Is Penn Foster College A Scam?

Penn Foster College is a school you may have seen an advertisement for and wondered about its legitimacy. If offers various programs of study including a high school diploma, career certificates, and associate’s degrees. Since you are reading this, it’s probably safe to assume you are someone who likes to research a program or school before jumping in. This is a good thing since there are definitely some scam artists in higher education that offer college courses or degrees that are of little or no value. To answer the question of whether Penn Foster College is a scam or not, it’s necessary to examine the school’s history and its mission.

Penn Foster College, one of the pioneers in adult distance learning, is a college that offers all of its programs of study from a distance. The school was established in 1977 and has approximately 24,000 students. Prior to that it was known as International Correspondence Schools (ICS), which was founded in 1890. The school has a long and well-established history.

Where is Penn Foster College Located?

Since all of Penn Foster’s students are spread out over a large geographical area, many students have wondered where the school’s central office is located, or if there even is a central office. The answer to that question is yes, Penn Foster College definitely has a central office. It is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the following address:

Penn Foster College
14300 N Northsight Blvd, Suite 111
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260

Penn Foster College’s headquarters have been at the Scottsdale, Arizona address since 2006. Prior to this it was located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The school’s web address is

Even though Penn Foster College does have a central office, it’s important to keep in mind that the school does not offer any courses that students can take in person. The school’s primary mission is to offer distance learning courses.

Penn Foster High School

One of Penn Foster’s most popular programs is its high school diploma completion program. It’s easy to see why. The program is self-paced and very affordable. This lets working adults complete their diploma on their terms while working full time and juggling social commitments as well. Assignments can be completed and mailed in to be graded or they can be completed online through the school’s Penn Foster Online system.

Penn Foster Career School

Penn Foster College is probably most famous for its Penn Foster Career School. The Penn Foster School offers a wide assortment of career certificates in just about everything you could possibly imagine. For example, they offer certificate programs in bookkeeping, personal training, dental assistant, drafting, auto mechanics, HVAC repair, and many others. All told, the Penn Foster Career School offers more than 50 different career certificates that students can take to prepare for a job.

Is Penn Foster Accredited?

In addition to the school’s long history, another way to determine whether Penn Foster College is a scam is by evaluating its accreditation. Penn Foster College is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Counsel (DETC), an agency that is recognized by the United States Department of Education. It’s important that you are aware that most colleges and universities in the United States hold accreditation from one of six regional accreditation agencies. The DETC is not considered one of these agencies. Nevertheless, DETC accreditation is a valid form of accreditation. The primary disadvantage of graduating from a DETC accredited school is the fact that you may have trouble transferring your college credit to another school. Also, if you graduate with an associate’s degree from Penn Foster College, it’s possible that you may have trouble transferring into a bachelor’s degree program. Not all schools will accept college credit from a DETC accredited school, but some will.

A Penn Foster College Scam? Really?

After a careful evaluation of the school, it’s safe to conclude that there is no Penn Foster Scam. Penn Foster College has a long history of providing a distance learning high school diploma as well as career training programs to those who are traditionally under served by a local school or who work full time and are unable to attend traditional classes. Penn Foster College is also accredited by DETC, an agency that is recognized by the US Department of Education. The school is a legitimate and inexpensive way to earn either a high school diploma or to train for a new career.

  1. Thank you so much for your information about Penn Foster!! I just started in the begining of April and have not had any problems. I truly enjoy it! Then I heard the nay sayers… bad this… thats not a real this… (and so on). I started to get scared! Thank you for your reassurance, it is greatly appreciated!

    • I would like to say that I did the distance learning program through Ashworth College and it is also accredited through the DETC. With that being said, I have my certificate in Medical Assisting and after lots of research,(which I should have done before investing in this program) I found out that it really isn’t worth the paper its printed on. I live in Maine and the state or the AMAA does not recognize Ashworth or Penn Foster as an accredited school. Needless to say I spent lots of money and have nothing to show for it. You do not get any clinical experience at all and you cannot get a job without any practical hands on training. My advice for anyone who is interested in distance/online learning is to look at Kaplan colleges or other colleges where you learn online and get your practical training. Hope this helps anyone….

      • Hi thanks for the info- I am from Maine also and have done a teachers aide course in the past. So would it be accredited in other states say if i moved out of Maine to persue my career? also do you know about internationally? Just knew it was to god to be true.

  2. Has anyone completed the Drafting with AutoCad program? I am looking for training in Autocad only. I have used several other Cad programs but not AutoCad Looking for training classes in Atlanta.I did find some classes that can be taken for $500 per day

    • I just completed it. You definitely learn a lot their textbooks and stuff are really good. And since you have previous CAD experience, you should do great! Took me 2 years, moving, pregnancy and having baby number 3 and a lot of other stress. If I can do it anyone can. I finished with a 89 average.

  3. im currently enrolled in penn foster for pharmacy tech program and so far i had no halfway finish with my program…im taking the course online and i get my books on time in the mail too. so far its looks good.

  4. I feel that it is a waste of money since most businesses wont even give you the time of day when it comes to working for them with one of Penn Foster’s Career Diplomas. I know because I was a laughing stock many times over and told that my education was no good and to retake the program at a real school so all that time and money was wasted. And the school was of no help to me in fact they were quite rude to me telling me that i didnt qualify for that job so basically my credentials were not any good.

  5. im sorry to say but if you do an online college your stupid you always need hands on training the high school part is diffrent and if you did get a college deploma and someone didnt give you a job move to the next thats life not everyone will except you for who you are, and life sucks but theres nothing you can do but try to live it the best you can so keep trying

    • Yes, hands on learning is very productive. Learning can take place in many forms. To call someone “stupid” for continuing their education by any means is in fact silly. I think it’s an excellent opportunity.
      I have a degree, and a career. As a hobby I do robotics and have fixed numerous electronic devices. My schedule is very busy. Having an alternative to further my skills would be a welcomed opportunity. Don’t be sorry for your comment. Be sorry for your ignorance.

  6. People . . . when it comes to you trying to attain occupational and high school credentials, enroll in your local community college. Outside of public school, it’s the only sure-fire way!

  7. It is a sad fact that many businesses look down on distance learning. This is, at least in part, a case of “the rotten apple spoils it for the whole barrel” – there are students who look at correspondence schools as an easy way out, and they don’t give their all. While the correspondence school can supply excellent teaching materials and support, if the student doesn’t take full responsibility for his/her half of the bargain, the student will fail to impress a future employer, and when that happens, it is the student who complains that he/or she was “scammed”. Actually, it’s the other way around. The school was scammed by the student. Just reading some of the comments below, and the lack of proper English grammar, shows that some of these students don’t really care about their own education. A person who wishes to impress the business world with their abilities, must have enough self-respect to speak their language properly. More self-discipline is required of the distance student than of students who attend classes at a physical location. And whatever the type of schooling you take, you’d best be prepared to give the best of yourself, if you wish to get the best education. There is no easy way; there are only “more convenient” ways, but in this day and age, there are more ways available to those with time constraints. You need to check them out, and decide which one you will be able to work with to the best advantage.

  8. I am a current penn foster student in the pharmacy tech program and I have found it most helpful, but then again I had prior medical experience. I started over in the work world after a few years off for personal health reasons and it has not always been easy, but pharmacy tech is a good choice. My pharmacy career started off at Walmart where I was an apparel associate FIRST-folding and hanging clothes then answering phones at the fitting room switchboard. I used this as a spring board to transfer to another store that had an opening in pharmacy for a pharmacy cashier, and that is when I enrolled in the tech program at Penn Foster. I let my pharmacy manager know I was interested in learning the tech job duties and before long she had me working as a filling technican-that is, filling scripts and doing my cash register duties. I took what I learned from the hands-on there and from the program and sat for my national certification through NHA and earned a CPht credential long before I ever graduated the Penn Foster program. The PTCB exam is good also, and provides national certification as well, but is geared more towards pharmacy technician practice in the hospital setting than a retail setting, whereas the NHA exam is the opposite-and the exam questions are based more upon practice for techs in the retail setting. Both are nationally accepted exams and it is always good to check with your state regarding pharmacy technician licensure requirements. I have about 3 more exams to complete before I am done with the penn foster program but really it’s merely a formality at this point-I have the national certification. It is also helpful to join a trade association for pharmacy technicians as this looks good on the resume and can help earn the ce credits needed to maintain national certification. I have since moved on to a job with a chain retail pharmacy as a tech and the pay is better, but I am not done quite yet. Most hospitals require at least 2-3 years tech experience and that is where techs make the most money. Retail usually is a place to start. I have also earned my CPR and first aid certifications, also required by most hospitals and a good resume tool. There are compounding and IV courses at additional costs available through NPTA-National Pharmacy Technician Association for the more experienced technician or those who want to move onto different practice settings and build the resume. The point is that for those with no prior experience or hands-on the pharmacy tech program at Penn Foster may or may not work for you, depending on the state requirements and your career goals. Do your research! And don’t give up. Best of luck to all! Also, Penn Foster recently partnered with CVS to provide an externship to Pharm tech students, call the school for more info.

    • I also got my CPhT ( use the right caps on the letters) from Penn Foster. Their program was and I’m sure still is stellar. I took my PTCB exam and passed without any problems. Please note the PTCB exam is NOT geared toward Hospital work. The exam has 8 exams which may “pop” onto your test screen- 3 are heavy Hospital, 3 are heavy retail (Wal Mart) and 2 that are a mix of BOTH. please get your facts straight. I worked for a hospital for 5 years as my FIRST job after Penn Foster and they were pleased w/ the training I had received and more than happy to build upon it. **Please note I also had experience b4 Penn Foster- Combat Medic, US Army and OJT Pharm Tech. Program is still great though and best of luck to all who pursue their dreams.

  9. I been a Penn Foster student since 1984 and received my High School Diploma, and enrolled in two Career Diploma courses that helped me get a Trade in two fields – Bookkeeping and Professional Secretary/Administrative Assistant. In addition, I have an Associate Degree in Accounting, and a Bachelor Degree in Business Management. Plus am a Certified Bookkeeper from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers along with other other certification courses. I even have two banking certifications, one collection certificate from a seminar etc.etc. and last, I am trilingual; I speak English, Italian, and Spanish.

    I enjoyed online and home schooling and it disciplined me. Learning is my passion and I love Penn Foster. I made 30k in 1995, and was accepted with a Career Diploma in Bookkeeping; because I had experience and was able to work without close supervision. I even attended many seminars. I can’t believe, I surpassed college candidates that applied for the same position and I was hired instead.

    Penn Foster is not a scam at all. Its time consuming and takes dedication. I chose Penn Foster because it suits me and its cost-effective for me. I am successful in my career and my private enterprise. Also, successfully married for 16 years, and have a beautiful daughter with a 4.2 GPA, and she will be attending college of her choice. I am 50 years old and Penn Foster suits me well. Thank you Penn Foster! 🙂

  10. Has anyone completed or is starting the Vet Tech program on Penn Foster? I would love some information on if you found a current job for the position or if animal hospitals will not take the degree you have. Please share any helpful information, thank you!

  11. The real catch 22 is regardless of what school you attend unless it is a n ivy league school… potential employers ALWAYS want at least two years work history experience in whatever field they are hiring…UGH …so even if you graduate from a program you are not automatically guaranteed a job in whatever field of study you have trained…

  12. ANY school offering non regional accredited (ie WASC,CHEA, MSCHE etc) is a SCAM! Don’t do it! No matter what the policies are or sales pitch… without regional accreditation its not worth the money or the time… State schools don’t accept transfer credit or degrees coming from non regional accredited schools. There maybe a few acceptations but that doesn’t mean its Ok. Why go to a school that you know doesn’t meet the minimal (regional accreditation) standards? If employers and educators do not accepting Penn Foster, why should you?