At some time in our lives many of us find ourselves looking at furthering our education in order to start a new career or apply for a new job – either in a new area of interest, or to get a higher paying role where we currently work.
Whether you’re interested in working in home remodelling or healthcare, there are courses out there advertised all over the internet that promise Diplomas and all kinds of certificates in exchange for some hard work – and often a lot of money. So it’s vital that the piece of paper we get in the end, after all that study, is the real deal.
What is a diploma mill?
Most training institutions and colleges do the right thing, but there are a few that exist only to take your money and provide you with a qualification that isn’t recognized by employers, or in some cases doesn’t even legally qualify you for the job you want.
Simply put: a Diploma Mill is a higher education institution that offers diplomas and other academic qualifications which they are not accredited to provide.
As an example here are three healthcare industry blogs that have exposed an online medical assisting school – I won’t name the school because I don’t want to give them publicity, but if you click through to one of these sites you’ll see which ‘school’ I’m talking about: Medical Assistant Atlas, Legal Eye On Medical Assisting, Skeptical Scalpel.
How to confirm a school’s sccreditation
The scary thing is that all diploma mills claim that they are accredited – so you need to know how to tell if their claimed accreditation is legitimate. You can’t necessarily accept the accreditation they claim on their website because diploma mills will either lie about their accreditation status or link to bogus accrediting websites.
The good news is that it’s not all that difficult to test a school’s claims. All you need to do is contact the professional body or association for the industry in which you want to study, and simply ask them if the course you are looking at taking is in fact legitimate.
For example, and this is an obvious one just to illustrate the point, if you wanted to study to become a doctor you would contact the American Medical Association (AMA) and ask them if your intended school is accredited.
Any professional association will be all too happy to answer, and will often also let you know about other accredited schools online, or ‘brick and mortar’ institutions in your area, which they recommend.
You can also try looking up the OPE Database which is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
Is establishing accreditation enough?
Yes – this is sufficient to establish that the program or course you want to attend is accredited. However, you may also want to check the reputation of the school because some schools have much higher rates for their students gaining employment, and there may be other factors relevant to your circumstances which you can discover by following these simple steps:
- Search online for phrases such as ‘school name’, ‘school name reputation’, or ‘school name ripoff’.
- Check the school’s Twitter feed, but not their Facebook page. One of the great things about Twitter is that a school can’t delete negative comments or reviews whereas they can on their Facebook page.
- Read the professional association’s blog, forum, Twitter feed, or Facebook page if they have one – this is where you’ll find some great information both positive and negative.
In summary, whether you’re considering attending a community college or a private institution, it’s important to follow the steps outlined above to make sure you get what you want when you enrol and ultimately graduate.
This article was written by Jason Horton.