Are Online Degrees Legitimate?

Online degrees have gained widespread recognition and legitimacy across various sectors. Accredited universities offering online programs adhere to rigorous academic standards, ensuring that the quality of education provided online matches, and in some cases surpasses, traditional in-person classes.

Employers increasingly acknowledge the value of the skills and self-discipline required to complete an online degree, viewing graduates as adaptable, self-motivated, and capable of managing the demands of a digital work environment.

However, the popularity of online degrees has also led to a negative side effect. Some online degrees out there can be a fraud.
The so-called diploma mills are the most familiar type of internet education fraud.

By posing as a legitimate school, some websites can cheat you by providing essentially worthless online degrees at an apparent bargain. In this post we will discuss how to identify and avoid these fake online degrees.

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Are Online Degrees Legitimate?

There is no doubt that online degrees are legitimate, as long as they are obtained from accredited universities. Accredited universities have gone through a rigorous evaluation process and meet specific criteria set by recognized accreditation agencies. This ensures that the quality of education provided is on par with traditional in-person programs.

Employers now recognize the value of online degrees and view graduates as highly skilled individuals who possess the necessary self-discipline and time management skills to successfully complete an online program. Many employers even offer tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing further education through online programs.

How to Identify Fake Online Degrees?

Here are some red flags to watch out for when evaluating the legitimacy of an online degree:

Undestand Differences Between Legitimate online degrees vs. Degree mills

In the realm of online education, the distinction between legitimate online degrees and degree mills is crucial for students seeking quality education. Legitimate online degrees are bestowed by accredited institutions that have undergone rigorous evaluation by recognized accrediting agencies, ensuring their academic programs meet high standards. These degrees are respected by employers and can significantly enhance career prospects.

In contrast, degree mills often promise degrees with little to no academic work, lack proper accreditation, and their ‘qualifications’ are typically not recognized by employers, potentially harming a student’s professional credibility and career trajectory.

Degree mills may burn a hole in your pocket without providing real professional skills. Genuine online degrees, however, are backed by recognized accreditation from regional agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s like choosing between fool’s gold and the real deal.

Notable Accrediting Agencies Encompass:

• The Higher Learning Commission
• The New England Commission of Higher Education
• The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
• The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Numerous other accrediting bodies exist, and the Department of Education’s website offers further insights. Conduct thorough research on the program to confirm its accreditation status. Programs accredited by approved agencies are more likely to be deemed credible.

Additionally, certain universities and colleges offer online courses, enabling students to complete their degrees entirely via online platforms. Upon successful completion of an online degree through an accredited program, there is minimal differentiation between virtual and in-person attendance.

In fact, enrolling in an accredited online program or obtaining an online degree from a reputable brick-and-mortar institution grants access to federal financial aid opportunities. It may also facilitate the acquisition of private student loans for programs that hold proper accreditation and legitimacy.

Do Thorough Research Of Offering Programs

If you are considering pursuing your degree online, it is crucial to thoroughly investigate prospective programs and be vigilant for indicators of concern. Below are indications that an online degree program could be questionable.

Fee Structure

Commence with the fee structure. Typically, a reputable online degree program will bill per credit hour. If enrolled in online courses from a conventional institution, tuition may be paid on a semester basis, akin to in-person attendance.
Conversely, diploma mills often employ a program-based payment system or alternative structure. In lieu of per credit hour or semester-based charges, they may necessitate a significant one-time fee or propose a payment arrangement.

Lack of Financial Aid

Determine eligibility for federal financial aid to support your degree program. If the program is ineligible for federal aid, it may indicate a degree mill rather than a reputable program. Remember, even online schools may qualify for federal aid. If the program is not listed on your FAFSA application, consider it a warning sign.

Length of the Program

When comparing the duration of online programs to traditional ones, it is notable that an authentic associate degree program, whether pursued online or on campus, typically spans two years. Similarly, a bachelor’s degree program usually takes three to five years to complete.
If an online program awards a degree within an unusually brief timeframe with easily attainable requirements, it raises a concern. Genuine online degrees are characterized by their rigorous nature and demand a substantial investment of time.

Lack of Support Services

With a reputable online degree, you gain access to support services like career counseling, internship opportunities, and library resources. In contrast, degree mills usually do not assist in job placement post-graduation or provide the additional services commonly found in traditional education.

Poor Quality Website

Legitimate universities value their online reputation, showcasing well-crafted, professional websites that reflect their commitment to excellence. They often invest in user-friendly interfaces, up-to-date information, and responsive designs to provide a seamless experience for visitors.

In contrast, diploma mills tend to have substandard websites marred by frequent spelling errors, outdated content, and a lack of attention to detail, signaling a lack of credibility and quality in their educational offerings.

Which Careers Align Well With Online Degree Programs?

Pay attention to the profession you are considering. Certain fields, such as healthcare, may offer online classes for theoretical knowledge but necessitate practical training for licensing and completing your education. Many undergraduate programs, including those in humanities and sciences, can be predominantly done online.

Moreover, some postgraduate programs are well-suited for online learning. For instance, reputable online MBA programs are often affiliated with traditional institutions. Evaluate your career trajectory to decide whether in-person, online, or hybrid programs are most suitable. Be cautious of programs claiming to grant degrees in hands-on professions that typically require clinical practice.

How to Afford for My Online Degree?

If you opt for pursuing an online degree through an accredited program, there are various avenues for financing your education:

Scholarships and grants: Accessing reputable programs can provide opportunities for scholarships and grants, offering financial assistance while engaging in flexible learning.
Federal student loans: Completing your FAFSA enables you to utilize student loans with fixed interest rates, without credit concerns for eligibility.
Private student loans: When federal aid falls short for a legitimate online degree, exploring options like Juno for private student loans can lead to potential cost savings.
Savings: Accumulating funds to cover your online degree costs is another viable approach. Certain schools allow the use of 529 funds, even for expenses like a laptop essential for coursework completion.


If you are considering an online degree, it is crucial to conduct thorough research and ensure the program is accredited by reputable agencies. Keep an eye out for red flags such as unconventional fee structures, lack of financial aid opportunities, and poor quality websites. Additionally, consider which careers align well with online learning and explore various options for financing your education.

With careful consideration and due diligence, pursuing an online degree can be a valuable and rewarding experience. So, do your research and make an informed decision to set yourself up for success in the future! Keep learning and growing through reputable and accredited online programs. Education is a lifelong journey, and choosing the right path is essential. Best of luck on your academic pursuits.

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