Qualitative Research, Certificate

Administered by the Department of Leadership, Learning Design, and Inquiry in the College of Education, the Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Research program brings together several courses in qualitative research theory, method, and design in an effort to prepare graduate students, professors, professional researchers, program evaluators, etc. to conduct and apply best practices in the study of qualitative research and in conducting qualitative inquiry. The certificate program is open to all post-Masters students in education and related disciplines interested in developing expertise in qualitative research methods. This certificate may also meet the doctoral cognate requirements for a number of degree programs within the University.

Admission Criteria

Applicants with a Master’s degree (or the international equivalent) from an accredited college or university should submit the following materials to be considered for admission to the certificate program:

  • USC Graduate School application form;
  • Curriculum Vitae or Resume;
  • A statement of purpose that expresses the applicant’s specific interest in the Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Research, details their professional goals, and outlines a relevant and well-defined career path;
  • Official transcripts of all previous undergraduate and graduate coursework;
  • Two letters of recommendation from professors or employers.

Previously submitted application materials will be accepted for post-Master’s students in good academic standing enrolled in any terminal degree program within the University system; however, a new statement of purpose must be submitted to the Graduate School. In addition, via the online application page, students should complete an “Update Request Form” through which they may request concurrent enrollment in a second program. A letter from faculty in both the certificate program and the student’s home program supporting their concurrent enrollment is also required by the Graduate School.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to make sure that all required application materials have been received. Applicants should list “Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Research” on the application form under degree pursued. The Program accepts applications on a rolling basis (students may begin the Program during the fall or spring semester).

Certificate Requirements (18 Hours)

The certificate program consists of 18 semester credit hours of course work. All of the required hours in the program must be in courses at the 700-level or above. 9 hours must come from the following courses in the College of Education:


Course Title Credits
EDFI 730Qualitative Epistemologies, Paradigms, & Theories3
EDFI 731Qualitative Inquiry3
Advanced Qualitative Offerings
Select one of the following:3
Educational Biography
Narrative Inquiry
Participatory Action Research
Ethnography and Education
Total Credit Hours9

Additional Requirements

Where appropriate 6 hours, and with the approval of the Certificate coordinator, other courses may be substituted for these required a courses.

An additional 6 hours of elective courses in qualitative research are chosen based on the student’s interest. These elective courses, which require approval by the Certificate coordinator, may be taken in the College of Education, in other university units, or by transfer credit. The final three hours of coursework, selected with the Certificate coordinator, must include a public presentation of a culminating project.

Up to 6 semester hours of graduate credit with grades of B or better may be transferred from another institution into the certificate program; however, these hours must be approved by the Certificate coordinator, must come from an accredited institution, and must be no more than six years old at the time of graduation. Please contact the Certificate coordinator with any questions.

Certificate students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average (GPA) in all USC courses taken for graduate credit. Any grade lower than a “B” in a certificate course will make the student academically ineligible for certification. There is no residence requirement, but all courses must be completed within six years of enrollment.