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Graduate certificates offered by the University of Missouri are credentials that verify the successful completion of a specified group of graduate courses designed to provide proficiency in a given discipline or a set of related disciplines.
A graduate certificate may represent a more practice-oriented subset of an existing graduate discipline, an interdisciplinary area of concentration, and/or an area of specialization.

Graduate certificate programs are developed by MU faculty and each certificate must adhere to the Graduate Faculty Senate’s requirements. All certificate proposals are required to demonstrate a need for such a program (e.g., market and educational needs) and offer a clear and appropriate educational objective.

Creation of Graduate Certificate Programs

Graduate certificate programs may be created as:
  1. Part of one or more graduate degree programs
  2.  A stand-alone graduate certificate program independent of a degree program
  3. Both of the above

A post-baccalaureate, non-degree seeking student may enroll in a stand alone certificate program as long as the admission standards for the certificate are met. Graduate certificate programs’ admission requirements may exceed the minimum admission requirements set by the Graduate Faculty Senate and verified by the Graduate School.

Review, Approval, & Notification

MU’s Graduate Faculty Senate, in conjunction with the Dean, completes the initial review of all new graduate certificates. Once approved by Graduate Faculty Senate, graduate certificates are reviewed by the highest levels of MU’s academic administration – the Offices of the Provost and the Chancellor.

If approved by these two offices, graduate certificates are subject to review by the University of Missouri System’s Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs. If approved by the UM System’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, graduate certificates are subjected to the final review of the Missouri Department of Higher Education. If approved by the Missouri Department of Higher Education, graduate certificates are submitted individually to the U.S. Department of Education for approval of federal financial aid eligibility.

Because graduate certificates are derived from currently offered degree programs and received appropriate approval from the Missouri Department of Higher Education, MU’s regional accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), indicated that “if the certificates are derived from currently offered degree programs then there does not to be a Commission review” (K. Solomon, 2008, personal communication).

Availability of Student Financial Aid Differs by Certificate Type

Students enrolled in degree-dependent graduate certificate programs are eligible for federal financial aid. Students only enrolled in stand-alone graduate certificates are potentially eligible for federal financial aid. However, students enrolled only in a stand-alone graduate certificates are not eligible for funding such as scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and  tuition waivers from the Graduate School or the University of Missouri.

Guidelines for Submitting Proposals

Each proposal must be accompanied by a coversheet, which includes the signed endorsement of the director(s) of graduate school, department chair(s)/director(s), and academic unit dean(s). In addition, proposals should demonstrate endorsement from the department chairs and deans of the schools in which the contributing course work is housed, as well as from those academic units whose students or programs could be affected by the creation of the new graduate certificate program. New graduate certificate programs conducted with other universities must be endorsed by the collaborating departments at the other institution. The title of any graduate certificate program may or may not contain the word “certificate,” depending on the tradition in the discipline proposing the program.

Each proposal must explain a demonstrated need for such a certificate program. This provision may be defined in terms of either external markets (i.e., external demand for the skill associated with such a certificate) or internal academic needs (i.e., the need for a critical mass of students in a given discipline or specialization). Proposals must also address the question of the impact of the graduate certificate program on any related degree program at MU. 

The proposed sequence of course work must offer a clear and appropriate educational objective at the graduate level. Proposals must include (1) a list of all courses approved for the certificate program, (2) the number of semesters required to complete the certificate, (3) a demonstration that the courses will be offered when graduate certificate program participants will need to enroll in them, and (4) a sample plan of study.

A graduate certificate program requires a minimum of 12 hours of graduate credit at the 7000, 8000 and/or 9000* level. Certificates can be no more than 30 credit hours (N.B., 30 hours is the minimum for a master’s degree). However, the majority of graduate certificates require 12 or 15 hours. Courses must be chosen from a list of core courses approved for each particular graduate certificate program. Research hours are not applicable to graduate certificate programs, nor are courses numbered 1000-6999.

Each proposal shall include a clear indication of the management structure for the proposed graduate certificate program, including (1) a designated director, who will provide administrative oversight, including but not limited to, accepting participants, maintaining participants’ files, and assessing participants’ progress toward completion of the certificate program; (2) an advisory committee, which may include representation from the professional, business, or government sectors that the program is designed to serve; and (3) a current listing of participating faculty members.

Each proposal must include a description of (1) the graduate certificate program’s capacity for adequate advising of students; (2) the measures and procedures to be used to annually evaluate the program; and (3) the resources (e.g., faculty, space, and equipment) available to successfully implement and maintain the graduate certificate program.

Checklist for Submitting Graduate Certificate Proposals

  • Coversheet with necessary signatures
  • Clear statement of the educational objective
  • Indication of whether the proposed certificate is stand alone, for those seeking degrees, or both
  • Explanation of a demonstrated need
  • Assessment of impact on existing graduate degree programs
  • Course work list, noting required versus elective courses and minimum credit hours needed
  • Sample plan of study
  • Number of semesters required to complete the certificate
  • Explanation of the management structure:
    • Director’s name, campus address, email address, and phone number
    • Names of advisory committee members and their respective affiliations
    • List of participating faculty members and their respective affiliations
  • A blank Plan of Study Form, with at least the information on the linked sample

Send the requested documents in c/o of Anita Cowan, Graduate School, 210 Jesse Hall and e-mail an electronic copy of the approved proposal ().

*Amended and Approved at the January 29, 2002 and October 28, 2008 Graduate Faculty Senate Meeting

Five-year review of graduate certificates

As part of the on-going academic program reviews conducted by the Office of the Provost, all departments and programs, including all graduate certificate programs, will undergo a review every five years. Continuation will be awarded in five-year intervals provided each program shows student interest, instructional and advisory capacity, and financial viability.

Review Packet

Embedded within the department’s five-year program review, the department should demonstrate how the certificate program is meeting the needs indicated in the initial proposal. It should contain the following elements in the order listed, unless other guidance is received from the Office of the Provost:
  • Original Approved Proposal: This document contains the basic background about the certificate need, populations served, etc. Therefore, it is not necessary to restate this information in a separate document.
  • Overview of Certificate Program’s Status: A brief, one-page narrative should give the status of the certificate program, explaining how it is meeting its objectives and making the case for its continuation. Use the participant data to address the impact of the program. For instance, is the program attracting new students to graduate school; seeing increased enrollment in related graduate programs upon certificate completion; providing additional or interdisciplinary preparation for existing students; realizing relatively high completion rates? If a certificate program has only been marginally or not successful to date, a plan of action should be included, if the program is continue. For informed review, if the certificate program has deviated significantly from the original proposal, the narrative should note this variation.
  • Participant Data: In tabular format, information regarding the students the program has served should be presented. Categories of particular interest are the number of students that enrolled every semester in the program and the number of students who complete the program by semester.
  • Due Date: See Departmental Program Review cycle established by the Office of the Provost.
Amended and approved at the January 29, 2002 Graduate Faculty Senate Meeting

Curriculum Changes for an Approved Graduate Certificate Program

To make changes to an approved graduate certificate program, the Certificate Director should submit a detailed justification for the proposed change. From the documentation, it should be clear that all involved departments/units/divisions endorse the proposed change. In the case of course additions, a syllabus for the new course should be included with the materials.

To accommodate specific student needs, occasional single-course substitutions to the certificate Plan of Study do not require this approval process be utilized. However, routine course substitutions indicate the necessity for updating the certificate, and the process should be initiated by the Certificate Director, as soon as such a need is identified.

Minor changes to graduate certificate programs (e.g., addition or deletion of one or two courses, changes to the capstone) must include a new Plan of Study and are reviewed and approved by the Graduate School. Major changes must be reviewed and approved by the unit and college curriculum processes and the Graduate Faculty Senate, in conjunction with the Dean of the Graduate School. Once approved by Graduate Faculty Senate, graduate certificates are reviewed by the highest levels of MU’s academic administration – the Offices of the Provost and the Chancellor.

Send the requested documents in c/o of Anita Cowan (), Graduate School, 210 Jesse Hall.