12 Signs a Grad School Is a Diploma Mill

Is that diploma from a milld?
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Can you earn a graduate degree simply by acquiring life experience? By paying a lump sum? While you can't earn a legitimate master's or doctoral degree this easily, a diploma mill is happy to take your money and provide you with false (and thereby useless) credentials.

What is a Diploma Mill?

As defined by the US Higher Education Opportunity Act a diploma mill (also known as a degree mill) is company or organization that, in exchange for a fee, offers degrees and diplomas that can be used to portray to the public that an individual has completed a program of study.

Degree mills do not require individuals to complete coursework or other requirements to obtain a degree. All they require is a credit card. Diploma mills are phony universities that sell diplomas and transcripts.

How to Spot a Diploma Mill

Don't get fooled by a bogus university. As you consider educational opportunities, keep in mind the following warning signs that you may be dealing with a degree mill:

1. Diploma mills offer degrees for a set fee. Legitimate universities charge by the credit, with every course worth several credits.

2. Diploma mills often promise a degree based on the life experiences listed in your resume. Diploma mills require very little or no time. Graduate degrees require years of work: 2 to 5 or more. Degree mills tend to promise degrees in days, perhaps weeks.

3. Diploma mills list no admissions criteria. Previous academic record, grade point average, even whether you have earned a bachelor's degree is irrelevant to admission to these bogus graduate programs.

4. Diploma mills tend to have made up names that are similar to well-known reputable universities (for example, International University of New York) or misspellings such as Stamford University or Hardvard University).

5. Diploma mill websites tend to provide no information about the content of graduate programs, such as courses, exam requirements, and theses or dissertations.

6. Diploma mill websites list little information about faculty, such as their educational background and research. Or faculty have false credentials. Or faculty pictures and bios are stolen from legitimate graduate school websites. A quick internet search of faculty members can reveal these lies.

7. Diploma mills tend to list little to no contact information. Typically only an email is provided. No phone number nor physical address is listed.

8. Diploma mills often use post office boxes as mailing addresses.

9. Diploma mills are not accredited by agencies recognized by the US government as reliable sources of quality higher education or training. Degrees earned at accredited schools are deemed legitimate, accepted by employers, and transferable to other educational institutions. Below are the six regional accrediting bodies for higher education in the United States:

10. Diploma mills often report that they are accredited by fake agencies.

11. Diploma mills often have complaints with Better Business Bureau. If anyone in the United States or Canada has filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, you'll be able to find the report. However note that just because an institution isn't listed doesn't mean it is legitimate. It just means that no one has lodged a complaint yet.

12. Diploma mills often yield sketchy internet search results. A final test is to search for the school and critically consider all that you find. Individuals who have been scammed by diploma mills often don't stay quiet.

Pay attention to critical and negative reviews.

A Diploma Mill Degree is Not Worth it

Sometimes people knowingly pay a diploma mill for false credentials. The truth is that bought credentials are useless to your career and likely will harm it. Employers aware of diploma mills will not hire candidates with bogus degrees. Those who have unwittingly hired employees with diploma mills often fire them when the truth comes out. Buying a degree is the easy way out. It's deceitful. Employers will wonder, "If you're willing to like about your credentials, what other dishonest things will you do?" It's not worth it.