Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) Code

Code Structure

A CIP code is a six-digit taxonomic coding scheme of instructional programs, made up of three groupings of two-digits, as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Example: 26.0205

  1. 26: The two-digits series defines the most general grouping of related programs, also known as the CIP area. In this example, all CIP codes that start with 26 are in the broad area called “Biological and Biomedical Sciences.”
  2.  26.02: The four-digit series represents intermediate groupings of programs that have comparable content and objectives. In this example, 26.02 identifies programs in the “Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology” field of study.
  3. 26.0205: The full six-digit code represents specific instructional programs. In this example, 26.0205 is the CIP code for “Molecular Biology.”

Why do CIP codes matter?

Institutional Perspective

CIP codes:

  1. are the standard for official reporting of enrollments and degrees/awards conferred and thus enable “apples to apples” comparisons between institutions. This allows for comparison of programs where program names may not match between/among institutions.
  2. allow for assessment of breadth and depth of program offerings at an institution and compare one institution’s program array to another. In these kinds of analyses each CIP code is assumed to be a single program and the number of unique programs within a two-digit CIP series can be counted.
  3. facilitate the determination of program attributes which inform accountability reporting, key performance metrics, and other institutional analyses.
  4. contribute to a determination of whether certain federal regulations apply to a program, such as whether international students are eligible for visa extension after graduation, or federal gainful employment regulations.

Student Perspective

CIP codes can determine:

  1. eligibility for federal and state financial aid.
  2. eligibility for certain student loan forgiveness.
  3. visa eligibility.


  • Students in certain programs (based on CIP codes) are eligible for grants and/or loans not available to other students. Eligibility for certain veteran-related benefits is also determined by the CIP code assignment of the student’s degree program.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s STEM OPT program allows extensions of student visas for certain international students who graduate from programs with certain CIP codes.

UW-Madison Principles for Assigning CIP Codes

DAPIR uses the following principles, which includes consulting the federal CIP code taxonomy and CIP description when selecting a program’s CIP code. The CIP code selection derives from the governance approved curriculum and learning outcomes. Sometimes a program and CIP code may share a name and and/or the description fits, but due to other factors listed below, this may not be the final CIP code assignment.

For more information on the procedures, see the Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) Code Assignment Procedures KnowledgeBase.

  1. Is the proposed CIP assignment appropriate at all digits of the CIP taxonomy?
  2. Is the proposed CIP assignment appropriate for the degree and degree-level awarded by the program?
  3. Does the proposed CIP assignment encompass all named options in the program? If the proposed CIP code is not relevant for all program named options, then a more “general” CIP code may be considered.
  4. Does another UW-Madison program already use the CIP code? If so, is the new program an extension of that existing program (i.e. the addition of a PhD to an existing master’s program), or is it acknowledged to be in a closely related and potentially overlapping area of study to an existing area of study?
  5. Do similar programs in the UW System use the same CIP code assignment? UW System expects like-programs to use the same CIP code assignments. As such, UW-Madison may not have decision making power for all CIP code assignments. This may require consultation and negotiation with UW System Administration via the staff in the Office of Policy Analysis and Research.


  • A proposed assignment to a CIP code in the Physical Sciences area (40) should also meet the criteria to be a Physical Sciences program, described in the taxonomy as “programs that focus on the scientific study of inanimate objects, processes of matter and energy, and associated phenomena”.
  • CIP code 51.3801 (Registered Nurse) specifies that this CIP code is only valid for bachelor’s and master’s level degrees.
  1. Determine which two-digit series fits best.
  2. What are the known attributes associated with the CIP code? How do they impact a student?
  3. What kind of employment opportunities are available to graduates of the program? Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes can influence the selection of a program’s CIP code.
  4. What are CIP code assignments for similar programs at peer institutions?


  • Special Education (in the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, in the School of Education) has licensure implications for Special Education teachers. It’s plausible to use a CIP code in Education (two-digit series 13) or Health Sciences (two-digit series 51). If assigned a CIP code in two-digit series 51, this indicates the program is a Health Sciences program, inheriting additional accreditation, reporting, expectations, etc., that may accompany like-programs in that area. For this reason, the selection of a CIP code in Education (two-digit series 13) is appropriate to indicate the program prepares future teachers to stakeholders and agencies related to teacher licensure.
  • The undergraduate program in Forest Science has elements of CIP codes 03.0501 (Forestry, General) and 03.0502 (Forest Sciences and Biology). Neither is a perfect match. However, 03.0502 is considered by most agencies to be a STEM program and eligible for visa extensions through the STEM OPT program. The latter selection is more beneficial to students.
  1. What are the CIP codes assigned to the existing programs in the academic home (school/college and department)? Selecting an “Other” CIP code in that four-digit series may be most appropriate.


  • If a program’s home is in the Department of English and no specific CIP code in two-digit 23 (English Language and Literature/Letters) are appropriate, then a CIP code assignment of 23.9999 (English, Other) is most appropriate.