Certificate Programs

APIR has collected a full series of certificate-related KnowledgeBase (KB) documents into the Certificate KB Topic Library. Please refer to this library for an overview of certificate program guidelines and policy, frequently asked questions, and information on certificate declaring, tracking, and completion.

A certificate program is a designated set of for-credit (or in some cases, noncredit) courses focused upon a specific topic or theme. There are currently more than 100 certificates offered at UW–Madison. (Refer to the Office of the Registrar’s official certificate list.) 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. Certificates also add opportunities for flexibility not available in majors and degrees. Upon awarding, the for-credit certificate is documented on the student’s UW–Madison transcript and becomes part of the official student record.

There are four types or categories of certificates: undergraduate certificates, graduate and professional certificates, capstone certificates, and non-credit certificates. Refer to the Certificates – Guidelines and Policy KB document for details on each category.

Certificate Guidelines, Proposals, and Approvals

The University Academic Planning Council (UAPC) has established formal guidelines governing certificate programs. These guidelines are detailed in the Guidelines for For-Credit Certificate Programs and Guidelines for Noncredit Certificate Programs documents. These documents contained specific information for each certificate type (e.g., undergraduate, capstone, etc.), including program requirements, the approval process, etc.

The certificate proposal and approval process mirrors that for majors and degrees, in that program faculty bring forward the proposal (most often at the department level) via the Lumen Programs Proposal System, and the proposal is then routed through the appropriate school/college, the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (for graduate/professional and capstone certificates), and finally UAPC. Certificate programs have become more prominent in the university’s program array (refer to the trends in certificate awards data visualization) and require devoted resources from the department, school, and/or college. Faculty who propose certificates should plan for resources that support instruction, student services, compliance with state and federal regulation, and other demands. Faculty should also understand how the certificate offering is related to other degree and major offerings, and for undergraduate certificates, certificates should be designed so as not to extend time to degree.

Faculty/programs interested in proposing a new certificate program should contact Karen Mittelstadt in Academic Planning and Institutional Research in the early stages of  planning for support in preparing the proposal. Karen can also support programs seeking to change the academic or administrative home of an existing certificate, rename a certificate, suspend or reinstate admission to a certificate program, change the mode of delivery (e.g., from face-to-face to distance), change certificate program learning outcomes, and/or discontinue a certificate program.

Sunset Provisions

Certificate programs may be discontinued as a decision of the program faculty for a number of reasons, as detailed in the university’s Guidelines for Suspending or Discontinuing Certificate Programs.

Compliance with Federal Regulations

In some cases, certificate programs may be subject to federal U.S. Department of Education regulations that differ from regulations associated with majors and degrees. For example, certificate programs available to University Special students designed to prepare students for specific occupations must comply with gainful employment regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Additional Resources

The following resources are available to provide more information and context regarding certificate programs: