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Certificate Program Guidelines

Graduate Council Policies

The areas of study for the graduate certificates are created within the mission of graduate education. Students will be awarded certificates upon completion of specific course work, approved by the Graduate Council. The graduate certificate is not defined as a degree by the Graduate School; rather, it is a focused collection of courses that, when completed, affords the student some record of distinct academic accomplishment in a given discipline or set of related disciplines. Moreover, the graduate certificate is not viewed as a guaranteed means of entry into a graduate degree program. While the courses comprising a graduate certificate may be used as evidence in support of a student’s application for admission to a degree program, the certificate itself is not considered to be a prerequisite.

Process of Approval for New Graduate Certificates

Proposals for new areas of study for graduate certificates are created and submitted by the academic unit that wishes to offer such a certificate. Proposals must be accompanied by endorsement from the department heads and deans of the colleges/schools in which the contributing course work is offered as well as from the academic unit or units whose students or degree programs could be impacted by the creation of the graduate certificate. The Graduate Council will consider all the proposals for new graduate certificates to assure proposal guidelines have been followed and that repetition and redundancy across areas of study for certificates are not evident. Those meeting the criteria set forth by Graduate Council will then be recommended to Faculty Senate and the Provost for approval.

Criteria for Approval

The general principles applied to the assessment of the academic quality of proposals for new graduate areas of study for certificates include:

  • The proposed curriculum must offer a clear and appropriate educational objective at the graduate level.
  • The proposed sequence of courses must express a clear educational objective to be achieved in an efficient and defined manner.
  • All courses must be graduate level (numbered 500 or higher) and taught by members of the Graduate Faculty.
  • Graduate certificates must require 9 or more credits.  If a graduate certificate requires fewer than 15 credits, then at least 9 of the required credits must be earned in courses numbered 600 or higher.
  • A perceived need for such a certificate should exist. This provision might be defined in terms of either external markets (e.g., external demand for the skills associated with such a certificate) or internal academic needs (e.g., the need for a critical mass of students in a given discipline).
  • If the area of study for a certificate requires new courses, those courses must be approved by the Faculty Senate Course Approval process.
  • Proposals should be submitted following the Faculty Senate Program Approval Guidelines. Upon approval, the Graduate School will update its documentation and procedures to include the new certificate.

Steps to Approval

  • Submit proposal via the online Course and Curriculum Management System
  • Proposals are routed electronically to the participating department chairs/directors and deans for approval
  • Approved proposals are then routed for approval to the Graduate Council Academic Standards and Curriculum committee
  • If approved by the Academic Standards and Curriculum committee Subcommittee, the proposal is sent to the full Graduate Council for final approval
  • If approved by Graduate Council, the proposal is then sent to the Faculty Senate for its approval
  • If approved, the proposal is sent to the Provost Office for its final approval

Student Eligibility and Admission Criteria

Students must apply and be accepted into the graduate certificate area of study to be eligible to receive a certificate. The prerequisites and general criteria of eligibility for admission to any graduate certificate area of study include:

  • An earned baccalaureate degree or enrollment in a UMass Amherst graduate academic degree program.
  • The requirements for admission are set by each graduate area of study, including minimum grade point average, standardized test scores, and other similar criteria as part of the application.
  • Students who wish to pursue approved graduate certificates must be admitted to that certificate program. Students may pursue more than one certificate but must be admitted separately to each certificate program.
  • Certificate-seeking students not currently enrolled in a degree-granting graduate program will be classified as non-degree graduate students.  The Graduate School will note successful completion of a certificate on the student’s transcript upon completion.
  • Students pursuing a graduate certificate will be required to meet the same academic requirements as those defined for degree-seeking students to remain in “good standing”.
  • All graduate certificate students must meet all prerequisites for courses in which they wish to enroll. Should a graduate certificate student subsequently apply and be accepted to a degree-granting program, up to 15 hours of UMass Amherst credit earned as a graduate certificate student may be applied to satisfy graduate degree requirements. Any application of such credit must be approved by the program/department and must be appropriate to the program.

Graduate Certificate Requirements

Minimum criteria to receive a graduate certificate:

  • Students must have received a bachelor's degree prior to completing the certificate requirements.
  • Students must successfully complete certificate requirements as established by the academic department and University.
  • Students must submit a completion form. Degree-seeking students must submit this form before graduating from their degree program. Non-degree-seeking students must submit this form no later than one semester after completing their certificate course work.