Undergraduate Certificates

Definition of a CLAS Undergraduate Certificate
Proposal Guidelines for a New Undergraduate Certificate
Approval Process
Making Significant Changes to a Certificate
Undergraduate Certificate Policies and Procedures

The guidelines below are for certificates for undergraduate students. For questions about graduate certificates, please confer with the CLAS Associate Dean for Graduate Education and with the Graduate College. 


An undergraduate certificate is a course of study requiring more credit hours than a CLAS minor (usually 15 s.h.) and substantially fewer than a CLAS major (around a minimum of 30 s.h.).

  • Most CLAS undergraduate certificates thus require a minimum of 18. s.h. and no more than 21 s.h.

Certificates offer an area of study or the development of specific related skills not offered by a major or a minor.

  • Duplication of topics must be avoided in any new certificate.

There tend to be two sub-categories of certificates:

  • Some certificates are highly interdisciplinary, exploring the intersections of modes of thinking while providing skills in analysis and problem solving from multiple perspectives, widening the student's knowledge and skills.
  • Other certificates offer an applied learning experience in a specific area, teaching students how to apply knowledge and skills to pragmatic situations.
  • Some certificates will be in both categories.

All certificates have clear learning outcomes and a curriculum that maps to those outcomes, guaranteeing that students have every opportunity to reach the related competencies. Some of these learning outcomes may duplicate those of other majors, minors, or certificates (such as those related to communication skills, e.g.) but at least some of the outcomes will speak to the unique nature of the certificate.

All proposed certificates must uphold the CLAS policies related to certificates outlined in the section below; please read that information before writing a proposal for a new certificate.

Proposal Guidelines for a New Undergraduate Certificate

Any new certificate must be approved by the College and by the Office of the Provost before it is entered into the UI General Catalog and implemented after the degree audit is created based on information in the Catalog. 

A newly approved certificate will receive approval for five years, with those administering the certificate asked to report on the certificate to the Undergraduate Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee in the third year after the approval of the certificate. In the fifth year, the College will review the certificate for renewal, reconfiguration, or discontinuation and will recommend to the Provost any changes deemed necessary.

Those faculty involved with certificates are also invited by CLAS to annual certificate meetings with others coordinating certificates, helping to create community and shared communication about certificates.

Proposals for new undergraduate certificates must include the information listed below:

  • The name of certificate and the date final draft of the proposal is submitted to CLAS
  • The administrative unit (such as department, school, or division) sponsoring the proposal
  • A contact person, including a phone number and email address
  • The proposed administrative home of the certificate, such as a department, school, or division.
  • A specific person who will coordinate the certificate.
  • An anticipated date that students could begin to declare the certificate if approved, noting that the traditional implementation date for any new CLAS major, minor, or certificate is the first day of the fall semester.
  • A specific rationale for the certificate, including the intended population it will most likely serve
  • Anticipated enrollment numbers from implementation year through year 5 of the certificate; include an explanation for the basis of the estimate.
  • The cost of offering the certificate as well as possible revenues to cover these costs.
  • The course requirements (18 to 21 s.h.) listed in table form with course numbers, course titles, semester hours, course description i.e., (short version used in the Catalog), any prerequisites, and number of times offered per year. NOTE: Generally, courses listed as part of the certificate should be offered at least once a year or at the most every other year. 
  • Learning outcomes for the certificate and a brief map of which required courses are aligned with the various outcomes. Generally one or two courses particularly focus on one or two of the outcomes; all courses may support these focus, with the designated courses as being the initial or primary location where student learn this knowledge or development specific skills.
  • Related standards, including required minimum GPAs (see section above for CLAS certificate standards)
  • Plans for advising students about certificate requirements
  • The plan for assessing the learning outcomes of the certificate
  • Advisory Board members. (Certificates that are interdisciplinary usually have an advisory board with key departments represented. If an advisory board is needed, indicate the members or indicate that these will be invited to serve when/if the certificate is approved. ) 
  • Faculty members who will teach required courses within the administrative home of the certificate and in other units.
  • Letters of support from departments  participating in the certificate or experts or other DEOs in a position to recommend the certificate's curriculum or purpose.
  • Plans for disseminating information about the certificate to the campus community and the population most likely to enroll in the certificate.

Approval Process

Because of the steps involved, it can take at least one year for a certificate to move from a draft proposal to final approval and to implementation.

One or more members of the group proposing the certificate should meet with the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and/or the Senior Associate Director for Curriculum and Instruction to discuss initial ideas and the procedures before completing the proposal. Additionally, those creating the certificate should be aware of the policies and standards related to certificates discussed in the section below.

When the Associate Dean agrees that a draft proposal is ready for further consideration, those proposing the certificate should ask for letters of support from related departments or other units or offices that are partners in the proposal and which will offer related course work. 

Once the proposal is completed, it will be placed on the agenda of the Undergraduate Educational Policy Committee and Curriculum Committee for discussion. UEPCC and related CLAS governance committees recommend action to the deans about proposals and other matters but the Dean makes any final decision related to the matter.

If significant resources are requested, the Executive Committee will also be consulted. 

Once the Undergraduate Educational Policy Committee and Curriculum Committee (and if needed, the Executive Committee) recommends to the  Dean (or to the Dean's delegate) the approval of the proposal, it will be moved to the Faculty Assembly for further discussion.

When a proposal is recommended for approval by the Faculty Assembly, the Dean of the College will determine when to forward the proposal to the Provost.

A new certificate may be implemented after approval by the Provost and after the entry of the requirements of the certificate into the General Catalog. Once the related degree audit has been built as based on the information in the Catalog, students may declare the certificate. The General Catalog contains the official requirements of any major, minor, or certificate. 

Approval of a new certificate by the Board of Regents is not required. 

Making Significant Changes to a Certificate

Significant changes to a certificate follow the same process as significant changes to a major.

Students are never held to requirements changed after the student has declared a certificate, major, or minor. If requirements are changed, students may choose to complete the new requirements but are not obligated to do so. A department making curricular changes should ensure that students understand their options.

Undergraduate Certificate Policies and Procedures

These policies and procedures apply to undergraduate certificates with their administrative home in CLAS and to any UI undergraduate student earning a certificate awarded by CLAS.

  • Students in CLAS may choose to earn a CLAS undergraduate certificate with or without earning or having earned a baccalaureate degree.
  • The requirements for a particular certificate are the same for all students, regardless of the student’s UI college affiliation--such as the student’s status as a degree-seeking undergraduate or as a student earning an online certificate only; as an off-campus student completing the program online or as a on-campus student. 
  • Students earning a CLAS certificate, regardless of their home college or degree-seeking status, are held to the same CLAS academic standards as all CLAS students, including the GPA standards and the probation and dismissal policies; the drop and add deadlines; the grading policies; the Code of Academic Honesty; and others.
  • No course taken Pass/Nonpass may be used as part of a certificate. Courses graded S/F may be used at the discretion of the offering department or program.

Standards for Awarding a Certificate
Students must earn a 2.00 in all UI certificate classes and a 2.00 in all UI classes to be awarded a certificate.

The GPA standard of 2.00 in all college work (i.e. the UI GPA including transfer work) needed for a CLAS baccalaureate will be applied only during the admission process.

Enforcement of Non-Duplication Rules
CLAS has never allowed students to earn duplicative credentials.

Obvious and traditional areas of duplication involving, for example, a minor and certificate with the same title or as having the same content as indicated by CLAS will continue to be monitored by the Registrar as well as by the College, with students never awarded both credentials.

Some interdisciplinary certificates may have very different names from related majors or minors, but may still have a substantial number of courses that overlap with other programs of study and thus are considered duplicative. In these cases, CLAS  may not allow students earning a related major to also earn that particular certificate. 

Role of Transfer Credit for Certificates
Transfer work will not be evaluated by Admissions for certificates nor will these courses or credits be added to the student’s record or degree audit by Admissions.

Students who have completed a requirement for a certificate at another institution and have proof of their accomplishment may request a waiver of the requirement from the department or unit offering the certificate. The department will notify the Graduation Analysis of the waiver.

The administrative home of the certificate sets the number of transfer credits accepted for a certificate. The College recommends that transfer credit should be limited to 3 s.h. as is the case for minors.

Mode of Offering
Some certificates use only face-to-face courses and are not available to distance learners. Other certificates use a variety of offering modes but with the primary goal of reaching on-campus students.

Some certificates are designed primary for distance learners with the course work offered only online but with on-campus students allowed to take these courses and to earn the certificate.

The mode of offering of a certificate might be in flux, but the policies and procedures for certificates remain the same.

Exclusion of Students in Graduate and Professional Programs
According to current UI Graduate School policy, students enrolled in a University of Iowa graduate or professional program may not earn an undergraduate certificate during this graduate enrollment except where exceptions have been made (such as in the case of Pharmacy students being allowed to earn the undergraduate Global Health Certificate) and approved by the Graduate School. Questions may be directed to the Graduate College.

Students in a UI graduate or professional program may earn an undergraduate certificate before or after the completion of a graduate or professional program.

Students enrolled in a non-UI graduate or professional program may earn the certificate while enrolled in the graduate or professional program but should be advised that the certificate is considered to be at the undergraduate level.

Conferral of Certificate Award
Most students will earn the certificate at the same time as the baccalaureate degree, with these awarded using the current process. That is, when applying for graduation, the certificate earned will be included on the degree application by the student.

A student who enrolls and completes the certificate as an online learner without earning a baccalaureate will be awarded the certificate when completed. Degree-seeking students who leave UI before earning a degree may be awarded the certificate but must notify the Registrar of the earned certificate. The Registrar will develop the following process for these requests. Each semester the Registrar will send certificate advisors and/or certificate coordinators a link to a form for requesting that a certificate be conferred without the degree. A student must complete the form and submit it to the Registrar; the Registrar will check to make sure all requirements are completed and will then add the certificate to the transcript. The Registrar is currently creating an online form to facilitate this process.

Admissions Policies and Procedures for CLAS Certificates: Non-Degree Seeking Students
Students not already admitted to UI but wanting to earn a certificate without a degree apply to CLAS as a non-degree seeking student.

Students entering as non-degree students will be asked by Admissions if their intent is to declare a certificate.
Distance learners seeking to complete a certificate online without being on-campus should be advised to also declare the appropriate program of study with the online qualifier.

Students may enroll for three consecutive semesters under the non-degree seeking status and then must reapply.
International students must present the appropriate TOEFL score for admission.

Students with the AA or AS Degree
Students with an Associate of Arts (AA) Degree from an Iowa community college or Waldorf College must have a cumulative transfer GPA of 2.00 or higher on acceptable graded credit from all colleges attended (AA holders from Black Hawk College in Illinois must have a cumulative transfer GPA of 2.25 or higher from all colleges attended).

Students with an Associate of Science (AS) Degree from an Iowa community college must have a cumulative transfer GPA of 2.00 or higher on acceptable graded credit from all colleges attended.

Students with 24 s.h. of Transfer Work
Students who have taken course work at another college must present a cumulative grade-point average of 2.50 or higher if they have taken at least 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of acceptable graded credit.

Students with Fewer than 24 s.h. of Transfer Work
Students with fewer than 24 semester hours will be considered for admission as a non-degree seeking student based on a combination of high school and college academic records, as well as ACT or SAT scores

High School Students
Students in high school who wish to apply to the University as a non-degree seeking student must have a cumulative grade-point average (GPA) of 3.50 or higher with the GPA reported each semester to Admissions.

Note: High school students will declare two programs of study, the High School program of study (POS) and the specific certificate POS so that the students may be tracked and offered advising for the certificate.

Transcripts and Transfer GPAs Once Admitted
A student will submit the initial transcript showing that the required admission GPA is met according to the type of admission status sought (such as a non-degree seeking student in high school which requires the 3.50).

A student concurrently enrolled as an undergraduate in another institution of higher education will not be asked to send transcripts each year or semester to verify this GPA. The GPA at the time of admission will suffice except for those students also currently in high school.

High school students will continue to send transcripts and be held to the high school student standard to allow continuing enrollment in UI and CLAS as is now the practice.

Students Returning to CLAS to Earn a Degree
Students returning to CLAS after earning a certificate without a degree likewise may not earn a duplicative certificate, minor, or major on their return.

Currently, CLAS allows returning students who have previously earned a minor or certificate to drop that award and apply the credit hours to the new program of study (i.e. if duplication is involved and a drop is necessary for this reason). This policy remains in effect.

Tuition for Online Certificates
Students who are admitted to CLAS with the purpose of pursuing a certificate online (such the Certificate in Writing) are charged tuition according to the Liberal Arts and Sciences tuition rate with the technology fee added. The other fees are not charged. The rates are currently the same for both resident and non-resident students. (For current rates, see https://www.maui.uiowa.edu/maui/pub/tuition/rates.page).