Sonoran Desert Institute Reviews

  • 22 Reviews
  • Scottsdale (AZ)
  • Annual Tuition: $9,440
33% of 22 students said this degree improved their career prospects
50% of 22 students said they would recommend this school to others
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Student & Graduate Reviews

Sam
  • Reviewed: 1/17/2023
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"SDI emphasizes old and outdated work while only briefly covering modern methods and technology. For the machining course, for example, we received a coursebook that was written for certified machinists and the entire course was theoretical. I honestly did not understand anything yet my grade was in the high 90s. THAT SHOULD TELL YOU ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IT. The materials you receive are mostly cheap Chinese crap with the occasional cheap American-made crap. Someone who knows absolutely nothing about gunsmithing may learn something from the 2 years and $25,000 spent. But anyone with even a little experience will just waste their money! I know I wasted 2 years and $25,000 on stuff I learned 10 years ago or will never use in my entire future as a gunsmith. I should have gone with AGI or an apprenticeship. It is a FOR_PROFIT school OUT FOR PROFIT ONLY."
ESSTEA
  • Reviewed: 1/14/2023
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"Full Disclosure: Sonoran Desert Institute is an absolute joke. Do not waste your money or allow them to further swindle federal education funds in your name or from your service member education funding benefits. The courses lack actual instruction, the course material consists of 98% various YouTube links which are not made by OR for SDI instruction/instructors. I withdrew from classes after my 2nd semester, and have since filed an official petition with the federal student loan board to have any/all federal moneys returned on the basis of the institution failing to provide the promised level of education/knowledge as well as the blatant misinformation SDI feeds potential victims (aka future students) regarding the validity of ones "credentials" upon completion of their "Associates of Applies Sciences Degree in Firearms Technology" which is not recognized by any reputable name in the industry (or anyone in the industry for that matter aside from being an overpriced, sad joke) nor is it offered anywhere else in the country because it is an entirely made-up degree. I am now currently entirely prevented from enrolling in courses elsewhere (need to complete a final semester to obtain my teaching cert. in high school Special Ed.) due to Sonoran Desert Institutes refusal to release my, 2 semester, transcript while I wait for the fed. dept. of ed. to get around to reviewing/granting a release of responsibility for the partial semester they claim I owe tuition for after withdrawing (despite having already been charged in full for said tuition). These people are absolute TRASH. Stay far, far away!"
ArmyMan
  • Reviewed: 12/20/2022
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"I read all the comments about the school and I guess my experience was different. I learned a lot and it helped me get into a position to get my FFL. I found the school to be helpful to me and all the courses online were good. The block of instructions was definitely intense at times and the practical exercises were good. Learning how to build a holster press, do hydrographic dipping, and build a project firearm was great for me. I learned a lot, got some neat tools, and an AR-9 platform build and everything was good. I used my G.I. Bill and everything worked great"
Online Learner
  • Reviewed: 12/4/2022
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"As of writing this I have 2 more weeks before graduating with my Assoicates degree. I grew up with firearms but never got into the level of repair and the science of how they functioned or how to repair. With life happening I had to leave my job and make a move. I ended up choosing SDI not only to learn more about firearms but to also get my general classes done in order to work towards a Batchlors degree to obtain better employment. Not knowing what I wanted to do at that time, the Assoicate program not only helped in furthering my knowledge in firearms, but the 15 month program also got general classes done while I figured my next move. SDI has helped me in that aspect and doing it online worked with my schedule. As for SDI itself. They were helpful in talking about the program and helped with the process of enrollment. With it being an Assoicate program I knew it wouldn't make me a professional gunsmith but be an introductory to gunsmithing, the different aspects of the industry, and the science behind firearms along with ballistics. The instructors I had/have were/are helpful. I had an issue with one that ignored my e-mails and came off rude on a discussion board in my first semester. Everyone else had replied in a timely manner and were helpful when I got stuck on the subject for that week. I had two instructors that I was able to talk on the phone with. I had three instructors that would use video to break down and explain the weeks work and others that may post a video explainer here or there but all would reply to e-mails (except that one). Class was not all YouTube videos but YouTube is used either with their own channel or others. Some material is sponsored or has "using product 'x' which can be found in 'Y' store" endorsements in it. As for how knowledgeable the staff is they seemed to understand the subject that is being taught on the gunsmithing side of the program. General studies didn't show signs of "lack of knowledge" and what had been taught was verified to the best of my abilities. Overall, SDI is not a bad online school to attend. What people need to understand is that these classes will not make you a professional gunsmith. This is to help with the basic understanding of firearms and a launch pad to continue learning through apprenticeship and a lot of practice. I chose the Assoicate program to work towards a Batchlors degree to obtain better employment and pay so I will have the money and time to continue learning and working on firearms. As for the cost. When I signed up the total cost was $20,680 for the Assoicate program. After Pell Grants (what was left over after paying for classes I had the school put towards my student loan) I am left with a little less than $8 grand to pay back at roughly $75 a month for 10 years. Hope this review helps and what every you chose I wish those reading this the best of luck in life."
Former student
  • Reviewed: 9/3/2022
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"Just going to put it into monkey terms. THEY. ARE. G.I. BILL. PREDATORS. literally every class you take is a YouTube video or a commercial article related to firearms. If you want to learn anything about firearms just watch their YouTube channel and get your education for free and don't waste a few months of your G.I. bill. Watching their YouTube channel and then subscribing to some firearms related articles online is free and will still give you the same education that they already offer. For some of the instructors there, education isn't even their primary job. They literally take this job as a hobby and you will never receive an actual lecture from them, where they break the chapter down and explain things to you. All they will do is send you a few links from YouTube or commercial articles that have already been posted online a few years ago. If you're reading this and are still skeptical... just go to YouTube and type in SDI. From there you should be able to fine all of there videos. You can watch all of them for free. The average video is maybe two minutes long with a few of them being an hour long. You'll also have to fact check the videos that you watched because a majority of the videos were posted over five years ago. Anyway stay away from the school and most definitely for the love of God. Do not waste your G.I. bill on this school. It's a joke and the degree itself will not do anything for you nor is it anyway equal to or more valuable than any other degree that you can earn from literally any other school. In conclusion if you want to study ballistics or firearms. Just get a degree in criminal justice and focus on forensic. With a degree in criminal justice you can get a education higher than Associate and still learn all there is to know about firearms and the degree will actually mean something. While at the same time placing you above your peers."
Brett Johnson
  • Reviewed: 8/12/2022
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"Stay away!! GI bill predators and they know it. Most of the curriculum is either a YouTube video or an article you can find online for free. Find somewhere else to find a subpar education. These people also don’t seem to care if they spread your personal information accidentally. One of the forms you need to complete with my sensitive information was sent to a bunch of people. I was contacted by someone who received it stating in a large group email to prospective students, my completed form was sent instead of a blank form. Stay away!"
Joseph
  • Reviewed: 7/10/2022
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"Overall this is a great program for learning about firearms. You will leave this school knowing significantly more about firearms. However, this is really only a baseline education for entering the firearms industry. You will need to put forward more effort and research into firearms on your own. SDI will provide a solid education and it’s up you how far you take it. 100% you can do the bare minimum and pass. The curriculum is not difficult but still requires a lot of work. They will mail you projects which are excellent for gunsmithing and actually fun. My only complaint is that the instructors will only provide any real feed back unless you specifically reach out to them. The reading material is great. If you take the time to do additional research on your projects you will benefit a lot more. I cannot stress this enough though. If you are not truly interested in firearms don’t waste your time here. The curriculum goes into depth about firearms which includes a lot of science, physics, ballistics, metallurgy, and so on."
Ryan
  • Reviewed: 5/31/2022
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"Ok, here is the deal. I came to SDI only because AGI wants cash up front only, and lets face it, unless you are Elon Musk, who is going to have 20,000 just laying around, right? I wanted to get an associates degree in firearms technology because I wanted to show potential customers coming to me for work that I am competent and that I know guns. For the first year, things were great. I was acing my classes, making good grades and things were going pretty good. Then shooting sports management and government classes came along. These instructors were terrible. No help whatsoever, no feedback and I they failed me in both classes, despite me having a business already and knowing what the hell I was doing. Suddenly, I am being informed by my student advisor that I am no longer meeting the "academic requirements" for further attendance with the school and that I have to appeal this decision or I could lose my financial aid. This was enough to wake me up and realize that I was only getting this piece of paper and that is exactly what it is...a piece of paper that says I know my stuff about guns. I was raised on guns, I grew up around guns and I know the in's and out's of gun repair already. I just thought I wanted a means of proving to customers that I know my stuff. Folks, trust me, you DON'T need a degree that says you know gunsmithing. This is a HAND'S ON INDUSTRY where you learn through apprenticeships and personal achievements, not sitting at a desk at home, reading useless cut and paste crap on your computer. If you want to learn how to checker a stock, then go out and actually checker a stock. Don't read about it, do it! You do not need a degree for this and don't let anyone tell you that you do. Let your work speak for itself, not some piece of paper on a wall. This is just a joke for money. Don't fall for it like I did. If you want the paper that proves proficiency, certifications from the manufacturer are where it's at. This is the wisdom I wish to impart to you."
KFIRE
  • Reviewed: 2/11/2022
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"I would agree with most of those who gave SDI a low rating. I graduated with a 3.85 GPA in 2017. There was very little discussion or feedback from instructors. Keep in mind that most of the instructors, with the exception of the core class teachers, have other jobs within the firearms industry and teaching is there secondary profession, and as educators, they lack academic experience. SDI gave me a theoretical overview of gunsmithing, but not hands-on experience that could be applied in a real-world setting. Find a gunsmith program at a community college if you want to acquire applicable skills. SDI cannot give you that! What SDI did give me was the desire to move forward with my education. The introductory psychology class I took at SDI piqued my interest so much that in 2020 I graduated with a BS in Applied Psychology. This July, I will graduate with a Masters's in Educational Psychology. Then in September, I will start my Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology. So, SDI did not do much for me in relation to firearms, but they did open up the world of academia to me. After my master's, I will teach intro psychology at the college level. Thank you, SDI, for putting me on an incredible learning journey."
richard martin
  • Reviewed: 11/24/2021
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"I am currently enrolled in the Gunsmith 2 year course. I am amazed how much I did not know about things like reloading,swaging and the like. Paul is an amazing instructor and he is a valuable asset to SDI……for the haters all I can say is quit being losers and do your homework….and grow up."
Kyle
  • Reviewed: 10/21/2021
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"After finishing my final projects for the last week of my degree, I can honestly say that this school has taught me so much. I've read the negative reviews people have given, and most of them are actually incorrect. My instructors didn't just, "copy and paste" responses to students, unless the students were the type that didn't give the coursework actual thought. They invested countless hours into helping me, and I've grown so much in my knowledge of firearms. The labs taught me a lot, and the coursework has taught me a lot as well. You are starting into the gunsmithing business, but you're not going to go to any college out there and become an expert. That just doesn't happen, but I guess that's why they are complaining in the first place. This college will give you everything you need, but only if you take it seriously, and you are willing to put in the time and effort to really study the material. There's a reason that less than 50% of students graduate from SDI. Some are lazy, some get in trouble for plagiarism, some drop-out, and some just don't make the cut. I'm willing to bet that most of the negative comments are from those who didn't finish (not all), but you only get out of it what you put into it. So, if you're serious about wanting to learn about gunsmithing, you have a long road ahead of you when you start the degree program. However, when you finally reach graduation...I can't even begin to tell you how good you'll feel about yourself. You passed a challenge that only about 38% of students were able to finish (actual statistics). Don't listen to the naysayers out there. If you want to learn gunsmithing, give SDI a chance. You'll be glad you did. I did. This is from someone who slaved day and night for a year and a half now to obtain a 3.95 GPA. The other negative commenters (I can guarantee you one thing), didn't take it seriously. It's on you, and they obviously didn't hold themselves to a higher standard. Thank you to all of my SDI teachers, and thank you for putting up with all of the students that constantly berate and belittle you throughout their schooling. I've heard horror stories from some of my Professors, and they were always surprised whenever they dealt with me. Apparently, it's a rarity to have a student that is actually respectful, and a student that genuinely respects their knowledge and critiques. If you can't take criticism, and you are the type who just like to blame others for your problems...please don't go. They deserve better students than that. Thank you again to all of my Professors who helped me so much through this journey, thank you for helping me better myself, thank you for helping me keep going when I thought I just wanted to throw in the towel, and thank you for believing in me even when I didn't believe in myself sometimes. You're all awesome!"
James B.
  • Reviewed: 9/27/2021
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"I understand that there are a number of individuals who are bashing SDI. I would venture to say that these individuals who "never" received timely feedback or similar correspondence from their instructors failed to check their emails and/or alerts. My experience with this school has been outstanding. I have attended multiple colleges and universities, and very few have given me the personal assistance and flexibility that SDI has. Any course that I have not achieved an "A" in has been due to a failure on my part. While this school is not on a Harvard, Yale, Ball State, or Murray State recognition level, it is an accredited institution. And for all of you "a** hats" who believe that you are special and you should have your instructors' complete attention, how about doing your homework and actually reading the books. This is a Firearms School, not a general education establishment. For those of you that have a problem understanding that, I will help you. SDI IS A TRADE SCHOOL. That means you have to use not only your intellect but your hands as well."
Jeremy Michael
  • Reviewed: 7/11/2021
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"A joke of a school. Instructors copy and paste feedback for forums and assignments. Instructors don't give any instruction at all, just grade assignments that you are left alone to read directly out of the book. Tools included in the course are cheapest on the market. If you want a piece of paper that says you have a degree this is the place for you. Do not waste your GI Bill! No one will hire someone based off of the material taught by this school. If a grad is hired it is because of knowledge gained from another source."
MI POG
  • Reviewed: 10/13/2020
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"I understand why some might have a negative view of the online format but that has nothing to do with the quality of the resources, the tools, and especially the instructors! I am only two classes into the Gunsmith Certificate program and I couldn't be happier. SPEAKING TO ACTIVE DUTY or GI BILL users: this is a great use of Tuition Assistance but it does require you to dip into two months of your GIBILL as the TA Certificate money tops out at 21 credits and the Cert program is 32. So, online learning is different. Everyone can agree? You get out of it what you put into it. I always received prompt feedback from my instructors and while they didn't reply to every post I always understood why I got the grade I got. The rubric was clear and concise and they followed it. The materials they send you (for free, if you are using TA) are awesome! Remember those little OTIS cleaning kits we got that fit in our cargo pocket? I received a suitcase sized cleaning kit from SDI. And in the end, you are building an AR or a 1911...FOR FREE! I mean, forget all that they are teaching you and the great tools and resources you collect over the course of the program. When it is all said and done, they are giving you a firearm! How can you beat that?"
Jason M
  • Reviewed: 7/13/2020
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"This place is a joke. All you do is watch Youtube video created by others people, not related to SDI that pertain to what the lesson is that week. The course materials are junk. I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know before enrolling. The classroom discussions are stupid and a waste of time. Don't waste your time or money. You can educate yourself a lot better and cheaper. Buy some gunsmithing books and watch online videos."
Joseph a moore
  • Reviewed: 10/30/2019
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"I really enjoyed the program. The school is continually updating the program. this degree got me into a fantastic federal job. Some of the courses seemed kinda basic for me with years of personal firearms experience and 6 year's of infantry experience. But you have to have the basics to advance to the higher levels. Would definitely recommend this program for armorer's or anyone trying to get into the firearms field."
Ranger
  • Reviewed: 6/25/2019
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"For those reading the previous or subsequent reviews, please note that the negative comments were from people who quit the course of instruction after a couple classes. I do not think it acceptable to write a thorough review with such limited knowledge and therefore, it is basically a person complaining who didn't give it their best shot. Bottom line, they quit. If you want to learn from the internet, then do that but you will not walk away with a degree, which in many businesses, IS where customers look for proof of your knowledge. )Which by the way, SDI sends you a very nice, already framed degree, which presents itself well. Ohh ya, and the YouTuber Iraqveteran888 (Eric) was a SDI Instructor and so this person further documents his lack of knowledge. SDI does implement many YouTube video's to assist in teaching the knowledge, skills and abilities within these courses, and to boot, SDI is currently in the process of replacing all of these video's with in-house produced video's. So again, the person speaks without full knowledge of what they are talking about. You may ask, why does this person know so much about SDI...well, I like many attendees. was a person getting out of the military and had no degree. Firearms were something I love to shoot and work on, so I used my GI Bill and COMPLETED the degree program. Being formally trained by the military to be an Instructor/Writer (which I received 3 months of training for, worked as for 3 years and did not earn a degree), I was asked to assist their instructors, which I did for a year. After many suggestions to the curriculum department, I was asked to join them and write content. After joining this department, we rewrote all of the tests and answer keys. For the student who complains about test questions being word for word out of the book has evidently not been an instructor or content writer. Should the wording not be right out of the book, there becomes the window of possibility for many varieties and personal interpretation, which was seen many times by the instructors and writers and was one of the main reasons the tests were rewritten. (I hope that answers the complaint) I mean, who complains about word for word questions and answers? Students are still required to READ (not just word search) the content and then go back and find the answer. Cheaters merely skim content and go right to the test and word search answers. It's not wonder the student didn't get "anything" from the course......he cheated, which is an academic violation. So above we have a quitter and a cheater giving advice on what is honestly a quality program getting better every day. The "people" who have been promoted have been with the school from day one and have what we call WORKED their way up to those positions. Most all SDI Instructors and faculty have Bachelors degree's and the couple who do not again, have been with the school since day one and were grandfathered into keeping their positions. Dr J, the person writing the eloquent complaint about the faculty is showing one of the reasons (In my opinion) of why he was released from the school. Yes, he does have an advanced degree (PhD) but who goes around pretty much demanding people (see peer faculty) call him Doctor. Really? My wife is a college professor with her PhD....and two Masters degrees, and she has never demanded people call her Dr. So if you ready this Dr J, know you were always respected, as we all called you Dr J as requested, but it is a bit demeaning of your peers to always be throwing your credentials in everyone's face, namely your boss. You make the bed you sleep in brother. So for those looking to attend a very good online school, who unlike Penn Foster and AGI, have a structured course where you have weekly assignments and deadlines. Penn Foster advertises 100% self paced, which might be good for some but the majority of students I have taught need that structure as they are naturally procrastinators and will wait until the last minute to do things. So structure and timelines are a good thing. The Instructors comments I can relate to, as when the school was young, it did have some instructors who did not participate much and who did not answer emailed questions. Eric, Iraqveteran8888, was one of them and he no longer works for the school. He was the primary instructor for my first course and I was very upset about it. I wrote student services, who got me answers to my questions.....but my complaints were heard up the chain and in turn changes were made. And I can tell you from personal experience, the Instruction has gotten much bore thorough, they do participate in the weekly discussion and are held to a certain standard now. Again, how do I know this? Well, after working as an employee for SDI for 3 years after my graduation, I left and became a contractor, who takes and audits their classes for content, structure, hours, rigidity and standards. I have done this now going on two years. So when you read a review, please look at the author and what they have accomplished. Look at how and why they are speaking as they are. If a soldier fails out of Ranger School.....or Sniper, or Special Forces.....or even basic training.....you will hear every negative they can think of concerning their experience. I have attended all of the above schools, and was even a Special Agent for many years in the Army.....but I left service (20+ years) with no degree. I led muti-agency opertaions (FBI, DEA, ATF, OSI) as a Senior Special agent....with guys who had Doctorate's and Masters degrees, however, not having an advanced degree does not make you stupid or uneducated. While some of these people with advanced degrees were in school, I was overseas defending our country and being away from my family for years at a time (Bosnia, Korea, Afghanistan). So there are my creds and I now DO have a degree, thanks to SDI. So I would and I do recommend SDI, highly. They have passed the same rigorous standards of the DEAC that Penn Foster has, yet offer a real degree. They have an entire faculty dedicated to every aspect of student services, even a librarian and VA representative. They are able to accept active duty Tuition Assistance (TA), as well as veterans GI Bill. Again, I was an actual student and used these services. I know the President well and have spoken to her many times regarding my problems, and experiences. I know the Senior Vice President, who was a Military Police (MP) Officer (with a degree...lol) and is one of the hardest working people on the team. And when I say team, SDI is a well oiled machine that functions on all cylinders. All machines are going to have a problem here and there, but as long as you take care of your machine, it will take care of you. I believe as a student alumni, as a former employee and as a former contractor, that SDI will provide you all that you need to be successful in the world of gunsmithing! Good luck in your search, accept nothing but the best and never quit! Rangers Lead the Way!"
Veteran
  • Reviewed: 6/14/2019
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"The only thing I can say about this school is that you will get paid to go if you use your GI bill. DO NOT expect this school to help you in any way in the real world. I hate to say it but I had time left on the GI bill and didn't want to lose the money. I stooped to SDI's level and am doing this strictly for the financial gain. If this is what you are trying to do, then yes go to this school. It is easy and you can sandbag your way through it. If you want to be an actual gunsmith and have a degree on your wall that DOES NOT say "University of YouTube" on it then look elsewhere."
Tom
  • Reviewed: 3/23/2019
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"There is nothing lower then a 1 star for this school 30 years or so of armor experience in the army but these a** clowns dont care. Out of 3 army classes I have done an d this being my 3 rd on line class SDI by far the worst school I have ever seen"
Someone Who Worked At This Online Firearms School
  • Reviewed: 12/20/2018
  • Degree: Gunsmithing
"Trust the reviews on Glassdoor. All of the other reviews. This is still a correspondence school and why it was reaccredited is beyond me. First, this is an academic institution yet no one on the leadership team has a doctorate degree. Someone was promoted to an advanced position with an associate's degree! There are a handful of VPs as one reviewer noted who are young people with no previous higher ed experience and no advanced education related to higher ed. The lack of related education and experience is shocking. The "faculty" pool treat courses like this was a correspondence course. They don't participate in discussions or barely do. They provide little to no feedback. And somehow the "leadership" team thinks this is okay. Perhaps this is why the owners just sold the company? My supervisor pretended to be my best friend because I had the advanced degrees and actual higher ed experience. But the minute I would turn my back, I would get stabbed. The amount of gossiping among such a small amount of employees is really unbelievable. I thought I was going to have a career. What I wound up with was a stress related health condition. And it wasn't worth it."