Guidelines for Developing Certificate Programs Procedure

Guidelines for Developing Certificate Programs Procedure


Office of Academic Affairs


Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs





Effective Date:


Implementation History:

CUSP 1/29/2010; GSPC 2/10/2010: Revised 12/30/2013


Developing Certificate Programs

Background Information:


Certificate programs can become a significant tool in achieving our mission to serve adult learners.  Many students need short, focused educational programs for professional development, career advancement, re-tooling, or personal interest.  Certificate programs may serve as stepping-stones for students who later move into a degree program or as supporting courses for another higher education partner.  A certificate program is a focused group of studies or courses supporting learning objectives that meet the needs of a particular audience or profession. 



Principles and Implications

The university will register only one certificate at each level (graduate and undergraduate) with the same purpose and title. Undergraduate certificates are available university-wide, with the exception of those related to the Labor Studies AOS or to the B.S. in Nursing. Consequently, the team developing an undergraduate certificate proposal related to the remaining AOSs must work across centers and with relevant AOS groups. Graduate certificate proposals are developed by SGS, according to their curricular review process.

There is no prescribed number of credits for a certificate, but the number must be reasonable. Normally a certificate program at the undergraduate level will contain no more than 24 credits and at the graduate level will contain no more than 12. Studies or courses included in a certificate program must be applicable to a degree program. The credits must be accepted into the DP in the identified program AOS/concentration, should the student choose to matriculate. For an undergraduate certificate, the proposal must describe the link between AOS and concentration guidelines. For graduate programs, the proposal must define the placement of the credits within existing programs.

The studies or courses that comprise a certificate must make a coherent whole that can stand on its own. The certificate program is integrated and not simply a collection of courses or studies. Thus, certificate programs include overall learning objectives. The proposal makes integration methods explicit, identifies the learning objectives for the certificate and describes how the studies or courses within the program meet those objectives

Certificates are generally structured programs, but need not be lock-step. It is possible to offer students course/study options within a certificate as long as the linkage can be made between the options and overall program goals. Where appropriate, the certificate program can be designed to meet external standards.

Certificate Program Development Procedures

A certificate is a credential issued by SUNY in recognition of the completion of a credit-bearing curriculum other than one leading to a degree. The certificate award appears on the university transcript. The university must receive authorization from SUNY and the New York State Education Department (SED) to award a certificate. The SUNY and SED requirements for program proposals are specified in detail. Hence, the university reviews and approves certificate proposals through the relevant university governance structures. A sponsoring dean or designee normally takes the responsibility for moving a certificate proposal forward and ensuring appropriate consultation. Early consultation with colleagues, relevant deans and the Assistant Vice President for Academic Program Development (AVPAPD) is strongly encouraged.

As there are a number of approval steps, both internally and externally, the standard lead time is six months for review and consideration of certificate program proposals. Bear in mind the university's governance cycle.

Please review the appropriate steps and procedures for developing undergraduate and graduate certificate program concept papers and proposals found in the Handbook for the Review and Approval of New Academic Programs on the Academic Affairs website.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices