Is there a doctor in the house?

Richard Miller

With never ending pressures that job seekers face, there is often a temptation to look for shortcuts, or easier ways to get the requirements for the job that is desired. These ‘shortcuts’ can include simply copying a degree, ordering an unearned degree or going to a diploma mill in order to obtain the qualifications. In the past few years there have been several instances of CV problems with various university instructors in Japan and it is a path that is wrought with problems for both those presenting phony credentials and institutions accepting them. 

While there are numerous ways towards a shortcut, I tried two things that proved to be very easy. One was to buy off of E-Bay a “replacement diploma” for $29.95 where I supplied all of the information (which I did, taken from my earned MBA). A few weeks later a diploma with the dates and names I had supplied arrived (with no proof that I had actually earned what I said I did). The paper I received was quite good, and it did look like some kind of degree with two distinct signatures. However, it looked nothing like the real degree from the University of Liverpool that I received after graduating. The second experiment was to get an honorary doctorate from a church for $59.95 (postage included). I asked that the date of the degree be backdated, and sent the funds with the request for the degree to be in my dead dogs name (thus the need for backdating). This time a ‘degree’ arrived, dated 1985 for “Scooter Miller”. So it appears that the family dog now has a posthumously awarded degree of “PhD” from an LA based “church”. The “church” stated in a letter that, “the degree was awarded by a church and because of the US based laws it was legal”. The church had a mail box address (and when I Googled it a shopping mall showed up in the photo), and then when the ‘degree’ arrived it was postmarked Benidorm, Spain. And, in the letter that accompanied it there was the advice that the ‘degree’ holder could now refer to themselves as ‘doctor’. 

While the examples that were tested were of the most egregious sort, there is also the “diploma mill” route with credentials that are not legitimate (MEXT apparently has a list, but when contacted for this article they had no comment). These schools often claim to be “accredited”, but keep in mind that legitimate degree programs are accredited by legitimate accreditation bodies. There are numerous examples of these, but keep in mind that not all accreditation is the same. After all, “Any school can claim that it is accredited: the use of that word is not regulated in any way” (Bear 91).

The lesson is that both hiring committees and those seeking qualifications should be aware of the possibilities. I would encourage all who are looking for work to quickly offer their degrees to any hiring committee or institution that asks to see them. And, for all involved in the hiring, to demand proof of legitimate qualifications that have been earned. After all, these are not ‘just pieces of paper’ but hard earned credentials set to ensure a level of knowledge and ability. After all, for those who have paid (in terms of money as well as hours of study) it is wrong on so many levels when legitimate applicants lose out, not to mention the dangers involved.  



Bear. J., & Bear, M. (1998). Bear’s Guide to Earning Degrees Nontraditionally 13th Ed. Books El Cerrito, CA.