Buy a Diploma, Buy a Degree, Go to Jail

March 14, 2018
Angela Roberts

Applied Clinical Trials

Education Falsification has more consequences than not having a degree.

Due to life circumstances, you don’t have a degree…and you are not alone. 

I want to tell you about a candidate we worked with that I am going to call Jim Len. I liked Jim. Jim was a solid Clinical Research Professional with over seven years’ experience as a CRA. His references were glowing, he interviewed well, and I felt he would be a great CRA for one of our sponsors. 

Jim, however, didn’t have a degree. Fortunately, a handful of our clients will consider non-degreed candidates if they have solid experience and we recommend them. With that being said, one of those clients needed CRAs at that time and we were able to get Jim assigned to a really nice, long-term contract with them.   

Unfortunately, 18 months into Jim’s contract the sponsor lost their study…and Jim his contract. I felt helpless because although we had an extremely positive working experience with Jim, we were unable to secure him another contract as our actively hiring sponsors required their candidates to have a degree. 

Not having a degree is more common than you think. According to research done by the Lumina Foundation, only about 40% of our nation’s working age population have at least a two-year degree (http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#nation). 

Besides limiting career choices, not having a degree will also minimize your earning potential. Studies show individuals with a Bachelor’s degree earn $20k more per year on average and those with a higher-level degree such as a Master’s, PhD, or other professional degree earn about $40k more per year (sheeo.org). 

And having a degree doesn’t stop at an increased base salary. Most jobs requiring a degree typically offer benefits a non-degreed position may not. Additionally, holding a college degree tends to open more doors, giving you more flexibility and as Jim was experiencing, more career choices as well as stronger job security. 

Education falsification

According to Wikipedia, there are over 400 diploma mills in operation selling fake degrees and another 300+ websites offering counterfeit diplomas. The number of individuals “owning” a fake degree or diploma is hard to estimate; however, Allen Ezel and John Bear boldly state in Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry that has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas, it is estimated that more than 50% of the individuals claiming to have earned a PhD actually have a fake degree. 

If you are considering purchasing a fake degree, you should know that depending on the position and the jurisdiction, you could be sued or charged with a criminal offence for faking a degree.

· North Dakota and Kentucky, as examples, will charge you with a Class A Misdemeanor where a court can freely administer fines and/or jail time.

· Under the Texas Penal Code (http://codes.findlaw.com/tx/penal-code/penal-sect-32-52.html), it is illegal to use or even to claim that you hold a postsecondary degree you know to be fraudulent, substandard, or fictitious in order to obtain employment. Texas classifies falsifying your educational record as a Class B misdemeanor-punishable by up to $2,000 in fines and six months in prison.

· In New Jersey, the use of a fraudulent degree is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for each offense.

· Washington has statutes that make using a fake degree a Class C Felony-warranting up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Lying-on-resume-could-land-you-in-jail-1197551.php)

· Oregon has also made it a crime to use degrees from diploma factories named on a state website.

Additionally, if paying a hefty fine and going to jail doesn’t scare you, perhaps losing your reputation will. 

Remember Jim? Fast forward to three years later. Out of the blue, I received an email from a candidate called James L. Thomas. His email indicated he had been referred to us by a colleague and he was available immediately. 

His credentials looked really great. He had a BS in Biology, foundations as a Study Coordinator, and 10 years’ experience as a CRA. As I reviewed his therapeutic experience, I noted he matched the qualifications of several open positions. I gave him a call and five minutes into the conversation I felt that he and I had spoken before. I asked James if we had talked in the past and he denied it, stating he had never worked with our firm. 

As he was answering some of my questions, it clicked. I did know James. We had placed James-this was Jim Len!

I interrupted him, abruptly asking him why he was no longer going by Jim Len. His response? After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Jim Len confessed to using a false name. He confessed to falsifying his degree. He then went on to explain the hardships he had experienced because he didn’t have a degree. 

And I listened. Then I politely ended the call, made notes in Jim James Len Thomas’ record, and permanently removed him from our candidate pool. 

You see, fraudulence is a deal breaker for our firm. And if you are a hiring manager, any type of fraudulence including falsifying a degree should be a deal breaker for you too-even if you don’t require your candidates to have degrees.

Salesman, motivational speaker, and author Zig Ziglar used to tell a story where he was invited to play golf with some very good (and very successful) friends. One of his friends owned a large company and had just hired a new sales executive, whom was also invited to the golf outing. After playing several holes, the salesman ended up in the rough. The man looked around to see if anyone was looking and thinking no one was watching, he moved the ball. 

However, Zig and the salesman’s boss noticed. Zig made a prediction to his friend that the salesman would not last three months. His statement was that if the man was the type to cheat on the golf course, he will cheat everywhere else. 

The salesman only lasted three weeks. 

What Jim Len failed to realize is that he is a salesperson. We are all salespeople as we “sell” ourselves in every interaction and what Jim sold to me that day was a man who was okay with not being truthful. “The number one tool in your sales arsenal is your integrity.” -Zig Ziglar.

 

Angela Roberts is Head of CRA Recruitment for craresources. (http://craresources.com/)

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