Academic Council

Authorizes Release:

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Responsible Area:

Academic Affairs

Review Cycle:

Annually or as required

Last Review:

October 2019

Related Policies and Additional References:


These guidelines are intended to increase uniformity at St. Mary’s University in the use of the terms for certificate programs and related non-degree programs, and to set guidelines for the development and management of academic certificate programs. Three broad types of programs are distinguished: (1) workshops and short courses; (2) non-academic credit certificate programs; and (3) academic certificate programs. Any exceptions to these categories or policies should be approved through Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Workshops and short courses, non-academic certificate programs, and academic certificate programs are a rapidly growing form of higher education that can be especially useful in giving working adults the skills and knowledge they need to advance their professional development as well as meeting specialized interests of our students. These guidelines are intended to support St. Mary’s commitment to meeting the needs of our students and our community in a manner consistent with the mission of the University.

Workshops and short courses are not considered certificate programs. They do not carry academic credit and typically involve 20 or fewer classroom hours. A document is generally issued at the completion of the program that lists the courses completed, the dates of the courses, and number of continuing education units (CEUs) earned. This document does not represent proof of completion of a certificate program, an evaluation of the student’s level of performance during the program, or a certification of attainment of any specific level of knowledge or competence. Documents presented to students completing these workshops or short courses must not 1) resemble a St. Mary’s diploma, 2) bear a St. Mary’s graduation date, or 3) contain the words “certificate” or “diploma.” A record of the student’s participation and attendance in the workshop or short course is maintained by the Registrar’s Office and the Professional Development Programs/Continuing Studies Office.

Non-academic credit certificate programs are generally professional development programs that involve more than 20 classroom hours. A certificate showing classroom hours or continuing education units (CEUs) is awarded at the completion of each program. Non-academic credit certificate programs are offered in coordination with St. Mary’s Professional Development Programs/Continuing Studies Office or through school specific programs. Admissions requirements and standards may vary by program. No academic credit will be awarded for these programs unless the student is accepted into one of the three Applied Degree programs available through St. Mary’s Evening Studies Accelerated Programs in which case up to 30 hours from the non-academic certificate program can be transferred, if appropriate, toward the applied degree. Academic record or enrollment verification is generally maintained by the Registrar’s Office. Records that provide an assessment of competence, a record of course work taken, or confirmation of program course work will be maintained by the Professional Development/Continuing Studies Office. Any documents issued cannot bear a St. Mary’s graduation date, resemble a St. Mary’s diploma, or contain the word “diploma.”

Academic certificate programs provide substantial education at either the graduate or undergraduate level. The programs center on a coherent and relatively free-standing body of knowledge and skills, and their completion, therefore, represents the achievement of competence in a well-defined domain. Records of course work and program completion must be maintained by the Registrar’s Office and show on the student’s official St. Mary’s transcript. The director of the certificate program is responsible for assuring successful completion of certificate requirements and awards the certificate document.

An academic certificate program can be:

  • A free-standing program that bears little resemblance to existing degree programs (for example, a new interdisciplinary program or an attempt to test the market to determine whether a new degree program will succeed);
  • A subset of courses offered as part of an existing curriculum for a degree program; and/or
  • A credential for students who elect not to finish a degree in which they enrolled.

There are five general categories of academic certificate programs recognized at St. Mary’s: undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate, post-master’s, and law.

The curriculum requirements for both the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate certificate programs include undergraduate-level course work. The difference between the two programs is in admissions requirements: the post-baccalaureate certificate program requires, at a minimum, an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution as a prerequisite for admission, while the undergraduate certificate requires, at a minimum, a high school diploma or equivalent. Other admission requirements for the certificate programs may be developed.

Graduate and post-master’s certificate programs are composed of graduate-level course work.

Applicants to graduate certificate programs must have successfully completed, at a minimum, an undergraduate degree prior to admission into the certificate program; post-master’s certificate programs require, at a minimum, successful completion of a master’s degree prior to admission. Other admission requirements for the certificate program may be developed.

Law certificate programs are composed of graduate-level and law school courses. At a minimum, successful completion of an undergraduate degree and admission into the St. Mary’s Law School are requirements for a law certificate. Other admission requirements for the law certificate programs may be developed.

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