Capstone Certificate FAQs for Prospective Students

Who can be admitted as a Capstone Certificate student?

Capstone Certificates students are Special (nondegree) students who may not be simultaneously enrolled in a Capstone Certificate and a UW-Madison degree program.

Please consult the website for the specific Capstone program you are interested in for admissions and application requirements. While admissions requirements vary, all Capstone applicants must have completed a minimum of a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent).

Capstone Certificate students apply as University Special students.

Can international students be admitted to capstone programs?

If you are an international student needing an F-1 or J-1 visa to legally study in the US, there are currently only three capstone programs which have been approved by the US government for the issuance of the required visa documentation:  Actuarial Sciences, French Studies and Geographic Information Systems. These programs are full-time programs which is one of the requirements for government approval.  International students on F-1 or J-1 visas are required to enroll full-time during their studies in the US. The other capstone programs currently offered by UW-Madison are either part-time programs or they have not yet been approved for study for international students.  

If you are an individual in the US already on a different visa type (J-1 scholar, J-2 dependent,  H1B, other) you may be able to legally enroll in any of the capstones programs.  If you have specific questions about visa requirements and capstone study please direct them to advising@dcs.wisc.edu or 608-263-6960.

What is the difference between a Capstone Certificate and a graduate degree, and between a Capstone Certificate and other kinds of certificates?

The use of the term “certificate” on the UW-Madison campus can be confusing. As a general rule, a “certificate” is sometimes viewed to be like a “minor,’ i.e. denoting a specialization within a major.

The biggest distinction between a Capstone Certificate and other kind of certificates offered at UW-Madison is that Capstone Certificate students are post-baccalaureate University Special (nondegree status) students. Even though Capstone Certificate coursework is graduate-level, Capstone Certificate students have not been admitted to the Graduate School, nor will their studies provide a graduate degree or graduate certificate: graduate certificates may only be earned by students enrolled in a graduate degree program. By definition, students may not be simultaneously enrolled in both a Graduate and a Capstone Certificate program.

You may also hear the term “capstone” in reference to finishing projects or courses within undergraduate majors. These are not the same as the Capstone Certificate programs.

How long does it take to complete a Capstone Certificate?

The number of credits and the length of time necessary to complete Capstone Certificates vary by program. Most consist of 12-16 graduate-level credits and can be completed in a year. Most are designed so that students can attend part time while working, and several are offered in alternative delivery modes such as evening/weekend or online.

Does Capstone Certificate coursework count toward a graduate degree?

It depends on the graduate program. Students who have completed a Capstone Certificate and wish to apply those credits to a graduate degree must apply and be accepted into the Graduate School, and they must request that the individual graduate program to which they are applying accept the credits. (Other institutions may have additional requirements or exclusions.)

What is the tuition for Capstone Certificate programs?

Tuition varies by program, but is generally based on current graduate student tuition. Please consult the specific program's website for complete tuition information.

Are Capstone students eligible for financial assistance as nondegree students?

Even though Capstone students are non-degree students, for the purposes of financial aid, Capstone certificates provide a clear indication of a programmatic outcome.  Therefore, the UW-Madison Office of Financial Aid has determined that Capstone Certificate students are considered Graduate level for financial aid purposes (both for tuition levels and considering a full-time credit load to be 8 credits).

Certificates are administered separately by individual academic departments, so you should contact the department directly. If you have general questions about Capstone Certificates, contact Katy Duren, kduren@dcs.wisc.edu, 608-263-5114 in the Division of Continuing Studies.