Is it possible to get a fast online degree? Many people today are beginning to realize how advantageous it can be for their careers if they have several degrees to their name. But since we now live in a fast-paced world, majority would rather not spend years trying to get their degrees. Instead they want to get their degrees quickly, and preferably online so all they have to do is get on the Internet from their computers at home. For this reason, many schools began offering online degrees and other accelerated programs. However, before you jump in on the online degree bandwagon, there are a few things you need to know.

First, because of the high demand for fast online degrees, many shady companies are trying to cash in on this demand. These companies are more commonly known as degree mills. They offer online college degrees to anyone who is willing to pay. The catch? There aren't any coursework, so what these degree mills do is basically sell degrees to anyone willing to shell out the dough. These degree mills have ala carte options too. For additional fees, your degree can come with honors, transcripts and even employer verification.

So now you're probably wondering how these degree mills can give you a degree. They actually give you credit for your "life experience." There are many legitimate schools that do give credit for life experience but that's in addition to some sort of coursework that you have to do still in order to get an online college degree. Degree mills, on the other hand, will simply give you all credits on the basis of life experience.

Be aware that many employers don't accept "degrees" earned from degree mills. Sure, you may have extensive life experience and you may know as much, or even be better, than your degreed co-workers, but a degree from these degree mills just won't cut it. In fact, it is illegal in some states for employees to use unearned degrees in order to get hired or promoted for a job. Employers look at the practice of getting degrees from degree mills as unethical. Case in point: Laura Callahan, the former deputy chief information officer of the Department of Homeland Security, is one of the many government employees currently under investigation by the Senate for including unearned degrees in their resumes and job applications.

So now you know that buying a degree from degree mills is not only unethical, but can also get you in a whole lot of trouble when you're found out. This doesn't mean, however, that you can't get a fast online degree legitimately. There are reputable and legitimate institutions that offer fast online degrees. It pays to do some checking on schools and other institutions that offer online degrees. Use the following as your guideline:

1. Evaluate the degree program being offered. Find out the graduation requirements, how many credit the school will grant you for prior learning and what exactly does the school consider as prior learning. Most reputable and legitimate schools that offer fast online degrees will typically give you at most two years' worth of credit for prior learning. This may or may not include your life experience.

2. Evaluate the institution offering fast online degrees. Is it a reputable school overall? What is the profile of the school's graduates? Are graduates of the school able to get into graduate schools? For a list of "substandard" schools, check out the database by the State of Oregon: www.osac.state.or.us/oda/unaccredited.

3. Evaluate the teaching staff. Find out what the student/faculty ratio is. What percentage of the teaching staff has doctorate degrees? master's degrees? In terms of publication, what types of work and how any have members of the faculty published, and where?

4. Check accreditation of the school. You want to get your online degree from an institution that is duly accredited by a legitimate state-approved accreditation body. The Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA) and the Board of Online Universities Accreditation (BOUA) are not considered legitimate accreditation bodies, so keep this in mind if you come across institutions stating they are accredited by either the UCOEA or BOUA. Visit the website of the Council for Higher Education to check a college's or institution's accreditation: www.chea.org/institutions.

It is possible to get a fast online degree that is both legitimate and acceptable to current and future employers. You simply need to take the time to thoroughly study each institution and program to make sure you won't be paying for something you won't be able to use to advance your career.

Author's Bio: 

Nic Haffner likes to give this readers information about online education programs. Also check out online education courses.