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6,053: Curricula-Definition of Certificate Program-Graduate

Last Revised: June 2009

Graduate certificate programs can either be:

  1. Professional certificate programs: these programs are generally offered for no credit through Extended Studies. The format of these certificate programs is primarily a short course, workshop or series of workshops that provide an opportunity for professional development. Such courses do not lead to licensure of any type, do not require admission to graduate special status or graduate student status and do not, as noted, provide academic course credits.
  2. Graduate certificate programs offered for academic credit: these programs are only offered at the post-baccalaureate level for academic graduate level course credits. Some of these graduate certificate programs can lead to licensure by an outside entity (e.g. teacher or administrator licensure). Those programs that require a baccalaureate degree for admission will be designated "Graduate Certificate Programs." Those certificate programs that require a master's degree either for admission or as part of the certificate process will be designated "Advanced Graduate Certificate Programs."

The following guidelines are related only to graduate certificate programs offered for academic credit.

Certificate Purposes - Graduate Certificate programs should be organized in order to meet one or more of the following education needs:

  1. Provide specialized professional training in a comparatively brief time frame,
  2. Provide specialized professional training that leads to licensure by an outside agency (e.g. teacher licensure, accountancy),
  3. Provide a curriculum that is more applied knowledge rather than research based, and/or
  4. Provide a curriculum that complements a particular graduate program.

Graduate Certificate programs should meet the Northwest Accreditation Standards; Standard 2 - Educational Program and Its Effectiveness

"Standard 2.A General Requirements: The institution offers collegiate level programs that culminate in identified student competencies and lead to degrees or certificates in recognized fields of study. The achievement and maintenance of high quality programs is the primary responsibility of an accredited institution; hence, the evaluation of educational programs and their continuous improvement is an ongoing responsibility. As conditions and needs change, the institution continually redefines for itself the elements that result in educational programs of high quality.

Standard 2.A.3: Degree and certificate programs demonstrate a coherent design; are characterized by appropriate breadth, depth, sequencing of courses, synthesis of learning, and the assessment of learning outcomes; and require the use of library and other information sources.

Standard 2.B Educational Program Planning and Assessment: Educational program planning is based on regular and continuous assessment of programs in light of the needs of the disciplines, the fields or occupations for which programs prepare students, and other constituencies of the institution.

Standard 2.B.2: The institution identifies and publishes the expected learning outcomes of each of its degree and certificate programs. Through regular and systematic assessment, it demonstrates that students who complete their programs, no matter where or how they are offered, have achieved these outcomes."

Therefore, Graduate Certificate Programs should have the following:

  1. A curriculum that is appropriate for its purpose in terms of breadth, depth, sequencing of courses and total number of credits. As a rule of thumb, those certificate programs that provide specialized professional training in a comparatively brief time frame provide a curriculum that is more applied knowledge than research, and/or provide a curriculum that complements a particular graduate program should offer a minimum of nine credits and not exceed 12-15 credits of course work. For those certificate programs that lead to licensure, the curriculum must be consistent with the outside agencies licensure requirements. All course work for a graduate certificate program must be at the graduate level. For graduate certificate programs (post-baccalaureate) the course work for the certificate should be completed within six years. For advanced graduate certificates, the course work for the certificate should be completed within eight years.
  2. A clear set of written policies regarding such matters as admissions and time to completion of the certificate.
  3. A clear written statement of the final result(s) goes on the university transcript: i.e., meeting state requirement for licensure; general professional development.
  4. An assessment plan for the learning outcomes of the certificate program.
  5. A plan for how the program is administered; who administers it, who provides staff support, how students are admitted, how will student progress towards completion of the certificate be tracked.
  6. Be housed in an academic department, graduate program or University of Nevada, Reno division.

Admissions policies - Admission to a graduate certificate program can either be:

  1. As a graduate special student - These students complete the university graduate special application and notify the program/department of their intent to complete the certificate program. The program/department recommends/does not recommend admission to the certificate program to the Graduate School. The Graduate School has the final decision on admission to the certificate program. When these students complete the graduate program certificate requirements (coursework, etc.) the program notifies the registrar's office, and the graduate program certificate is posted to the student's transcript. These students (graduate special students) do not need to meet the minimum requirements for admission to graduate school.

    Some students who are admitted as a graduate special student may decide after completing some/all of the credits for the certificate program that they wish to pursue a graduate degree. To do so, they must meet the minimum requirements for potential admission, apply to the graduate program and be admitted. If they are admitted, they may request that nine credits of their certificate work be applied to their degree. To apply more than nine credits of their certificate work towards the degree, they must submit the request for exception through their major advisor and the director of graduate studies for their graduate program, to the graduate dean who makes the final decision on the number of credits from the certificate program that can be applied to the degree.

    Successful completion of a graduate certificate is not viewed as a guaranteed means of entry into a graduate degree program. However, courses comprising a graduate certificate may be used as evidence in support of a student's application to a graduate degree program.
  2. There are two possible options for a graduate student admitted to a particular graduate program. First there may be certificate programs that are open only to graduate students admitted to a particular certificate program (e.g. nursing certificate programs). In these cases, the students must be admitted to that program to pursue that certificate program. In the second case, students would be admitted to a particular graduate program and pursue the certificate that may or may not be housed in, but complementary to their graduate studies (e.g. admitted to social psychology and pursuing the Bioethics graduate certificate). In either of these cases, the student must meet the minimum requirements for admission to graduate school and the requirements for maintaining regular graduate student status. The student must apply to the certificate program with the department/program. The department/program recommends/does not recommend admission to the Graduate School. The Graduate School makes the final decision on admission. When those students who are admitted complete the graduate program certificate requirements (coursework, etc.) the program notifies the registrar's office and the graduate program certificate is posted to the student's transcript.

Academic Requirements - To be awarded the certificate, the student must maintain a "B" 3.0 GPA in the courses/credits that constitute the certificate. A grade of C- or lower in a particular course is not counted towards completion of the certificate and if the course is required for the certificate, it must be repeated to earn a grade of C or better. In cases where a graduate student is a candidate for both a graduate degree and graduate certificate, it will be at the discretion of a student's advisory/examining committee whether or not any of the credit hours, up to a maximum of nine credits, earned toward a graduate certificate may be counted in the graduate degree program of study.

Procedures for approval of a new graduate certificate program or elimination of an existing graduate certificate program are described in sections 6,030; 6,042; and 6,045 and include review by the NPPP Committee, Graduate Council and UCCC.

Review of Graduate Certificate Programs - Graduate certificate programs, like all other instructional programs, go through regular program review. Typically, this occurs in conjunction with the program review of the academic department most responsible for the program.

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