Chapter 5: Certificates
Chapter 5: Certificates
- 5.1 Overview
- 5.2 Creating a New Certificate
- 5.3 Revising a Certificate
- 5.4 Deleting a Certificate
Certificates are a way to recognize student achievement for students who are not pursuing an Associate Degree or who are taking noncredit coursework. Credit certificate programs can be oriented towards either career or general education. Noncredit certificate programs generally can be designed to prepare students to progress in a career path or to prepare for degree-applicable or nondegree-applicable coursework.
A Certificate of Achievement is a sequence of courses
consisting of 18 or more units of degree-applicable coursework.
Certificates of Achievement must be approved by the Curriculum
Committee and the State Chancellor’s Office. Students who successfully
petition for a Certificate of Achievement will have the name of the
certificate appear on their transcript.
A Certificate of Accomplishment is a sequence of courses
consisting of fewer than 18 units of degree-applicable coursework.
Certificates of Accomplishment must be approved by the Curriculum
Committee but do not need State Chancellor Office’s approval. Students
who successfully petition for a Certificate of Accomplishment will not
have the name of the certificate appear on their transcript.
Note: it is possible to submit certificates of 12-18 units to the State Chancellor’s Office for approval as a Certificate of Achievement. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction for details.
A Certificate of Completion is a sequence of courses designed
to prepare students to progress in a career path or to undertake
degree-applicable or non-degree applicable credit courses.
A Certificate of Competency is a sequence of courses preparing students to demonstrate achievement in a set of competencies that prepares the student to progress in a career path or to undertake degree-applicable or non-degree applicable credit courses.
Both types of noncredit certificates require approval by the
Curriculum Committee and the State Chancellor’s Office. Contact the
Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction for details.
Students pursuing a credit certificate of 16 or more units, or a
noncredit certificate of 600 or more total hours, may be able to
receive financial aid while they are pursuing the certificate. Contact
the Dean of Financial Aid for details.
An important initial step in creating a new certificate is to
identify the student learning outcomes for that certificate. The
student learning outcomes should be broad and should drive the
decision as to which courses to include in the certificate.
Consider the following when creating learning outcomes:
- Learning outcomes should be assessable. As part of the student
learning outcome process you will need to assess these learning
outcomes, evaluate the results, and plan and implement changes to
the program as a result of this assessment.
outcomes should be level-appropriate. Credit certificates should use
primarily Cognitive Verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy. Noncredit
certificates can use Affective and Psychomotor verbs. (See SLO
- Learning outcomes should be outcomes.
Avoid phrases like “develop” or “learn”; use verbs from Bloom’s
Once you have developed the overall learning outcomes for the certificate, the next step is to map the individual learning outcomes down to the Course Student Learning Outcomes and up to the Institutional Learning Outcomes level. The goal is to demonstrate alignment in both directions. For mapping instructions, refer to help provided in the Program Module of CurricUNET.
As you do this mapping process you may find that certain learning
outcomes you think are important are not directly covered in any of
your courses or are only covered in an optional elective. You may
decide that it is necessary to adjust the outlines of some of your
courses so that the proposed courses fully address your desired
Finally, remember that the assessment of program-level learning outcomes will be an ongoing effort in your department. Once you have created the program, received approval, had students enroll and complete the program, assessed your learning outcomes, and analyzed the results, you may find that changes to the courses in your program, or changes to the structure of the program itself, are necessary.
There is no Title 5 requirement or City College policy on minimum
grades for courses taken towards a certificate program. Absent a
departmental requirement, it is possible for students to apply towards
a certificate courses in which they received a final grade of D.
Departments creating or revising a certificate are encouraged to establish a requirement of a grade of C or higher for each course in a certificate program, noting that requirement in the catalog description of the certificate. Using an overall GPA requirement of 2.0 instead of a grade requirement can be problematic, since a student could still apply courses in which they received a D if there were other courses that raised the overall GPA. Using an overall GPA requirement above 2.0 is also problematic, since student are normally prevented from repeating courses in which they received a satisfactory grade, so that a student who received a C in a course would not be able to improve his/her grade to qualify for the certificate.
Pass/No Pass Grades
Courses that can be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis may be included in
a certificate program. Departments may wish to consider whether they
want to allow students to use grades of Pass, or if they want to limit
how many courses can be taken Pass/No Pass. Any such limitation should
be noted in the catalog description when the certificate is created or
Note that limiting the number of Pass/No Pass grades allowed may
make it difficult for some students to earn the certificate: a grade
of Pass is a satisfactory grade, equivalent to a C, and students are
limited in their ability to retake course in which they received a
satisfactory grade. Furthermore, once a student has elected to take a
course on a Pass/No Pass basis and the deadline for this election has
passed, s/he cannot revert back to a letter grade.
Many of our students take courses on a part-time basis, and so it is
conceivable that it will take several years for a student to complete
the requirements of a certificate program. Departments may find that a
student is able to use a course they took many years ago towards the
completion of a certificate program. Depending on the nature of the
course, this may or may not be reasonable. Departments may wish to
consider recency requirements for their certificates. Any such
limitation should be noted in the catalog description of the
certificate when the certificate is created or revised.
While there are limits on students retaking courses in which they
have received a passing grade, both Title 5 regulation and City
College policy allow for students to retake courses when a
“significant lapse of time” has elapsed. City College policy allows
departments to determine what constitutes a “significant lapse of
Departments should also consider recency and certificate
requirements when revising courses. For example, consider a course in
which there has been a significant shift in the underlying technology
used in the course. If the department revised the course outline to
reflect this shift, it is conceivable for students who took an older
version of the course to use it towards the requirement of the
certificate. Alternatively, departments may wish to create a new
course, phase out the old course, and revise the certificate
requirements so that the nature of the certificate that a student is
receiving is clear.
Limitations on Outside Coursework
The Associate Degree has a residency requirement:
The student may satisfy the residence requirement for
by completing at City College of San Francisco the last 12 of
the 60 degree applicable semester units required for graduation,
by completing a minimum of 45 degree applicable semester units
at City College of San Francisco.
No such residency requirement exists for certificate programs.
Departments creating or revising certificate programs may wish to make
clear in their catalog description how many non-CCSF courses students
can use towards a certificate.
As noted above, creating a new certificate may require approval at
several levels. To minimize the complexity of this process,
departments should be aware of the entire process before
Approval by the Curriculum Committee is just the first step in this
process. Once approved by the Curriculum Committee, a new certificate
must then be approved by the Board of Trustees. For Certificates of
Accomplishment, approval by the Board of Trustees is the final level
of approval. For all others, further approval is required.
For Certificates of Achievement, the certificate must be approved by
the regional consortium (if CTE in nature), and then finally by the
State Chancellor’s Office. The paperwork required varies based on
whether a department already has a similar approved program, and also
on the size of the program. Departments are encouraged to meet with
the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction early in the process to
review the components of this application. Completed applications that
have been accepted at the State Chancellor’s office are available in
the Curriculum Office for reference.
As noted above, credit certificates under 18 units can be approved
locally as Certificates of Accomplishment, without approval by the
State Chancellor’s Office. However, optional state approval is
available for credit certificates between 12-18 units. Certificates
between 12-18 units that are state approved are then designated as
Certificates of Achievement and can be posted on transcripts. The
approval for low-unit certificates requires many of the same elements
as higher-unit certificates, although the application is somewhat
truncated. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction for
more information about this process.
For Certificates of Completion or Competency, the final level of
approval is at the State Chancellor’s Office. Unlike credit
certificates, the application for approval of noncredit certificates
is much less complex and can typically be done by Curriculum Office
staff in consultation with the originating department
Catalog Description of the Certificate
- Name of the Certificate
- Description of the
Certificate, including Learning Outcomes
and optional courses, with units (credit courses) or hours
- Total number of units (credit courses) or hours (noncredit courses)
The following examples demonstrate different ways in which you can choose to group program requirements (courses and non-course requirements or electives):
Consider the following when preparing this document:
The description should include general information about the program
of study and the transfer and/or occupational prospects of students
who complete the program.
- Clearly define the student learning outcomes with active verbs. Ensure they are assessable and map to Institutional and Course Student Learning Outcomes.
- Clearly define the
required and optional courses for the certificate. Do not use
phrases like “or equivalent course.” Instead, list any course
- In general, the courses
listed in a certificate must include any prerequisite courses. In
some instances it is possible to create program prerequisites.
Departments considering program prerequisites should consult with
the Matriculation Office before proceeding.
- If a proposed major includes coursework from another department or could overlap the programmatic offerings of another department, departments should engage in conversations with that department, get agreement that the course is acceptable, and describe the conversation in CurricUNET.
Program Learning Outcomes Mapping
In addition to the program description, the department must also map upwards and downwards showing alignment of Course Student Learning Outcomes to the Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes and Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes to Institutional Student Learning Outcomes. Help is provided through the Program Module of CurricuNET.
All new certificates will first go through Technical Review once a
proposal has been submitted through CurricUNET.
Avoiding Common Errors
When preparing these documents, be sure to mind the following:
- Double-check the total units for the certificate, making sure they’ve been summed accurately.
Supplemental Approval Information
Departments proposing credit certificates requiring State
Chancellor’s Office approval must also prepare a document with
supplemental approval information. Developing this document is
essential to smooth approval by the State Chancellor’s Office.
Career Technical Goal
Departments proposing a new certificate to support career technical
goals have different amounts of documentation to complete based on
whether they already have a State Chancellor’s Office-approved
certificate or credit Certificate of Achievement in a similar
In general, “similar area” is defined as having an approved credit
program with the same four-digit TOP code. For example, if the
Business Department had an approved Certificate of Achievement in
Accounting (TOP code 0502.00), and they wanted to develop a
certificate in Tax Preparation (TOP Code 0502.10), that would be
considered similar. Alternatively, if they wanted to develop a
certificate in Business Administration (TOP code 0505.00), that would
not be considered similar.
Departments proposing a new certificate that have a
previously-approved certificate or certificate should develop
documentation that addresses the following areas:
- Enrollment and Completer Projections
Programs at Other Community Colleges in the Area
- Labor Market Need
Departments proposing a new certificate that do not have a
previously-approved certificate or certificate should include
documentation that addresses the following areas:
- Enrollment and Completer Projections
Programs at Other Community Colleges in the Area
- Labor Market Need
- List of Members of Advisory
- Recommendations of Advisory
Templates for each of these are included in the Curriculum Committee web site. Departments should consult with the Associate Vice Chancellor for Instruction.
Departments proposing a new certificate to support student transfer should prepare a document showing how the required courses meet the transfer needs of students. This documentation should show that the courses fulfill lower-division requirements for a specific baccalaureate certificate or prepare students in an area of emphasis for a certificate field of study for baccalaureate institutions. Departments should work with the Articulation Officer in preparing this documentation.
For Certificates of Achievement, once Curriculum Committee approval
has been obtained, the department needs to finish the paperwork for
submission to the State Chancellor’s Office. Career technical programs
also require approval of our regional consortium.
The Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction is available for
assistance with this process. More information about the process is
available at the Office of Curriculum web site: http://www.ccsf.edu/curri
Noncredit Certificates also require approval by the State
Chancellor’s Office. Paperwork for this approval is typically prepared
by Office of Instruction staff, but may also require input from the
department. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction for
Credit Certificates of Accomplishment submitted before the printed
catalog deadline date will be published in the next version of the
Certificates requiring approval by the State Chancellor’s Office
will initially have only their name published in the online catalog,
and in the next printed version of the catalog, with a notation that
the certificate is pending state approval. When the State Chancellor’s
Office approval has been obtained, the Associate Vice Chancellor of
Instruction will make appropriate announcements to the department,
counselors, and Registration and Records staff, indicating the date of
acceptance and the date which students will be able to petition for
the certificate. Full details of the certificate will be published in
the next print catalog and online.
Once a certificate has been approved, revisions generally require much less paperwork. If the revisions are keeping within the original scope of the certificate, departments should submit a Modify Program proposal through CurricUNET, after which it will go through Technical Review. Once passed through Technical Review, these proposals will continue on for approval and Curriculum Committee review.
Please note that if a department revises the course number or title
of one or more courses in a certificate, that these changes will
propagate automatically to the text in the certificate. If a course is
revised and the number of units change, the total units for the
certificate will be updated. No separate Curriculum Committee action
is required for these changes to take place.
Departments should take care when deleting courses that are included
in a certificate. The deleted course will be removed from the set of
required courses and reduce the number of units in the major. Adding a
replacement course requires submission of a revised copy of the
Departments wishing to make significant changes to a certificate – adding a new option, changing the focus of the certificate, splitting one certificate into two, merging two certificates into one, etc. – should consult with the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction before proceeding. If the certificate had required State Chancellor Office’s approval, additional paperwork will be required.
Departments wishing to delete a certificate can do so by submitting a
Delete Program proposal through CurricUNET. Deletion of a
certificate will be handled as an informational agenda item by the