Certificates - Guidelines and Policy*

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

Redirect Notice

Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) has created a new Certificate KB Topic Library on its new APIR KnowledgeBase site. The content formerly housed on this KB has transitioned to the updated document(s). Please refer to this library for documents that provide an overview of certificate guidelines and policy, answers to frequently asked questions, and details on certificate declaring, tracking, and completion. 


This new APIR KB site is replacing the former Courses and Academic Programs (aka, Vesta) site in a staged transition. (Note: The Lumen KB remains separate and active and is available from the Quick Link in the left navigation of the APIR KB site.) This new APIR KB will include documents related to academic program planning (degrees/majors, named options, certificates), courses, program review, and academic policy.



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

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

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 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


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


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





Keywords:certificates, capstones, guidelines, policy   Doc ID:25463
Owner:Karen M.Group:Courses and Academic Programs
Created:2012-08-03 12:35 CDTUpdated:2020-08-03 09:55 CDT
Sites:Courses and Academic Programs
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