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Certificate in Survey Science

The Odum Institute’s Certificate in Survey Science gives graduate students and working professionals the knowledge and skills they need to design and conduct surveys & analyze and report survey results. It introduces students to the vast and growing literature on survey research methods and provides training to pursue employment in a variety of fields where survey research plays an important role.

The Certificate is instantly recognized and highly regarded by employers and can be obtained as a companion to a graduate degree or a supplement to a bachelor’s degree. The program provides well-balanced training at the graduate-level in:

  • Survey sampling
  • Survey data analysis
  • Questionnaire design
  • Data collection methods
  • Problem solving skills for complex surveys
  • Real-world, hands-on experience


The Certificate in Survey Science is a 12-hour graduate program that includes coursework in sampling, questionnaire design, and data collection methods. Through electives and the short course program, students can learn about the role of nonprobability samples, big data and the integration of multiple data sources in survey research.

Before graduating with the Certificate, students demonstrate real world experience in survey data collection. The program is designed for individuals currently enrolled in a graduate degree program at UNC, and for individuals who have completed a bachelor’s degree, are currently working, and may have no immediate plans to pursue a graduate degree.

The Certificate is an attractive addition to a graduate degree in:

  • Social sciences
  • Business
  • Biostatistics
  • Education
  • Statistics
  • Public administration
  • Journalism
  • Epidemiology
  • Many other fields which use survey data

Students may complete the course requirements at their own pace; no maximum time limit is applied.

Program Requirements
The Certificate requires:

  • Completion of 12 credit hours towards the certificate
  • Required courses — 9 credit hours
  • Elective — 3 credit hours
  • Demonstration of at least 40 hours of real world experience in survey data collection
  • Completion of 28 short course credit hours in survey science from:
    • Odum Institute;
    • Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland;
    • Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan; or
    • Other approved short courses in survey science

Prerequisites for Admission

  • Baccalaureate degree from an accredited undergraduate institution
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • At least 3 credit hours in quantitative social science, applied statistics, biostatistics, or mathematics

Application Instructions

  • Please download the Application form as either a PDF or a .docx
  • Fill the form out completely
  • Return via email, fax, or regular mail

  Email: Jessica Williams                          919-962-2875 (fax)

Jessica Williams, Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, University of North Carolina, CB #3355, 228 Davis Library, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3355
Application Deadlines

  • Students wishing to be admitted to the CSS program may submit their application at any time. However, if you wish to begin taking the required coursework right away, you must submit your application in time to register for classes prior to the beginning of the semester. Please see the University Registrar for the latest Registrar’s Calendar and registration dates/deadlines. We generally notify applicants of acceptance within one week.
  • Before registering for semester courses, if you are not already enrolled at UNC, you will need to submit an application to the Friday Center for Continuing Education. Click here to view the online application form, instructions, and deadlines.
  • Note that any Continuing Education application received by the Friday Center after the deadline will incur a late fee of $25 added to the $85 application fee.
  • Visit the Friday Center for more information concerning Part-time Classroom Studies.

Required Semester Courses and Schedule

Below is a list of the required courses for the CSS. Descriptions of all short courses are also available in the Short Course Catalog. If you have questions, please contact

SOCI 760/POLI 860/PLAN 730 (Data Collection)
Every Fall
Tuesdays (2pm - 4:45pm)
Doug Currivan
Data Collection FA 2021 Syllabus
SOCI 761/POLI 861/PLAN 731 (Questionnaire Design)
Every Spring
Fridays (1pm - 3:30pm)
Emilia Peytcheva and Emily Geisen
Questionnaire Design SP 2021 Syllabus
SOCI 754 (Survey Sampling)
Spring (Even-numbered years)
Mondays/Wednesdays (11am - 12:30pm)
Chris Wiesen
Survey Sampling SP 2020 Syllabus

Elective Courses
These electives are pre-approved. Students may propose alternative courses to the director for elective course credit.

ANTH 725Quantitative Methods in Anthropology
BIOS 545Principles of Experimental Analysis
BIOS 665Analysis of Categorical Data
BIOS 667Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis
BIOS 668Design of Public Health Studies
BIOS 670Demographic Technique 1
BIOS 764Advanced Survey Sampling Methods
BUSI 808Applied Research Methods 1
BUSI 867Issues in the Design and Analysis of Research in Marketing
EDUC 785Program Evaluation in Education
EDUC 817Introduction to Educational Research
EDUC 824Fundamentals of Education Research
EDUC 830Field Techniques in Educational Research
EPID 726Epidemiologic Research Methods
HBEH 852/763Scale Development Methods
INLS 509Information Retrieval
MHCH 713Research Methods in Maternal and Child Health
MHCH 862Program Impact Evaluation
PLCY 801Design of Policy-Oriented Research
POLI 880Design & Analysis of Experiments and Surveys
SOCI 707Measurement and Data Collection

Current Short Course Schedule

To receive the Certificate, students must demonstrate a minimum of 40 hours of supervised work experience related to some aspect(s) of survey operations.

This work experience must be:

  • Under the mentorship or supervision of a faculty member or trained survey professional.
  • Related to survey design/preparation, data collection, sampling, data processing or other survey activities that have been approved by the CSS program director.
  • Documented in a letter from the mentoring faculty member, supervisor or employer. The letter should describe the nature of the work experience and verify that student devoted at least 40 hours to activities related to survey operations.

Students with the requisite work experience need only provide the required documentation to fulfill this requirement. Students without 40 hours of survey operations experience may make their own arrangements to obtain it, but should seek pre-approval from the CSS program director to ensure the experiences will satisfy the Certificate requirement. When needed, the Certificate program staff will arrange an unpaid assignment for the student totaling 40 hours of work in survey operations at UNC or a partnering organization. For details on submitting documentation of work experience, see the Work Experience Information Sheet


Paul Biemer

Director Emeritus for the Certificate Program in Survey Science, and Instructor, Odum Institute
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Jessica Williams's headshot

Jessica Williams

Director, Certificate of Survey Science Program, Assistant Director of Survey Research and Development, Odum Institute
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Doug Currivan

Odum Instructor and Survey Methodologist, RTI International
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Emilia Peytcheva

Odum Instructor and Research Survey Methodologist, RTI International
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Chris Wiesen

Odum Instructor and Statistical Consultant, Odum Institute
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Brady T. West

Adjunct Odum Instructor and Research Associate Professor, University of Michigan and Joint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland
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Mick Couper

Adjunct Odum Instructor and Research Professor, University of Michigan and Joint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland
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Charles Lau

Adjunct Odum Instructor and Research Survey Methodologist, RTI, PhD Sociology
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Joe Murphy

Adjunct Odum Instructor and Senior Survey Methodologist, MA Applied Demography
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Lisa Pearce

Adjunct Odum Instructor and Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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Gordon Willis

Adjunct Odum Instructor and Questionnaire Design Consultant
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Emily Geisen

Odum Instructor and Senior Experience Management Scientist, Qualtrics
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Headshot of Trent Buskirk

Trent Buskirk

Adjunct Odum Instructor
Novak Family Professor of Data Science and the Chair of the Applied Statistics and Operations Research Department
Bowling Green State University
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Headshot of Jerry Reiter

Jerry Reiter

Adjunct Odum Instructor
Professor of Statistical Science, Duke University
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Eligibility and Application Process

Short Courses

Semester Courses, including Registration Help

Course Credits and Substitutions

Eligibility and Application Process

What is the procedure for applying for the Certificate? Complete an application form and send it to the Program Director at the Odum Institute. You will be notified of your acceptance into the program. We recommend setting up an appointment with the director to discuss your plan for completing the requirements for the Certificate.


What are the prerequisites for acceptance?

  • Baccalaureate  degree from an accredited undergraduate institution
  • GPA of 3.0 or better
  • At least 3 credit hours in graduate-level statistical methods


Do I have to enroll in the UNC graduate school to be accepted to the Certificate program? No. You can enroll in courses through the UNC Continuing Education Program located in the Friday Center. It is not necessary to enroll in UNC graduate school or take the GRE or other graduate school exam for admittance.


What is the cost to complete the program? There is no cost to apply or be accepted into the CSS program. The only costs are tuition for the semester courses and short course registration fees.

If you are not currently enrolled at UNC, you will need to submit an application to the Friday Center Part-time Classroom Studies program in order to enroll in semester courses. The application fee is $85. Tuition and fees are then charged according to the UNC Tuition and Fee Schedule at the “Non Degree Studies – Graduate” rate. (For example, tuition and fees for one three hour course during the 2019-2020 academic year would total $2881 for a NC resident or $7312 for a nonresident.) At 2019-2020 tuition rates, the minimum total tuition and fees to complete the Certificate would be about $7081 for a NC resident. Many NC residents incur total tuition and fee costs over $10,000.

Full-time UNC graduate students register and pay for CSS semester courses in the same way and at the same rate as their other coursework.

UNC employees who are permanent and work a minimum of 30 hours per week are eligible for a tuition and fee waiver. See Employee Tuition Waiver Policy.

Short course registration fees vary depending on the courses you select, but once admitted to the CSS program, you receive the discounted CSS student rate for as long as you are also taking semester courses toward completion of the Certificate. The 28 credit hour requirement can typically be met for a total of $200, but many students choose to take additional short courses. (As a bonus, once you successfully complete the Certificate, you continue to receive the CSS student rate indefinitely for Odum short courses on survey science topics.)


Short Courses

How do I find information about the CSS short courses, such as when and where they will be offered? All of the upcoming Odum short courses are listed on our website under Short Courses. All short courses require advanced registration. Please check our listing for more information, including how to register, registration openings, course descriptions, etc. Also, courses in the JPSM and University of Michigan Summer Institute can be viewed at their Web sites.


Do I have to be a UNC student, faculty or staff member to register for the Survey Science short courses? No. Our short courses are open to the public.


Is there a fee for the Survey Science short courses? Short courses are discounted for CSS students and graduates (certificate holders). Charges are listed on short course descriptions.

CSS students who are not currently enrolled in a CSS semester (core or elective) course and who have not enrolled in such a course for the previous two semesters are no longer eligible for the CSS student discounted rates for our short courses.

CSS students who do not qualify for the discounted rate should register for short courses at either the UNC student or Other rate, as appropriate. Students who register inappropriately will receive an email, prompting them to re-register under the appropriate rate category.


Semester Courses, including Registration Help

What semesters will the core courses be offered? A schedule of the CSS offerings is available under the “Course List” tab above.


How do I sign up for semester courses? If you are already enrolled in a degree program at UNC, you need only register as normal when registration begins. If you are not currently enrolled at UNC, you must apply to the Friday Center Part-Time Classroom Studies program in order to be added to the UNC system, obtain a PID number, and register.


What is an “Onyen” and how do I create mine? Onyen is the name for UNC’s campus-wide identifier that you can use to gain access to various electronic resources on campus. To create an Onyen, please go visit Onyen Services


I tried to register for a semester course and received an error message. What should I do? This can be a result of several factors listed below:

  • You may have a financial hold on your account. Please contact the Cashier’s office to make sure you do not have any financial holds on your account. For contact information, please go to Student Account Services.
  • You are trying to register for a course which requires instructor permission only. Some courses may require instructor approval for registration. If you would encounter this issue, please email in order to be considered for the course in question.
  • You are not active in the UNC system: This could be either because you need to apply to the Friday Center Part-Time Classroom Studies or you need to submit a re-admit application. To find out what your current status is, please contact the Friday Center at the following number: toll free (800) 862-5669 local (919) 962-1134.


Course Credits and Substitutions

Can I take courses in the program and apply for the certificate? Yes, you may take up to six semester credit hours in the Program without enrolling in the Program. These courses will still count toward the Certificate. However, we recommend enrolling in the Certificate Program as soon as possible to take advantage of the information shared with Program participants and other special Program activities. Please note that short course credit is only granted to those enrolled in the program.


How do I know how many hours a short course is worth toward the short course requirement? Credit hours will be assigned to each short course according to the length of the course and noted on the short course listing on the website. Usually, 1 hour of class time is equivalent to 1 credit hour. To receive credit for a short course, the student must be present in the classroom at least 75% of the instruction time for the course. No partial credit will be given. A total of 28 credit hours must be accumulated to satisfy the short course requirement. Please note: Not all Odum short courses will qualify for CSS credit. See Upcoming Short Courses for a complete listing.


Can core courses be substituted? What is the process for getting that approved? Yes, under certain circumstances a course which is very similar to one of our core courses but taken at another University can be substituted. This is at the discretion of the CSS Program Director. However, no more than six credit hours of coursework can transfer and count as credit toward the Certificate.


What is the process for petitioning that an elective course not listed for the program be accepted for credit towards the Certificate? Your request should be submitted to the CSS Program Director. Provide the details of the course: course title and number; syllabus; description; and department.

The Certificate in Survey Science (formerly Certificate Program in Survey Methodology) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was founded by the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science in 2003. Kenneth Bollen, then the director of the Odum Institute, and Paul Biemer, Distinguished Fellow at RTI International, constructed the core curriculum in 2002 and petitioned to create the new courses in January, 2003. At about the same time, they petitioned to transform this curriculum into a Certificate Program. The CSS received official approval from UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall semester of 2003. In the spring of 2004, five new courses were established in the Department of Sociology to form the core of the Program. Our first cohort to complete the CSS training and to receive the Certificate was a group of five recipients in the spring semester of 2006.

In the Fall of 2019, the program was broadened and renamed to reflect changes in the field, namely the rise of data science and the integration of survey data with other sources of data. The program was renamed the Certificate in Survey Science.

The CSS would not be the success it is today without our valuable partnerships with other organizations. The CSS program at the Odum Institute has closely collaborated with RTI since its origins. In addition to having staff members enrolled in the CSS program, RTI has provided senior staff as course instructors and has cosponsored speakers and provided student work experience opportunities and administrative support. The Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM) at the Universities of Maryland (College Park) and Michigan (Ann Arbor) has been a partner in teaching courses and sharing knowledge. The Departments of Sociology and Biostatistics at UNC have also made important contributions of faculty time and courses and student work experience opportunities in support of the program. Most recently, we are pleased to partner with the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University which provides course support, work experience opportunities, and shared courses.

For more information, contact: