If somebody gets a law/engineering degree or something similar with academic fraud surely they could be sued for malpractice? Maybe another examples is/are doctors.

Are there any examples of this ever? If somebody got a Computer Science degree (via academic fraud) and then marketed it couldn't they be sued for marketing something they didn't earn?

  • I'll note that civil law and criminal law are quite different. They overlap in a few ways, but not all. For example, you can be sued for some kinds of fraud and you can be imprisoned for other kinds.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 23:32
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    Oh yes... Some politicians have had their degrees revoked for plagiarism (see theguardian.com/world/2011/mar/01/… for instance) and resigned... Most likely not only politicians but their CVs are scrutinized more than others and it tends to make the news. A good place for such stories is the blog RetractionWatch: retractionwatch.com Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 2:36
  • Did you mean to write your last sentence differently? As it stands, you've written it asking if someone can be punished for marketing something they did earn. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 18:41
  • Are you interested in the laws of a particular country?
    – Tommi
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 6:55

3 Answers 3


In the United States and many other countries, engineering and medicine have revocable licenses to practice with an exam as well as the degree requirement. The same is true of other professions such as law and the CPA designation. It is presumably difficult-to-impossible to pass the examinations without the knowledge required for the degree.

Practicing such a licensed profession without the requisite license is a criminal offense, at least usually, but it is the absence of the license rather than the academic fraud that's illegal.

Generally what happens to (unlicensed) people who claim degrees they do not have is they get fired for lying on resumes. I suppose if one held oneself out to the public as having a certain degree and charged for practicing the skill implied by the degree, one could be charged with fraud. In fact, what likely happens is a civil suit for non-performance.

On the other hand Frank Abagnale did get imprisoned for fraud, although I believe it was the bank fraud, financial fraud, and forgery that nailed him and not academic misconduct, even though he both claimed a non-existent Harvard degree and impersonated a physician.

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    Signing off on a design when one is not a Professional Engineer May result in civil or criminal penalties (criminal if what you signed off on killed somebody).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 22:32
  • Yes. I've edited my answer to address "practicing without a license."
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 22:37
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    +1 licensing is where it’s at. So far there’s no license or bar for CS majors (maybe there should be...)
    – Spark
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 5:13
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    Is the answer specific to a certain country? If yes, mentioning it in the answer would improve it.
    – Tommi
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 6:56

Denmark has an explicit law against scientific fraud and bad practices. I do not know if anyone has been sentenced to anything based on it. You can read the law here: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=188780


I have seen examples about teaching. Court can find someone guilty of malpractice if it decides that the professor is being intentionally unfair with assignments or grading. Academical bullying is also a thing.

In such event one can potentialy sue for damages and malpractice.

  • Can you provide a source please? I'm aware of cases where professors have been sanctioned by their university for unfair/discriminatory grading, but I've never heard of a court actually convicted someone of a crime for unfair/discriminatory grading.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 17:50
  • @JeffE I will send you one in private as I hope to keep this account anonymous. Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 7:23

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