Credit-Bearing Certificates - Guidelines and Policy
This is a summary of the policies regarding certificates. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library.
A certificate program is a designated set of for-credit courses focused upon a specific topic or theme. Certificates give students the opportunity to pursue a subject of interest in a formalized way and to have completion of the course of study recognized by the awarding of the certificate. After approval, the for-credit certificate is documented on the student’s UW-Madison transcript and becomes part of the official student record. Certificates add opportunities for flexibility not available in majors and degrees. There are currently more than 100 certificates offered at UW-Madison.
Credit-Bearing Certificate Program Standards
The following provisions apply to all credit-bearing certificate programs at UW-Madison. This includes undergraduate certificates, graduate/professional certificates, and capstone certificates:
- New certificate programs, and/or changes to existing certificate programs, must be proposed via the Lumen Program form and require governance approval at the school/college and campus level.
- Certificate programs are featured in the Guide, the university’s online catalog. All requirements to earn a certificate must be included in the Guide. This includes requirements such as specific courses, total credits required, grade point average, etc.
- Each certificate program must be associated with an academic unit (i.e., academic and administrative department home) that is responsible for overseeing the academic activity for the certificate program.
- Courses in which a student elects the pass/fail grading option or audit option will not satisfy certificate requirements.
- Topics courses, which are designated in the course catalog and used to offer coursework in emerging issues or specialized content, can be used in certificate requirements/curricula. Ideally, topics courses will only be included if all offerings/topics of the given course can be used to satisfy requirements.
- Course substitutions or exceptions should be kept to a minimum. If substitutions/exceptions are being made on a regular basis, the curriculum should be examined and/or revised to address the consideration.
- The university does not offer specific course/credit overlap limits between certificate programs and degree/majors or among certificate programs. Stated differently, there is no university-level restriction on the use of the same courses to fulfill requirements for more than one credential or the completion of more than one credential in related areas of study. Academic units do reserve the right to prohibit overlap they deem inappropriate and may prohibit students in particular academic programs from also declaring their program of study. Such limitations (in courses and/or programs) must be explicitly stated in Lumen Programs/Guide, in the Admissions/How to Get In and/or Requirements sections.
- Each certificate program must have a distinct assessment plan and is subject to the university’s assessment reporting requirement and academic program review policy.
- Certificates will not be awarded retroactively to graduated students who completed all certificate requirements before the certificate program was approved.
- Certificates will not be awarded to students who complete all certificate requirement but failed to officially declare the certificate before graduating, or to students who completed requirements after graduating via additional coursework or course substitution/exception.
Note the following specifications unique to undergraduate certificates:
- Available to UW-Madison degree-seeking undergraduate students.
- Undergraduate certificates require at least 12 and typically no more than 16 total credits.
- Courses required for undergraduate certificates must be numbered 699 or lower.
- All undergraduate certificate programs must have discrete requirements, as well as the courses that can be used to meet the requirements, coded in the Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS)
- At least half of certificate credits must be earned in residence at UW-Madison.
- Unless otherwise specified, students must earn a minimum average 2.0 grade point average (GPA) on all coursework used to meet the requirements of the certificate program.
- Graduate and professional students are not eligible to earn undergraduate certificates.
- A student who completes degree/major requirements for graduation will be graduated even if there are remaining certificate requirements toward an undergraduate certificate program; the certificate requirements cannot hinder a student's timely graduation.
- Undergraduate certificates will not be awarded prior to a student earning an undergraduate degree, nor will they be awarded independent of an earned degree.
University Special Student Undergraduate Certificates
University Special Student undergraduate certificates are a subset of the credit-bearing undergraduate certificates and are available to non-degree seeking students. Eligible students either began completing requirements for the certificate while enrolled in a degree program but did not finish the certificate and re-enroll to complete the certificate or enroll exclusively for the purpose of completing the undergraduate certificate.
Note the following specifications unique to graduate/professional certificates:
- Available to UW-Madison degree-seeking graduate and professional students (i.e., GRAD, LAW, MED, PHARM, VMED “careers” and any careers that may be added at the post-baccalaureate level).
- Graduate/professional certificates require at least 9 and typically no more than 12 total credits.
- All graduate/professional requirements must consist of courses numbered 300 or higher.
- At least 6 credits of graduate-level coursework (i.e., courses numbered 700 or above, or 300 or above with the graduate attribute) must be earned to satisfy graduate/professional certificate requirements.
- Courses offered on a Credit/No Credit and/or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis may be included in the requirements for a graduate/professional certificate.
- All graduate/professional certificate programs must have discrete requirements.
- Prior coursework, including transfer credits, may be used to satisfy certificate requirements, but at least half of certificate credits must be earned in residence at UW-Madison as a degree-seeking graduate/professional student.
- Unless otherwise specified, students must earn a minimum grade of C in each course used to meet certificate requirements.
- Students must achieve a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA for all courses required for the certificate.
- Graduate/professional certificates will be awarded at the same time the student’s degree/major is awarded and will not be awarded independent of an earned degree.
Note the following specifications unique to capstone certificates:
- The Graduate School is responsible for academic approval and oversight of capstone certificates. The Division of Continuing Studies (DCS) is responsible for broad administrative oversight, including student admission and student record management.
- A bachelor’s degree or equivalent credential from an accredited college or university is required for admission to a capstone certificate program.
- Degree-seeking students may not be concurrently enrolled in or be awarded a capstone certificate.
- Students enrolled in capstone certificates may accept assistantships and fellowships, but they are not eligible for the tuition remission that is typically part of the compensation package.
- A capstone certificate requires at least 9 and typically no more than 16 graduate/professional-level credits numbered 300 or higher.
- Undergraduate-only courses numbered lower than 300 may be used to meet capstone certificate requirements, however such courses will not subsequently count in graduate programs or be accorded grade points on the transcript.
- A capstone certificate may be offered in a part-time format or in a full-time compressed/accelerated format.
- Courses offered on a Credit/No Credit and/or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis may be included in the requirements for a capstone certificate.
- Unless otherwise noted, students must earn a minimum grade of C in each course used to meet certificate requirements.
- All capstone certificate program requirements must be discretely coded in the Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS).
- All capstone certificate credits must be earned in residence at UW-Madison.
- All capstone certificate credits must be earned while enrolled in the capstone certificate program.
- Capstone certificates will be awarded in the same term the final course requirement for the capstone is completed.