Graduate Certificate Guidelines

Why Develop a Certificate Program?

Graduate certificates are a widely accepted means of enhancing the credentials of graduate students. They thus appeal to a wide range of students and professionals: former undergraduate students seek to add to the value of their undergraduate degrees; working professionals who want to enrich their personal knowledge; educators who aim to enhance their teaching credentials, as well as students considering the possibility of a graduate degree. Consequently, certificate programs are an effective means of attracting new graduate students.

Graduate certificates also provide Auburn University with the flexibility to meet emerging needs for educational programs. They provide the opportunity to market an existing integrated curriculum, whether part of a single academic program or one that integrates course offerings from more than one program. Certificate programs, if they are successful, may also lead to the development of new degree programs, beginning with an integrated set of existing courses. Certificate programs may also be coordinated, leading students to the successful completion of a degree program.

Create a Program Proposal for a Graduate Certificate using the CIM system.

Number of Hours: Identify the number of hours in the certification program. Graduate certificate programs consist of a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 21 hours of graduate-level course work. The certificate proposal must include enough approved courses to meet the minimum requirements of the proposal.

Required Courses: Identify the required courses for the certificate (indicating the course prefix, number, credit hours, title, and course prerequisites if applicable). All courses (including distance courses) required for the certificate must be previously approved courses or the new course proposal form must accompany the certificate proposal.

Elective Courses: Identify any elective courses for the certification (indicating the course prefix, number, credit hours, title, and course prerequisites if applicable). The certificate proposal may list elective courses to be developed, but the proposal must include enough approved courses to meet the minimum requirements of the proposal.  Before new courses can be counted toward the certificate, they must be approved through the curriculum approval process.

Curriculum Model: Include a certificate curriculum model (if appropriate).

Justification: Provide a brief justification for the graduate certificate program. Typically, the justification describes the coherence of the certificate program and the relationship of the courses as a unit; it also identifies the group of students to be served by the certificate program and the benefits to these students. Documentation should be provided indicating the availability of a viable group of faculty to teach the courses in the certificate program.

Expected Program Outcomes and Assessment Methods:

Expected outcomes must include student learning outcomes and an assessment plan for determining the extent to which the expected outcomes are achieved and for designing improvements based on the analysis of assessment results.  The following questions may be helpful:

  1. What are the expected learning outcomes of this program (what will students be able to demonstrate that they know or can do)?
  2. What information will you collect and analyze about the extent to which students are attaining the expected learning outcomes of the program?
  3. How will you use that information for improvement.

 

Resources: Identify any additional resources or resource shifting required for the certificate program.

Graduate Certificate Proposals received by the Graduate School by the first of the month are routed to the Graduate Council Curriculum and then to the Graduate Council for review and approval. For example, certificate proposals received by September 1st are reviewed during September by the Graduate Council Curriculum Committee and placed on the October agenda of the Graduate Council. The Graduate Council meets once a month, usually during the first week of the month.

After approval by the Graduate Council, certificate proposals are immediately forwarded to the Provost’s Office, for approval.

Q: How does a Graduate Certificate differ from a professional development certificate?

A: A professional development certificate does not require admission to the Graduate School and is awarded based on participation in non-credit work. Professional development certificates are not subject to the Auburn University curriculum process, nor is their achievement noted on Auburn University transcripts.

Q: Is the Graduate Certificate noted on a student’s transcript?

A: Yes

Q: How many hours are included in a Graduate Certificate?

A: Graduate certificate programs consist of a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 21 hours of graduate-level course work.

Q: Is course work for the Graduate Certificate grade or non-graded?

A: The course work may be graded or non-graded.

Q: What is the minimum GPA required for continuation in the certificate program?

A: A minimum GPA of 3.0 must be maintained in all graded course work in the certificate program.

Q: How does a Graduate Certificate differ from a Graduate Minor?

A: A graduate certificate is distinguished from graduate minors in two primary ways. First, graduate minors are intended exclusively for degree seeking graduate students. Graduate certificates may be directed to both degree seeking and non-degree seeking students. Second, there are limits to the number of course credits taken in pursuit of graduate minors that may be applied to a graduate degree (e.g., master’s degrees require 21/30 hours to be in the major discipline). The limiting factor in the application of certificate course credits to graduate degrees is departmental policy or advisory committee recommendations. As an example, if a department developed a certificate program intended only for non-degree seeking students, then courses completed for the certificate program could not be later applied to a degree. However, in the absence of departmental policy, and with the approval of a student’s advisory committee, both degree seeking and non-degree seeking students (if they later change status to degree seeking) may include all certificate-related courses toward degree requirements.

Graduate certificate programs constitute an integrated curriculum, but not necessarily one aligned with a specific academic program. They may exist within programs, bridge programs or offer content widely useable across programs. Graduate certificate programs consist of a minimum of 9 and maximum of 21 hours of graduate-level course work. The course work may be graded or non-graded. A minimum GPA of 3.0 must be maintained on all graded course work in the certificate program.

Graduate certificate programs pertain to graduate students, whether degree seeking or non-degree seeking. A graduate certificate is distinguished from graduate minors in two primary ways. First, graduate minors are intended exclusively for degree seeking graduate students. Graduate certificates may be directed to both degree seeking and non-degree seeking students. Second, there are limits to the number of course credits taken in pursuit of graduate minors that may be applied to a graduate degree (e.g., master’s degrees require 21/30 hours to be in the major discipline). The limiting factor in the application of certificate course credits to graduate degrees is departmental policy or advisory committee recommendations. As an example, if a department developed a certificate program intended only for non-degree seeking students, that department could prevent those certificate courses from applying to a degree. However, in the absence of departmental policy, and with the approval of a student’s advisory committee, both degree seeking and non-degree seeking students (if they later change status to degree seeking) may include all certificate-related courses toward degree requirements.

When new graduate certificates are proposed, they undergo the full process of curriculum review. This same process applies regardless of delivery method (i.e., on campus and distance). Special requirements for applicants may be negotiated between the certificate proposing program and the graduate school at the time the program is proposed. Consistent with Graduate School policy related to the Masters and Specialist degrees, all requirements for a graduate certificate must be accomplished within 5 years unless departmental criteria for the certificate necessitate a longer time. Certificate Programs that require an exception to this 5 year time limit must be approved by the Graduate Council. Not only must the content of the proposed certificate be appropriate, but the availability of a viable group of graduate faculty to teach the courses in the certificate must be documented. Proposals for graduate certificate programs must identify a specific person who will serve as coordinator. Certificates that bridge departments must have a home department to which all certificate applicants apply. But each affiliated department must also designate a coordinator. Students who fulfill all requirements for a graduate certificate will have the certificate noted on their transcript when the Graduate School receives a memo signed by the certificate coordinator documenting the successful completion of all certificate requirements.

Graduate certificates are to be differentiated from professional development certificates. No comprehensive definition of the latter is offered here, however, in brief, completion of a professional development certificate does not require admission to the Graduate School and is awarded based on participation in non-credit work. The definition of graduate certificate does not limit the ability of departments or other units from defining, implementing, or awarding professional development certificates. Professional development certificates are not subject to the Auburn University curriculum process, nor is their achievement noted on Auburn University transcripts.

The Graduate Certificate Definition was approved by the following groups: Graduate Council (April 16, 2008); University Curriculum Committee (September 18, 2008); University Senate (October 7, 2008); Board of Trustees (January 29, 2009).

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