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Certificates - Guidelines and Policy

Overview of policy and guidelines for certificate programs, including undergraduate, graduate and professional certificates, Capstone, and non-credit certificate offerings.

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. 

The Office of the Registrar maintains the official lists of certificates, departments, degrees, majors, and options. Review the Official Certificate List for the current list of undergraduate, graduate/professional, and Capstone certificate programs. There are currently more than 100 certificates offered at UW-Madison.

The certificate policy guidelines cover the following types of certificates; a high-level overview of each type of certificate is included below:

Undergraduate Certificates

  • Available to degree-seeking UW-Madison undergraduates
  • Offered at an undergraduate level of content and intensity
  • Designed to complement undergraduate degree/majors
  • 12-21 credits
  • May be open to University Special (non-degree seeking) students who hold a bachelor’s degree if provisions for these students are planned and approved by program faculty, school/college academic planning council, and University Academic Planning Council (UAPC)
  • Note: In June 2014, UAPC endorsed principles that affirmed the expectation that all certificate requirements would be encoded in the Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) and that students would declare certificates electronically. For more information, refer to the UAPC memo establishing the online process for certificate declaration and encoding.

Graduate and Professional Certificates

  • Available to 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)
  • Designed to complement graduate or professional programs of study
  • Typically 9-12 credits

Capstone Certificates

  • Post-baccalaureate level
  • Designed for University Special (i.e., non-degree seeking) students who hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent
  • At least 9 graduate/professional-level credits (rarely more than 16 credits)
  • Designed to "cap off" undergraduate educational experience or to offer a focused professionally oriented educational experience
  • Students apply, are admitted, and enroll as prescribed by the Capstone Program
  • Note: Capstone certificate programs are eligible for federal financial aid, subject to federal gainful employment regulations. For more information, refer to the July 2018 memo regarding Title IV eligibility for students enrolled in capstone certificate programs.

Non-Credit Certificates

  • Offered by various units
  • Not formally approved through this process through university governance processes
  • Based on not-for-credit activity
  • May carry continuing education units (CEUs)
  • Not posted to the UW-Madison student transcript
  • Consult the Division of Continuing Studies for more information
  • Policy guidelines for Non-Credit Certificates were approved in June 2011

Official Policy Document

The Full Guidelines for For-Credit Certificates and related documents are available on the Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) Certificate Programs website.

Policy History

UW-Madison faculty adopted new policy guidelines governing certificate programs in spring 2012 (revised spring 2014 and summer 2016)




Keywords:certificates, capstone, certificate, guidelines, policy, cert, certs   Doc ID:97237
Owner:Karen M.Group:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
Created:2020-01-21 14:13 CDTUpdated:2020-02-19 11:28 CDT
Sites:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
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