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.
All certificates (credit and noncredit) must be updated every six
years at minimum
(or they will be deactivated and removed from the catalog).
(See Curriculum Committee resolutions for details.)
A Certificate of Achievement is a sequence of credit courses
consisting of 16 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 credit
courses consisting of fewer than 16 units of degree-applicable
coursework. Certificates of Accomplishment must be approved by the
Curriculum Committee but do not need State Chancellor Office’s
approval, as they are local to CCSF only. 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 8-12 units to the State Chancellor’s Office for approval as a Certificate of Achievement. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management & Instructional Support 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.
More detailed descriptions of these are in the state Program and Course Approval Handbook. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management & Instructional Support for additional information.
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.
Goals of the Certificate
Certificates may be developed to further a student’s occupational or future educational goals. Departments developing a new certificate need to decide which paths they will use to support approval of the certificate. The list below identifies some of the items departments will need to identify in the application for approval of a new certificate. Specific information related to these items must be included in the proposal submitted to the Curriculum Committee.
New Transfer or Local Need Program
- Identify the majors at four-year institutions the program will support transfer to, including articulation agreements between the campuses.
- Identify local needs the program will support, often through letters of support or surveys.
New Career Technical Program
- Identify relevant labor market information, such as the number of projected job openings and its relation to the number of projected program completers.
- The names, titles, and affiliations of members, and minutes of key meetings with the Industry Advisory committee for the department/program.
The above information and other details are spelled out in the Required Supplemental Program Documents Manual eposted on the Curriculum Committee’s website. These documents provide justification for all programs, and are required for submission of the program to the State of California. Except for Associate Degrees for Transfer, a “Narrative” document is required for all programs. Additional documentation may be required for different types of programs.
City College policy on grades for credit certificates is published in the Catalog. Students must pass all letter-graded certificate-applicable courses with a C or better and all P/NP certificate-applicable courses with a P. Since this policy is in the front matter of the Catalog, this should not be included in the program description unless specifically required for program accreditation.
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
Credit Certificates have a residency requirement, published in the Catalog. It states:
Residency requirement: Students must successfully complete at CCSF at least 20% of the units required to earn the certificate.
Departments may require more than 20% of units be completed at CCSF, but not less.
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 recommended
by the regional consortium (if CTE in nature), and then finally by the
State Chancellor’s Office. The paperwork required varies based on the
type of Certificate.
Departments are encouraged to meet with the Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management & Instructional Support or Chair of the Curriculum Committee early in the process to review the components of this application. Examples of completed applications that have been accepted at the State Chancellor’s office are available in the Required Supplemental Program Documents Manual posted on the Curriculum Committee’s website.
As noted above, credit certificates under 16 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 8-16 units. Certificates between 8-16 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 the same elements as higher-unit certificates.
For noncredit 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 most often requires just a brief Narrative document. Requirements for these are in the Required Supplemental Program Documents Manual posted on the Curriculum Committee’s website.
Also refer to the State Chancellor's Office Program and Course Approval Handbook.
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)
- Minimum time to
Example: “The minimum time for completion of this certificate is X semesters. Completion time will vary based on student preparation and number of units or classes completed per semester.”
The following example demonstrates ways in which you can choose to group program requirements (courses and non-course requirements or electives):
Consider the following when preparing your program description:
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 elective 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 Requisites Coordinator on the Curriculum Committee or 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 or program is acceptable, and describe the conversation in CurricUNET with contact details (names, dates, method of contact such as phone, email, face to face meeting).
Use block titles that match current practice. Examples:
- Required courses:
- Choose 2 of the following programming courses:
- Choose 6 units from the following electives:
- Recommended additional coursework (*avoid using if possible, since students may confuse these with a list of electives from which one or more courses must be taken *)
Avoid pulling “In Review” classes into programs. Pull in only the
“Active” or “Approved” classes.
If the intention is to put through a new course or revision in
tandem with a program revision, communicate with the Chair of the
Curriculum Committee to discuss the timing of the course and program
approval – course outlines must be approved before the program outline
can be approved.
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.
- Use verbs that indicate critical thinking. Examples are in the SLO Handbook.
- Ensure that PSLOs are assessable
- Ensure each PSLO has at least one course mapped to it
- Ensure all required and elective courses in the program map to at least one PSLO (*DO NOT MAP RECOMMENDED COURSES, only required courses or course electives*)
- Map PSLOs as appropriate to college ILOs. (At minimum, you should have at least one mapping.)
- Don’t include SLOs that relate to “meeting” exit requirements or “prepared for exam” or “ready to transfer,” as these are not LEARNING outcomes.
- Review Outcome Report to ensure all your mappings are completed.
Originator and Dates
Approval Date is entered by the Curriculum Committee upon approval.
The Originator is the individual whose CurricUNET account is used to start and complete the Distance Education Addendum proposal. Faculty members can submit proposals only for subjects within their department.
Department Chairs and Deans are the chairs and deans who will review the proposal and eventually sign off.
Review the official CurricUNET
approval process to learn more.
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
Supplemental documents are submitted in draft form when the program outline is created. These documents are essential to smooth approval by the State Chancellor’s Office. The Supplemental approval information documents vary based on the goals of the certificate.
Transfer or Local Need Goal
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. Local Need goals (non-transfer, non-CTE) will require support such as letters or surveys from the local community documenting the type and level of local need for which the certificate is designed.
Career Technical Goal
Labor market need and recommendations from the department’s advisory committee are important documents for career technical degrees.
All programs will be asked for information such as the following:
- Enrollment and Completer Projections
- Similar Programs at Other Community Colleges in the Area
For more information departments should read the Required Supplemental Program Documents Manual posted on the Curriculum Committee’s website. Further information may be available from the Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management & Instructional Support. Also refer to the State Chancellor's Office Program and Course Approval Handbook .
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 recommendation of our regional consortium. Much of the work will simply be editing the documents submitted to the Curriculum Committee along with the outline in CurricUNET, in order to align them with any changes that resulted from the Committee approval process. Departments will work with the Chair of the Curriculum Committee and the Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management & Instructional Support on this process.
Credit Certificates of Accomplishment approved by the Curriculum Committee and Board of Trustees before the printed catalog deadline date will be published in the next version of the printed catalog.
Once a Certificate of Achievement, noncredit Certificate of Completion or noncredit Certificate of Competency has been approved by the Curriculum Committee, Board of Trustees, and State Chancellor’s office, the certificate will appear in the online catalog based on the approved effective date, and in the next printed version of the catalog.
Once a certificate has been approved, revisions generally require simple updates to 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 must be manually updated in each program by the Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management & Instructional Support. If a course is revised and the number of units change, the total units for the major 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. Deleting an elective does not usually affect the program units significantly and can be updated in the same way as course number or title changes. Deleting a required course will cause the program to be removed from catalog unless a program revision is submitted to the Curriculum Committee. Adding a course to a program also requires submission of a revised copy of the program.
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, Enrollment
Management & Instructional Support 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