Industry-Specific Online Programs

Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) is an online school that helps students learn the skills and techniques they’ll need to be successful in the firearms and unmanned technology industries. SDI is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

SDI’s faculty is comprised of professionals with decades of industry experience, and our programs are designed to combine modern learning methods, hands-on training options, and the flexibility of online education.

SDI offers unique online programs to help students achieve their goals:

Associate of Science in Firearms Technology Degree

This 60-credit-hour program is the most comprehensive program at SDI and is one of only a handful of firearms degree programs in the nation.

Explore Program

Certificate in Firearms Technology - Gunsmithing

This 32-credit-hour program gives students an overview of gunsmithing techniques and practices, shooting sports management, and more.

Explore Program

Certificate in Firearms Technology - Handgun Specialist

This 16-credit program provides intensive insight into handgun technology and advanced gunsmithing skills.

Explore Program

Certificate in Unmanned Technology - Aerial Systems

This 16-credit-hour program provides students with a solid foundation of historical, technical, and operational knowledge about unmanned aircraft systems.

Explore Program

Distance Education, Evolved

Sonoran Desert Institute was founded in 2000, and was approved for training by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education in 2001. The Institute was accredited in 2004 by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The DEAC is listed by the United States Department of Education as a recognized institutional accrediting agency for distance education. The DEAC is also recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

At its inception, the Institute offered Gunsmithing as a program, which ultimately became the foundation for SDI’s growth. Key to the success of the Institute is its comprehensive approach to easily understood curriculum, attention to providing quality service to its students, and the flexibility of its instructional model. In 2014, SDI applied to DEAC for Title IV Certification. In 2015, after receiving approval from DEAC, the institute submitted its application to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to offer Pell Grants and Direct Loans to students in the Associate of Science in Firearms Technology. This change was primarily prompted by the Department of Defense’s regulatory change linking eligibility for Active Duty Tuition Assistance to schools approved for Title IV funding. Recognizing the high percentage of military students in our student population, SDI deemed this as an important initiative. SDI began offering Title IV funding to students in January 2016. In January 2018, after receiving approval from Department of Education, SDI also began offering Title IV funding to students in the certificate program.

In fall of 2018, SDI transitioned to become an employee owned company (ESOP). SDI introduced the School of Unmanned Technology in January 2022 and began to offer the Certificate in Unmanned Technology – Aerial Systems program. DEAC granted SDI a 5 -year renewal of accreditation in June 2023. In November 2023, SDI began to offer the Certificate in Firearms Technology – Handgun Specialist program. SDI takes pride in upholding the standards of multiple regulatory bodies while continuing a student centric focus on academic quality and superior service to students!

Above and Beyond for Our Students

At SDI, our students are the top priority. It is our constant goal to exceed the expectations of our students, whether it be through the quality of our curriculum, the support we offer, or the commitment to making school financially attainable with a variety of available funding options.

We are honored to have been the school of choice for all of our students and are particularly grateful for the service of our military students. Current Servicemembers and Veteran students make up a large percentage of SDI’s student body, and we take pride in our efforts to serve them. Our Military and Veterans Services team works specifically to help military-connected students succeed, while our faculty and staff prioritize communication to ensure that all students feel supported through the programs.

Meet Our Faculty

Driven by Student Success

At SDI, we love to see our students succeed, and we continually look for new ways to set our students and grads up for success. SDI takes pride in upholding the standards of multiple regulatory bodies while continuing a student-centric focus on academic quality and superior service to students! We know that students, grads, and employers value educational offerings they can trust to be of high quality, and we work hard to maintain high regard in higher education.

I found the school to be an excellent source for gunsmith courses and knowledge for the industry. I follow a couple of 2A channels on YouTube that the school sponsors and have commented on occasion that I am a graduate of the school and that the learning was fantastic and gave me all the basic tools of knowledge that has helped my gunsmith and firearms retail business to grow and succeed. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking any knowledge in the firearms industry or in gunsmith work you will not be disappointed.

Carl Brown2021 SDI Certificate in Firearms Technology - Gunsmithing Graduate


To provide students with current, industry-driven, quality education with a focus on specialized programs delivered through online distance education and practical application. SDI is committed to continuous improvement in our instructional processes and the overall student experience. We accomplish this through student and graduate achievement and satisfaction as well as our stakeholder relationships and reputation in the markets we serve.


Sonoran Desert Institute’s students will develop specialized job skills empowering them to be outstanding employees, skilled hobbyists, and responsible workplace leaders. Each student will be committed to improving their knowledge and skills. SDI’s graduates will make decisions based on sound judgment, technical competency, and an awareness of the connections of their academic discipline and their community. SDI will accomplish these outcomes by continually improving its curricula, instructional delivery, and service, while successfully building partnerships with the students, the community, and the industries it serves.

Core Values

Continuous Improvement

It’s our goal to get better every day, to positively impact and support our industry, and to motivate others to drive towards continuous improvement in their knowledge, skills, businesses, and lives

Uncompromising Ethics & Integrity

SDI team members will act ethically and with integrity at all times, and we will expect and endorse that value in others

Ownership Mentality

We live an “Own It” life—we believe in taking ownership and accountability for the success of SDI and its students, graduates, and partners every day

Student Achievement

At SDI, we are passionate about fostering student achievement through service and support


We will never stop enhancing the relevance and recognition of SDI as a post-secondary education leader, and those efforts will maintain the relevance of our students, graduates, and partners

Sustainability & Growth

We will ensure the growth and future success of our school, students, and graduates through our commitment to cultivating and sustaining SDI’s mission and vision

Meaningful Relationships

In all we do, we will create, cultivate, and maintain meaningful relationships

Accreditation and Affiliates

Sonoran Desert Institute has demonstrated the ability to meet criteria for academic and consumer rights standards from federal and state agencies as well as non-governmental agencies. These standards ensure quality education through sound financial operations, approved programs of study, qualified instructors, and approved recruitment and admissions policies. Reviews and renewals of accreditation are conducted periodically as required.
Learn more about SDI’s affiliations below.


We are committed to our students’ success by creating unique academic programs that add value to their lives. One of the ways we accomplish this is by developing significant and relevant relationships with industry leaders that gives SDI students access to an ever-expanding network and lots of tangible ways to reap the benefits of being part of the SDI family.

Resource Guide Partners

Being an SDI student comes with even more benefits than quality education and excellent service. Through partnerships with dozens of industry partners, students (and in some cases, graduates) gain access to exclusive discounts and perks not available to the public.

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Review SDI’s Student consumer information to learn more about SDI’s success indicators, student diversity, facilities information and more.


Get in Touch with SDI


For all questions regarding enrollment, course, and program information.

Financial Services

For questions on billing, payment plans, tuition balance, and fees.

Student Services

For questions about schedules, grades, and degree progress

Course Materials

For help with course materials and tools, or shipping issues


For questions regarding transcripts and enrollment verification requests

Military and Veteran Services

For questions about Military and Veteran Services


Consider this your official invitation to begin your journey with SDI.