As the fields of aromatherapy and herbalism continue to grow, numerous fraudulent certification programs have appeared on the scene. Falling prey to a diploma mill can be not only expensive and time consuming but also career-ending. To achieve success in the blossoming field of natural wellness, having a legitimate academic credential is more important than ever.
It can be difficult to spot a diploma mill, but it is better to recognize a diploma mill before sending any money or registering for classes.
Diploma Mill warning signs:
- You can earn a degree, diploma, or certificate in substantially less time than it would take you through a typical college.
- The school charges tuition by the degree / diploma or offers you a discount if you enroll in multiple programs at once. (Authorized institutions typically charge by the semester, quarter, or contact hour.)
- The school does not have its physical address prominently displayed on the website, is vague about its primary physical location, or lists a P.O. Box as its primary mailing address.
- The school’s website does not include information that an authorized institution would be required to disclose such as course requirements for a specific program, faculty information, or authorization details.
- The school either only provides vague information about its faculty and their qualifications or it has no faculty members, only “mentors,” “counselors,” and/or “evaluators.”
- The school claims to be accredited by an organization that is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, such as the “American Association of Drugless Practitioners,” “American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board,” or the like. These “accreditation” programs are not legitimate accrediting boards and do not have the authority to confer accreditation status.
- The school offers “lifetime access,” does not have start/stop dates for courses, and/or academic assessments are
Note: Personal enrichment programs may provide educational experiences which meet many of the above criteria but are not considered diploma mills because they do not claim to offer professional certification or a degree/diploma. However, personal enrichment programs are not sufficient to qualify as professional certifications, diplomas, or degrees.
How can you tell if a school is a diploma mill?
- Ask the school for links to its Postsecondary Education Authorization (or equivalent) it its state or region. (This is not the same as its business license or registration.) Ensure not only that the school is authorized but that it continues to meet the requirements for annual reauthorization.
- Look up any claims of accreditation with the U.S. Department of Education. No other claim of accreditation provides academic legitimacy. Accreditation organizations such as the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board are not legitimate accreditation agencies and in some states could place the recipient of a diploma or degree in violation of state law.
- Ask which processes the school has in place for third party oversight regarding instructor qualifications, financial stability, marketing/promotional integrity, and job placement for graduates.