Question: What Are the Admissions Requirements for Graduate Certificates Programs?
Updated: June 9, 2022
Answer: Admissions policies, procedures, and eligibility requirements for graduate certificate programs vary by school and by program. However, most graduate certificate programs require applicants to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. In addition, programs may request that candidates submit other admissions materials, such as standardized test scores (GRE or GMAT), letters of reference or recommendation, and/or a personal goals statement or essay. Some programs may prefer candidates who have one or more years of professional experience and/or and undergraduate GPA that meets specific minimum requirements, such as a 3.0 on a four-point scale. There are also post-master’s graduate certificate programs that require applicants to hold a minimum of a master’s degree in the certificate program’s area of study. Post-master’s graduate certificate programs are generally offered in fields in which a master’s degree is required for professional licensure or certification, such as nursing and counseling.
Graduate certificate programs are commonly offered by schools that also offer graduate degree programs and are typically administered by faculty who oversee the school’s master’s and/or doctoral degree programs in the same field as the certificate program. As a result, the admissions process for graduate certificate programs and for graduate degree programs can be quite similar, and some schools even require applicants to submit the same application. However, admissions requirements may be different as well. Some schools and departments may only require applicants to their certificate programs to have a bachelor’s degree and a minimum undergraduate GPA, while others may only require a bachelor’s degree, a personal statement, and a resume.
In general, many graduate certificate programs have less stringent admissions requirements and are less selective compared to master’s and doctoral degree programs. For example, while some schools require that master’s program candidates submit scores from the Graduate Record Examinations General Test (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or Miller Analogies Test (MAT), many schools forgo this requirement for candidates who are applying to graduate certificate programs. In addition, the minimum undergraduate GPA threshold for admissions to a graduate certificate program may be lower than the threshold for a master’s program in the same field. Furthermore, letters of recommendation, which are a typical admissions requirement for master’s and doctoral degree programs, may not be required for admission to graduate certificate programs at certain institutions. As admission requirements for master’s, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs differ by school and specialization, prospective students should always consult an admissions representative at their programs of interest for the most details and up-to-date information.
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Components of Graduate Certificate Programs Admissions
The baseline requirement for admission to most graduate certificate programs is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Some certificate programs may have undergraduate prerequisites that applicants must complete prior to enrolling in the program, while others are designed for students with an undergraduate degree or several years of professional experience in a particular discipline or field. There are also post-master’s graduate certificate programs that require applicants to hold a master’s degree, typically a specific type of master’s degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a master’s in education or teaching. Programs designed for students whose highest level of academic attainment is a bachelor’s degree are commonly referred to as post-baccalaureate certificate programs; programs designed for students who hold a minimum of a master’s degree are designated as post-master’s certificate programs.
One key difference between graduate certificate programs and graduate degree programs is that degree programs typically have more stringent and competitive admissions requirements than do many certificate programs. Graduate certificate programs, as noted above, commonly do not require the submission of standardized test scores, have lower GPA requirements, and may or may not require applicants to submit any additional materials beyond undergraduate program academic transcripts. If a graduate certificate program requests or requires that applicants submit additional materials, those materials general consist of one or more of the following: a professional resume detailing relevant work experience; two or three letters of recommendation or academic/professional references; and/or a written essay or personal goals statement.
Examples of Graduate Certificate Program Admissions Requirements
As noted above, admissions requirements for graduate certificate programs vary by school and by program. The examples below are meant to illustrate this point and to provide a representative overview of a number of different approaches to evaluating candidates for admission to graduate certificate programs.
Johns Hopkins University (JHU) offers a number of graduate certificate programs through its Advanced Academic Programs with courses that are offered on-campus and online. Among the programs offered by JHU are post-baccalaureate certificate programs in Biotechnology Education and Biotechnology Enterprise, and a post-master’s certificate program in Quantitative Methods in Applied Economics. The Biotechnology Education certificate program requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree and have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a four-point scale. A bachelor’s degree in a life science is recommended, and applicants who hold a teaching certification and some experience teaching secondary school science are preferred. The Biotechnology Enterprise certificate program, in contrast, requires only a bachelor’s degree and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0. The post-master’s certificate in Quantitative Methods in Applied Economics, however, requires applicants to hold a master’s degree in economics or statistics and to submit a 250-word statement of purpose, contact information for two references, and a one-page resumé with transcripts from their bachelor’s and master’s programs.
Arizona State University (ASU) has over two dozen certificate programs that are offered through ASU Online, including an online Addiction and Substance-Use Related Disorders graduate certificate program and an online Non-Profit Leadership and Management graduate certificate program. The programs have slightly different admissions requirements. Applicants to the Addiction and Substance-Use Related Disorders program are required to have a bachelor’s degree in a health or behavioral science field or a master’s degree in a health sciences or counseling field, and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. In addition to transcripts, applicants are asked to furnish one letter of recommendation and a written personal statement. The Non-Profit Leadership and Management program will consider applicants who hold a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in any field provided they have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, and requires the submission of three letters of reference and a personal goals statement.
George Mason University (GMU) offers an online graduate certificate in Science Communication program that requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Candidates for admission are asked to submit a personal goals statement and two letters of recommendation, along with their resumé and college transcripts. GMU also offers a Nursing Education graduate certificate that is designed for Registered Nurses (RNs) who have completed or are in the process of completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing program. Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation from nursing supervisors or colleagues who hold an MSN degree, as well as a 750- to 1000-word personal goals statement.
Note: Potential applicants to graduate certificate programs should review each program’s application procedures and admissions requirements carefully prior to submitting an application in order to optimize their chance of acceptance.
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