While it is understandable for anyone who is just beginning to look into an online degree to wonder which online programs are legitimate and which ones are scams, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of the degrees that are offered over the internet these days are considered just as valid as any other degree. That having been said, there are a few easy things that every person can do to ensure that the academic institution that they are considering is legitimate. In some cases this is simply a matter of common sense, while in other cases a potential student will need to know how to read between the lines. Here is what you need to know in order to ensure that a degree program that is offered over the internet is legitimate.
The easiest way to find out whether an online degree program is legitimate is by simply checking to make sure that the academic institution offering the degree program is actually accredited. This is particularly easy when you are looking at colleges and universities that are offering bachelors and masters degrees. If the school that you are considering is not well known, simply check online to see whether the institution is accredited. Do not take the school's representatives or documentation as evidence. Instead, visit website for the United Stated Department of Education's Database of Accredited Institutions and Programs.
Ensuring that an online degree program can be somewhat more difficult when you are checking up on a trade school or any other institution that specializes in topics that outside of the formal university system. Thankfully, nearly all professional trades have formal organizations that provide their own accreditation to schools that meet their educational requirements. Again, do not simply take a schools word for it when they claim that they are accredited with a particular organization. In some cases, you may need to contact the professional trade organization on your own to double check that a school is indeed accredited for your particular field.
When you are in doubt of whether or not a school is legitimate, you can also take a quick look at the online lists of known diploma mills to see if the school that you were looking at is on that list. Diploma mills are companies that specialize in providing students with a supposed degree or certificate without requiring that a student complete any real training. A number of government and private organizations provide lists online of all known diploma mills so that students and employers know which supposed academic institutions are fraudulent.