when framed and hung on the wall. A degree looks good in your résumé, when it's legitimate.
Ironically, there may be ads for degree mills in this article. (I have no control over Google ads in reprinted articles.) But that's OK, although you should read the rest of this article before you visit them.
Leaving aside all the ethical questions raised (they are so numerous they could fill a book), you have to consider the practical aspects.
Having a piece of paper in a frame that says you've got a Ph.D. in Psychology does not automatically put you in the same league as Dr. Phil. If all you want is to impress clients, just print the degree yourself. Why spend thousands of dollars on a package of credentials that nobody will fall for anyway?
When you look at what these organizations are offering for a few thousand dollars, you may be impressed. You get a professional-looking diploma but you also get a marks transcript covering several years, letters of attestation from Professors, course abstracts, etc. In other words, a whole college history, all fake.
And it may even work, for a while. You may happen upon a supervisor who's too busy or too incompetent to check things out and your fake B.Sc. goes through. But what happens in six months or a year when someone does get around to checking credentials? You get tossed-out on your ear with no references, no pension, no severance pay and a bad reputation. Try to sell that to your next employer!
I've actually seen a situation where a supervisor wanted to hire a bright young subcontractor as a permanent employee in her department. The problem was that the position called for a college degree. He was self-taught and had never been to college although he was very competent and could surely have done the work. The supervisor suggested he buy a degree of some sort in order for her to be able to hire him. She assured him she'd never check-up on his qualifications. Sounds good! But, when that supervisor is no longer around or it's time for a promotion the jig will be up, as they say.
A few of the warning signs that you are dealing with a degree mill:
- You don't have to wait! Get your degree in a few days!
- You pay a set amount for the degree. There are no fees per course or per credit. All you have to do is sign the check!
- There are no exams, no tests.
- There are no courses. Your "life experiences" are evaluated and credited towards your degree.
- You will get a complete transcript, with high marks, of courses that have been credited.
There are many legitimate online degree institutions. What you have to do before you register, or before you hire a graduate if you're an employer, is check-out the validity of the college.
In the U.S. you can go to the Department of Education's Institutional accreditation system to research valid schools by specialty or location. Go to: Institutional accreditation.
In Canada it's more complicated because education is a provincial jurisdiction. You would have to go to each province's Ministry of Education to get the appropriate information. One of the indications that the institution is genuine is that it will give you the Education Tax Credit statement for your federal income tax. The school has to be genuine to be accredited by Revenue Canada.
However, there are very few degree mills in Canada. And, there are a lot fewer colleges than in the US. Most universities and colleges are well-known by just about everyone and most of them offer valid online options for students.
One of the more interesting possibilities for Canadians, and others worldwide, is Athabasca University. It's an accredited distance education facility that provides a wide range of degree programs.
If you're hiring someone with a degree that you are not sure of, here are a few tips:
- Check the timing. If the person has a work history for the same period as the education, ask how the courses were done.
- Look at the time taken to attain the degree. It should be at least two or three years.
- Look at the sequence of degrees. The applicant has to have attained a Bachelor's before a Master's, etc.
- Go to the school's website. If the name is similar to a well-known college, that's a dead give-away. If they've only been in business for a few years, beware!
About The Author
Professor Mike Latreille has over 30 years of experience in the computer industry as a consultant and educator. He has worked for a number of companies, including IBM, as well as for the Canadian government.