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Human Rights

The non-degree Summer Certification of Professional Achievement in Human Rights was developed with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) at Columbia University. It’s the first academic center in the world founded on an interdisciplinary commitment to the study of human rights. The certification emphasizes the interaction between human rights theory and practice, letting students explore human rights in and out of the classroom. Students also have the opportunity to learn from human rights practitioners through guest lectures.

The certification program is ideal for professionals, graduate students, and advanced undergraduate students wishing to further their knowledge and understanding of human rights. Students in the certification program include those seeking to complement their training in other fields or disciplines, such as law, public health, fundraising, and development; individuals with academic or professional experience in human rights wishing to obtain more specialized knowledge through graduate-level study; and students preparing for further graduate study.

Students may also take Certification of Professional Achievement in Human Rights courses individually. Those students already enrolled in Columbia degree programs are not eligible to apply for the certification.

Previous coursework or knowledge of human rights is not required, but applicants are invited to reflect on their interest in the field and how it aligns with their broader academic and professional pursuits.


In order to receive the certification, students must complete the following requirements:

  • HRTS S4020. Introduction to Human Rights

  • HRTS S4220. International Human Rights Law

  • Two elective human rights courses

Please visit the Courses page for detailed descriptions of all Human Rights offerings.

The four required courses may be taken in one summer or divided between two. Students are required to maintain an overall minimum GPA of 3.0 (B). Every course creditable toward the certification must be taken for a letter grade. Courses with a grade below a C will not count.

Eligibility Requirements

  • This certification program is offered at the graduate level. Undergraduate students are eligible to apply if they are rising juniors or seniors and have strong academic records and a foundation in political science and/or international studies.
  • Current Columbia students are not eligible to earn the certification while enrolled in a degree program. However, they are eligible to take the individual courses for credit.
  • Students enrolled in (or on leave from) a degree program at SIPA are not eligible to receive the certificate. Should SIPA students wish to take classes associated with the certificate, they must first consult with their assigned academic advisor for guidance and approval. A student who earns the certificate and then later enrolls in a degree program at SIPA may not count any of the certificate courses toward the SIPA degree.
  • To be considered for admission, students must be comfortable with rapid and idiomatic spoken English. If the language of instruction of your undergraduate degree-conferring institution is English and you have completed two or more years at the institution, you need not take further steps to prove fluency. However, if your undergraduate education is not conducted in English, or you completed fewer than two years at your degree-conferring institution where English was the language of instruction, you must provide official scores on the TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Applicants must show a demonstrated ability for critical thinking and analysis.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills are necessary to succeed in this certification program.