Undergraduate Philosophy “Certificates”

More and more philosophy departments are offering “certificate” programs. At the undergraduate level this typically involves taking around four courses. So a student could, for example, major in computer science and get a certificate in ethics, and the certificate would be listed alongside the major in the student’s records.

[Harold Eugene Edgerton, “Milk Drop Coronet”]

My sense is that, at the undergraduate level, philosophy departments are often offering certificates as a way of being competitive with other units offering certificates.

Less demanding than a minor, certificates are an easier way for students to gain a credential in an area distinct from their major. If one thinks of courses as the cost of the credential, if a philosophy department only offered a major and a minor, they could be undercut by other units offering certificates, lose minors and enrollments, and as a result come off as less valuable.

Does your department have a certificate program? What is its focus? What was the reason for starting it? Has the implementation of certificates had an effect on the number of students minoring in philosophy? Has the implementation of certificates helped slow or reverse enrollment losses? Please share your experiences. Thanks.

(There was a post specifically about ethics certificates back in May but I thought a broader look at the certificate phenomenon would be worthwhile.)

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6 months ago

This credentially is such a negative development. People seem to want to show that they have done something, and they do it with a certificate. The certificates are as cheap as things get, and they hardly represent an accomplishment one should be listing on a resume or anywhere for that matter. But, if that is what we must do to get people to take our courses, go for it. I am no longer in the USA, so this sort of thing seems very distant to me. There is a larger cultural change needed, one equivalent in scale to the one that led to the credentially culture.

Reply to  Gorm
6 months ago

certificates are the defo standard in Australasia, too.

Etienne Brown
6 months ago

SJSU offers three certificates, each of which has a slightly different rationale.

(1) Certificate in Global Philosophical Traditions

(2) Certificate in the Ethics of Science and Emerging Technologies

(3) Philosophy Postbacc certificate.

The first two highlight the strengths of our teaching faculty and help our students gain official recognition of the fact that they have engaged with particular philosophical sub-disciplines or traditions. The last one is a first step toward gaining admission to our M.A. for students with little formal training in philosophy.