What Are Diploma Programs?

Diploma programs are short curricula that encompass a broad range of fields defined by the educational institution offering the diploma. Federal, state and local departments rarely set guidelines for diploma programs, sometimes making them the target of educational fraud such as 'diploma mills.' The following article outlines common diploma programs and teaches individuals how to avoid diploma mill scams.

Common Diploma Programs

The length of diploma programs varies according to the subject being taught. Diplomas can range from adult vocational training to post-graduate studies. The number of classes is defined per diploma program, but generally encompasses more than three credits and fewer than the credits necessary for an associate's degree. Diploma programs are not accredited directly, but are considered a recognized credential when issued by a properly-accredited organization.

Important Facts About Diploma Programs

Fields of Study Only available for vocational diplomas; i.e. automotive technician, conservation, dog obedience trainer, electrician training, gunsmithing, locksmithing
Online Availability Fully online curricula are offered
Possible Careers Fashion designer, loan officer, postal service mail carrier, construction and building inspector, sales representative, insurance appraiser
Continuing Education Certifications and licensure requirement varies, depending upon chosen occupation; animal care and service workers are not required to be certified, but it will improve their credentials and may increase job prospects

High School Diploma

High school diplomas can be awarded through a public or private high school, or through a home-schooling program. A high school diploma affirms a student's knowledge in the language, sciences, mathematics and other elective areas of general study. The high school diploma is the minimum requirement for a broad range of public and private career opportunities as well as enlistment in the armed forces. This is one of the few diploma programs that are consistently regulated by state, local and federal departments of education. General Educational Development (GED) test passage is accepted as viable equivalency for a high school diploma.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma

This program gives students an education that further prepares them for success in 2- and 4-year colleges and universities. Programs go beyond standard high school studies and consist of courses in foreign language and philosophy as well as community service.

Vocational Diploma Programs

Many highly-skilled or technical careers such as plumbing, carpentry or medical coding, require employees to have either a certain amount of experience, or to have completed diploma programs. Vocational diploma programs are often relatively short, and classes focus almost solely on the skill or specialty being learned. Regulated industries often provide internship programs in order to help prospective workers earn the required on-the-job hours needed for licensure. These diploma programs are often offered by public community colleges or trade schools.

What are Diploma Mills?

Due to the relatively unregulated nature of diplomas, many businesses have been established that masquerade as schools offering diploma programs. The U.S. Department of Education warns that these organizations care more about profit than providing a useful, recognized education. Many of these institutions hold no accreditation. Some claim accreditation from organizations that are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Employers, particularly at the state and federal levels, will generally not accept credentials from these institutions.

Signs of a Diploma Mill

The U.S. Department of Education offers these guidelines as indications that a diploma program may be offered by a less-than-reputable institution:

  • Not accredited at all or accredited by an unrecognized institution
  • Significant amounts of credits offered for life experience
  • School's website address does not end in .edu
  • Address is a post office box or suite
  • Tuition is charged per-degree instead of per-credit or per-semester

Although there are several trustworthy schools that fall into one of the above categories, more than one may qualify the school or institute as a diploma mill.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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