College Research Notes by Jennifer Haun

November 22, 2012

The Risks of Purchasing a Degree and Alternatives

Filed under: Diploma Mills @ 11:06 am and

employer fires employee

Beware: fake degrees can get your fired.

The recent incident with the Pakistani sports minister being charged for having faked himself into his position made me think. Here’s the news report. With the current economic downturn, a lot of people are going back to school in order to gain more education and enhance their resumes. Others are considering taking a shortcut — purchasing a degree online. The laws regarding purchased degrees are complicated and vary state by state (What do most people actually think? Some funny answers can be found here. These degrees are usually more trouble than they are worth.

What is a Bought Degree Called?

Most degrees that are purchased are called diploma mill degrees. These degrees are not regarded as authentic by all employers. Diploma mill degrees have such a negative reputation, in fact, that employers usually fire employees they discover have diploma mill degrees.

Risk vs. Reward

risk vs. reward

Risk vs. Reward of buying a degree.


Most diploma mill degree users believe that using a diploma mill degree is worth the risk. Some individuals are able to get good jobs on the basis of having a diploma mill degree and avoid detection for the duration of their entire career. The decision to use a diploma mill degree or not to use one is a personal decision. You have to ask yourself what you are comfortable with doing and whether or not using a diploma mill degree is worth the risk.

Ethics

Most people believe diploma mill degrees are unethical. They believe that using a diploma mill degree is dishonest and a sign of a serious defect in a person’s character.

Understanding the Legal Situation

buy degree

Buying a degree is legal, but for entertainment purposes only.


The laws concerning diploma mill degrees are complicated. Your decision to buy a degree or not to buy a degree should be influenced by what state you live in. Different states have different laws on using diploma mill degrees. However, it should be fine in most states to buy one for entertainment purposes (i.e. from cooldegrees.com – a site that sells most types of degrees except medical ones, and clearly states that it’s for “being cool” only). It always depends what you use it for. So be careful!

It is important to understand that in no states is it illegal to buy a degree. Purchasing a diploma mill degree is perfectly legal regardless of where in the United States you live. All the laws on diploma mill degrees are concerned with the actual use of diploma mill degrees.

States Where Using Diploma Mill Degrees is Illegal

diploma mill sheep
Using a diploma mill degree to help you get a job is illegal in Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, New Jersey, Nevada, North Dakota, Virginia, Texas, and Washington. If you live in any of the foregoing states, you really should avoid using a diploma mill degree. It is simply not worth the risk.

How Diploma Mill Degree Users Get Caught

Most people with diploma mill degrees get caught when their employers check their degree against a list of accredited degree issuing institutions. While it is true that there are a variety of accreditation agencies for colleges and universities in the United States, only a limited number of them are respected. Colleges and universities that are respected are said to be regionally accredited (Source).

Non-regionally accredited institutions are not necessarily diploma mills, but they are not respected by most employers and government agencies.

A Surprising Number of People Use Diploma Mill Degrees

The Diploma Mill

Diploma mills churn out huge numbers.


Recent research has underscored the fact that a great deal of people make the decision to buy a degree. A shocking number of these people escape detection. But the ones that are never discovered have to live with the fear of discovery for their entire careers. Check out this article on economist.com – a great study paper they wrote on fake degrees. This video is ridiculous. What do you think? Please comment!

Using a diploma mill degree to help you build a career is a move that may well haunt you for the duration of your career. If at any point you upset your boss and accidentally prompt him or her to take a closer look at your resume, you risk undoing all the effects of your hard work for years.

Alternatives to Diploma Mill Degrees

Diploma mills are not the only option for individuals looking to boost their employability or educational credentials. Some individuals may wish to consider getting a degree from a non-accredited college or university. Many of these schools have actual classes and require a certain amount of effort before they pass students. This helps distinguish them from diploma mills.
The downside of getting a degree from one of these schools is that your degree will almost always be called into question by employers carefully scrutinizing resumes. If you are trying to boost your employability in a competitive field, you are better off getting a legitimate life experience degree(Source).

Accredited Distance Learning Programs

salaries with a college degree
There are a number of regionally accredited distance learning institutions. Taking classes from one of these institutions may be your best option when it comes to getting a legitimate degree.
Distance learning is particularly beneficial for older students who lead busy lives and do not have the ability to physically attend classes. It also works particularly well for independent people that prefer to direct their own learning. It’s also worth checking out the salary study by the NACE regarding salaries with a college degree.

If you do not have a very independent spirit, distance learning may not be the best option for you. Students that prefer a teacher to guide them through their learning material step-by-step do not benefit as much from a distance learning approach.

Beyond College

There are plenty of careers that do not require a college degree (Check out the following list). If you are stagnating in one career because you don’t have a degree, you might want to consider looking at alternatives to your current career. There is increasing demand for skilled, blue collar labor in the U.S., and there are a number of careers that require either no college experience or very little.

There is No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Everyone is different. Everyone has different talents and a different financial situation. If you do not feel that you are cut out for college or simply do not have the time or money to attend, you can find an alternative that will work for you.

Although college degree holders earn more money on average than people without degrees, there are plenty of successful entrepreneurs with little or no college education. What you achieve in life is not entirely dependent on whether or not you have a college degree. Whatever your situation now, there are steps you can take to improve your career or find a different one better suited to your talents. Even if you feel you don’t have any options, the truth is that when it comes to different forms of accreditation, training, and degrees, there are options for almost everyone.


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