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How Difficult Is It to Earn a PhD?

The problem of counterfeit educational credentials continues almost unabated. A 2005 study by Allen Ezell and John Bear (updated in 2012) documented the explosion of diploma mills in their book Degree Mills. The authors estimated that 40,000 to 45,000 legitimate PhDs are awarded annually in the United States, while an additional 50,000 doctorates are essentially just purchased from non-accredited institutions. “In other words,” they write, “more than half of all people claiming a new PhD have a fake degree.” Add to that the issue of lying outright about one’s academic achievements on business networking sites such as LinkedIn and you have an out-of-control, virtually unenforceable problem.

Dobermans with doctorates:

  • In exchange for several thousand dollars, many of the degree mills will award advanced degrees based on alleged professional experience, without requiring applicants to provide proof of this experiential learning or take a single class.

  • As the proliferation of fake college degrees of all types has exploded, some people have tested the system. A team from BBC Newsnight found that they could easily secure an MBA from the dubious American University of London for a dog named Pete based on a fictitious CV and bogus work and educational credentials.

  • In 2017, student journalists in Pittsburg, Kansas, found that although their new high school principal professed to hold advanced degrees, including a PhD, those degrees came from the non-accredited Corllins University, a degree mill. Amy Robertson resigned her lucrative position soon after their report was published.

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