Capstone Certificate FAQ

Welcome to the Capstone Certificate Frequently Asked Questions page. On this page, you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about UW–Madison’s Online and Flexible Capstone Certificate Programs.


What is a Capstone Certificate?

Capstone Certificates are a focused collection of courses that, when completed, afford the student a record of coherent academic accomplishment in a given discipline or set of related disciplines. Capstone Certificate programs do not lead to the conferral of a degree. Students are awarded certificates to designate completion of a well-defined program of coursework. Capstone Certificates are recorded on the student’s UW–Madison transcript.


Capstone Certificates are intended to offer innovative programs that will serve the educational needs of specialized groups of non-traditional students and working professionals. Applicants must have completed a minimum of a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent; several certificates require a minimum of a master’s or other advanced degree to be eligible for admission. Students seek a certificate to enhance their prior training, and are often professionals returning to school for specialized education and skill-building in the area of the certificate.

What is the difference between a Capstone Certificate and a graduate degree or 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 kinds of certificates offered at UW–Madison is that Capstone Certificate students are post-baccalaureate Special and not degree-seeking students. Even though Capstone Certificate coursework is graduate-level, Capstone Certificate students have not been admitted to the Graduate School, nor will their studies lead to a graduate degree or graduate certificate: graduate certificates may only be earned by degree-seeking graduate students. 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.

Who can be admitted as a Capstone certificate student?

  • Capstone certificate students are admitted as University Special (nondegree) students. At a minimum, completion of a bachelor’s degree is required for consideration.
  • Consult the individual program for additional specific admission requirements.
  • A student may not be simultaneously enrolled in a capstone certificate and a UW–Madison degree program.

How long does it take to complete a Capstone certificate?

  • The time to complete a capstone certificate varies. They are designed with working professionals in mind, and many programs can be completed in one year. Flexible program formats can include the ability to complete the program on a part-time basis and/or through online, evening, or weekend courses.
  • For specific information regarding credits and time frame, contact the individual program directly.

Are Capstone certificate students eligible for financial assistance?

  • Capstone certificate students may be eligible for federal financial aid if the student:
    • Is enrolled in a financial aid-eligible capstone certificate program approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Check the specific program page for details.
    • Meets all other eligibility criteria for financial aid.
  • Similar to graduate students, eligible capstone certificate students can receive a Federal Direct unsubsidized loan each year.
  • Capstone certificate student interested in receiving financial aid should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. More information on applying can be found through the Office of Student Financial Aid.

How much is tuition for Capstone certificates?

  • Tuition varies. Check the “At a Glance” section on a specific program page for more details.

How much is the application fee for Capstone certificates?

  • The office of University Special student admission, Adult Career and Special Student Services, does not charge an application fee.
  • Individual programs may charge a fee. Please check the specific program page or contact the individual program directly.

Does Capstone Certificate coursework count toward a graduate degree?

  • At UW–Madison, whether capstone certificate coursework counts toward a graduate degree depends on the policy of the specific graduate degree program.
  • If allowed, the student first must apply and be accepted into the Graduate School and the degree program. Then the student must request the credits apply to the degree program.
  • Consult with the prospective graduate program to know the terms on which this is ever allowed.
  • Other universities and colleges may have other requirements.

Can international students be admitted to Capstone Certificate programs?

  • International students who need an F-1 or J-1 visa to legally study in the United States can apply for 3 of the capstone certificate programs: Actuarial Science, Communication Sciences & Disorders, and Computer Sciences. These programs are full-time and are the only UW–Madison capstone certificates approved by the U.S. government for F-1 or J-1 visas at this time.
  • If you are already in the U.S. on another visa type (e.g. J-1 scholar, J-2 dependent, H1B), you may be eligible for admission to any of the capstone programs.
  • If a program is 100% online, international students who remain abroad may take it without restrictions. Please check with the program to verify it is online.
  • If you have questions about visa requirements for capstone certificate admission, contact the office of University Special student admission at or 608-263-6960.

Who can I contact with further questions?

  • For general questions about Capstone Certificates, contact the Adult Career and Special Student Services Capstone Coordinator at or 608-263-6960.
  • For questions about a specific capstone certificate, please contact the individual program directly.