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Certificate and Diploma Definitions

Certificate of Completion is a non-academic program which means you don’t receive a grade on a McMaster University transcript. Instead, after you have completed a minimum of 30 hours of learning and the assessment activities, you receive a pass-fail standing. A Certificate of Completion is a valuable form of professional development since it often focuses on skills and specialized knowledge that you can use in the workplace.

Each of the other programs—Certificate of Professional Learning, Certificate, and Diploma—is a kind of academic program. In these programs, you do receive a grade on a transcript once you have successfully completed the program. The programs differ in the number of academic units (or credits) you earn and the time it takes to complete each:

  • The Certificate of Professional Learning is the shortest program consisting of 9 units of study. Most of the time, the 9 units occur over three courses.
  • In a Certificate which is a longer program, you earn a minimum of 15 units which are typically, but not necessarily, spread over five courses.
  • A Diploma is the longest and most in-depth program. It includes a minimum of 24 units of study.

Each of these four kinds of program has its own requirements, and it is up to you to find the one that best suits your needs. Be sure to review the information on the program pages carefully as you make your decision.