Questions and Answers

Sonoran Desert Institute

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Q. Is online education recognized?

A. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes online learning, as do leading educators worldwide. Online education programs and courses are offered by hundreds of top universities and by all branches of the Armed Forces. In fact, last year, more people enrolled in online-delivered courses than entered all colleges and universities as freshmen combined! Plus, in Arizona and other states, our programs are eligible for Workforce Investment Act funding for qualified students. Check with your local WIA office to determine if you are eligible for these programs.

SDI has been continuously accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) since 2004. The DEAC Accrediting Commission is a national accreditor of institutions that primarily offer distance education, and holds recognition by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. SDI is also listed as an accredited school by the U.S. Department of Education. Please see for additional information on DEAC and for a listing of accredited institutions.

In addition, our programs are approved for Veterans’ funding and to participate in the DANTES program.

Q. Are there other schools that have programs similar to SDI?

A.There are a number of distance education schools and programs that are available today. We suggest that if you are comparing programs, then do so on a variety of levels, including state licensing approvals, accreditation from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, program content, the educational objective of the program, and how well the admissions staff responds to and completely answers your questions.

Ask questions and do not enroll in any school until you are comfortable with your choice. And never, ever feel pressured into enrolling.

Q. How long has SDI been offering firearms technology training?

A. Sonoran Desert Institute was founded in 2000 and can trace its roots to 1921 when the School of Gunsmithing was opened in Scottsdale, Arizona. The school’s program of instruction was continually updated and revised by the founder’s family to ensure that it was current with changing technology and practices. When Sonoran Desert Institute opened in 2000, the Gunsmithing program was a major component of the Institute’s course offerings. Today, with the significant interest in the Firearms Technology program, gunsmithing is the primary focus of SDI’s curricula.

Q. How much education should I have in order to enroll in Sonoran Desert Institute’s programs and courses?

A. Applicants seeking admission must have earned a high school diploma, a GED, or recognized equivalent. However, SDI does not require industry-specific coursework or training prior to enrollment. Each program is specifically designed for people who want to know more and are willing to put forth a reasonable effort toward their own education and self-improvement. You need no previous experience in the field because your program of study begins with the basics and builds on that foundation with each new lesson.

Q. Is a background check required for enrollment?

A. No, but each student must complete a statement of eligibility attesting to the fact that they are legally able to own and operate a firearm. This statement is aligned with ATF regulations.

Q. Do I need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to enroll?

A. No.

Q. When do the programs start?

A. SDI offers convenient monthly starts.

Q. Will my other college credits transfer to SDI?

A. SDI does review all previously earned college credits and military training for any applicable credit. The most common application of this credit is toward the five general education courses in the degree program.

Q. Are the programs progressive? Do I have to start with one before the other?

A. None of the programs are prerequisites to the others.

Q. If I start with a certificate program, can I transfer into the degree program later?

A. Credits from the following programs and courses will transfer into the Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree program, should you one day choose to continue your education: Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate program; any of the SDI Advanced Armorer courses.

Q. Do distance education programs cost a lot?

A. In many cases, distance education and online programs are some of the best educational investments available today. In most instances, tuition for Sonoran Desert Institute’s programs and courses is less than the cost for one semester’s attendance at many colleges, vocational, or trade schools. It’s also less than the same training would cost at a private school. What’s more, all the materials, tools, and equipment you train with — even the software — are yours to keep. And at SDI, financial assistance is available to those who qualify. We are approved for Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bill® benefits, and you can even use your VISA or MasterCard for full tuition, a down payment, and/or for monthly payments where applicable. But don’t let price be your only guide. You should also keep in mind the thoroughness of training materials and the reputation of any school you consider (see the enrollment agreement for your specific program or course on this website for the exact tuition).

Q. What funding options are available?

A. SDI offers no-interest payment plans on most programs. For our active duty service members and retired military, SDI’s Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree and Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate are both approved by the DOD and the VA for a variety of military funding programs. For more specific details, feel free to contact an admissions representative.

Q. Can VA funding be used for all programs?

A. Military benefits can only be used for SDI’s Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree and Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate programs.

Q. Does SDI have any scholarships?

A. Yes. Please review our Scholarships page.

Q. How much are the programs?

A. Our current tuition rates may be found HERE.

Q. What if I find it necessary to interrupt my training?

A. If unforeseen circumstances should make it necessary to interrupt your training, SDI may advise a student to withdraw and re-enroll and will provide guidance on readmission. Military students requiring leave for service duties are eligible for certain readmission privileges. SDI’s full Withdrawal policies are available in the official school catalog.

Q. Do I have to pay for my course if I can’t continue?

A. Sonoran Desert Institute permits you to withdraw from training if you’re unable to continue your course. As an Arizona licensed private school and a DEAC accredited institution, Sonoran Desert Institute provides cancellation policies designed for your protection if you must postpone or discontinue your training. SDI must also abide by the refund policies of any branch, agency, or department of the federal government providing funding. Of course, we hope you’ll complete your Sonoran Desert Institute program, and we’ll do everything we can to help you toward that objective.

Q. How much time do I need to spend on the courses each week?

A. Each program has requirements for satisfactory academic progress, and is also dependent on enrollment status, like full-time versus part-time. You can review more about this policy in the SDI catalog or by talking to an admissions representative.

Q. I’ve never taken a course through distance education. How does Sonoran Desert Institute’s learning management system (LMS) work?

A. Sonoran Desert Institute breaks down your course into a series of logical, bite-sized learning sessions, written in clear, everyday language and loaded with diagrams and illustrations that help you actually see what you’re learning. Self-test questions highlight key points, graded assignments and lesson tests reinforce your understanding of concepts, and hands-on projects give you a chance to practice what you’ve learned by using professional, real-world equipment.

But Sonoran Desert Institute programs don’t mean you study by yourself. By using convenient online tools and other means of instructor consultation on your tests, quizzes, and projects, your Sonoran Desert Institute instructor gives you the feedback and advice you need to succeed.

Our online programs also provide for more individualized study to help you master the material and be successful!

Q. Do I have to send back the completed projects to get a grade?

A. All labs are yours to keep. To get a grade, completed projects are submitted to your instructor by uploading photos, and when requested, a narrative description and/or video.

Q. What tools will I need to complete the labs?

A. For the majority of labs, all necessary items will be shipped to you. For receiver projects, though, tools needed to complete the receiver will be provided by the student, and can vary based on preference or pricing constraints. Depending upon your project selection you may need a drill press with the appropriate bits or simply a hand drill and/or rotary tool. Items like a vise and lubricants will also be needed. A mill is not necessary, but can be used if you already have one.

Q. How long do I have to complete the course?

A. While there can be some variations, courses are scheduled as follows:

Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree – four, 16-week semesters; Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate – two, 16-week semesters; Noncredit Gunsmithing Certificate – eight months; Armorer’s courses – eight weeks ; Certificate of Ballistics and Reloading – eight weeks

Q. Are the programs self-paced?

A. While the noncredit courses offer some flexibility in how you approach them, the for-credit courses do have an academic activity schedule that must be adhered to for satisfactory academic progress. However, none of the programs have scheduled class times, so you do have the opportunity to work on the days and nights that are convenient for you, just so long as assignments are in by Sunday, the week’s end.

Q. Do I need a computer?

A. You will need Internet access, and if you have a computer that you prefer to use, that’s fine. For those enrolled in the Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree and Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate programs, there is an option to select a notebook computer for your curriculum delivery.

Q. Do I need to be licensed or certified to work in my field of study?

A. Depending on your career field, some states may require formal licensing or certification. Our Student Services staff is here to help you navigate the various requirements in your state. If you do have to comply with your state requirements, we will help you answer questions related to your education for the state regulators. You can check the specific program page on our website for links to regulations in your home state, if applicable.

Q. What kind of credential will I receive upon completion?

A. Graduates of the Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree program will receive a diploma. With all certificate programs, graduates receive a certificate of completion.

Q. Will I have an FFL when I complete the program?

A. No. Applying for an FFL is an individual decision. The Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree and the Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate programs do offer a Shooting Sports Management course designed to introduce students to the practices, rules, and laws that govern the operation of firearms repair and sales businesses so that they can decide what type(s) of FFL would be the best for them.

Q. Does SDI get me a job?

A. While SDI doesn’t currently provide individualized career placement, students in the Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree and the Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate programs can take advantage of the field study opportunities SDI has put in place. These are designed to provide documented, hands-on experience to enhance the student’s background, providing a competitive advantage when pursuing career opportunities. SDI does not guarantee job placement for any student.