General questions

The Leadership Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program designed for students in all majors, consisting of a 21-credit certificate and a 15-credit minor. By building on university courses offered in a variety of academic disciplines, the students completing either the certificate or minor have a strong foundation and appropriate experience in leadership, communication and organizational theory. The program is designed for undergraduate students who, regardless of their profession, seek to develop their leadership skills.

A certificate is more substantial than a minor—minors require 15 credits, whereas certificates require 21 credits in multiple subject areas and a capstone course to tie everything together. Certificates may also be completed after receiving a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University or any other accredited institution.

This program is open to all Iowa State University undergraduate students in every major. Non-degree seeking students with an undergraduate degree may also enroll.

Check out the Curriculum Map (PDF) for a checklist of the requirements for the certificate and minor. Earning the certificate requires the completion of 21 credits through three courses in leadership, speech communication and organizational theory; one elective course in communications; six credit hours in leadership electives; and a capstone experience including a course, internship or study abroad. The minor shares the same three core courses as the certificate, then students choose six credit hours of leadership electives from a subset of the courses included in the leadership certificate.

An enrollment form must be completed to enroll in the leadership studies certificate or minor. Please contact an advisor to get the process started.

You can enroll during any semester and in any year during your time at Iowa State University, or even after graduating. We encourage you to complete the paperwork prior to your next course registration period so that you can plan your coursework with the certificate or minor in mind.

The certificate and minor complement every major. The colleges of Design, Engineering, and Liberal Arts and Sciences have made efforts to include more electives in the program, but students in any major can complete the program successfully.

Completion of the certificate or minor is recognized on your ISU transcript, and you should include it on your resume. This acknowledges the focused coursework you completed to develop your leadership skills. These experiences prepare you to do better in conveying your skills in interviews and to lead in multiple settings, regardless of your chosen profession.

The program is set up so you can complete the certificate or minor with only three extra courses if you design your major plan of study and your certificate or minor plan of study together. Typically students add three to five courses to complete the certificate successfully, depending on when they begin. Many students will have completed some of the courses or will have to complete them for another major on campus, thus reducing the courses they must add to their schedule.

You can begin the program your first semester and complete it as a full-time student without additional semesters if you develop your plan of study for both your major and the certificate or minor together. But even students who begin the program later in college often find they have already taken a few of the required courses and can still successfully finish the requirements for the certificate or minor. Of the 21 credits required for the certificate, 12 credits can count toward both the certificate and your major.

The Leadership Studies Program is different from other leadership opportunities on campus because it is an academic program. Students in the program take academic courses to develop their leadership skills. Other episodic campus opportunities, like retreats, speakers or workshops, are great one-time experiences. Students participating in the Leadership Studies Program study leadership across multiple semesters and with some of the same students across multiple classes. The courses and experiences offered through the Leadership Studies Program provide multiple years of rich, developmental experiences. This higher level of commitment and deeper learning through courses is recognized on students’ transcripts and should be included by students on their resumes.

Yes, the program offers students access to a number of experiences on campus specifically tailored to their interests. Students enrolled in the program are invited to receptions and dinners with guest speakers, as well as to community service activities. These opportunities are made available only for students in the Leadership Studies Program. The Leadership Studies Program also coordinates the Global Leadership Study Abroad, where participants study leadership theories and practices in a global setting.

There are co-curricular activities offered to students in the Leadership Studies Program; for example, guest speakers and dinners with campus and community leaders to get advice and hear their stories. Simply getting involved on campus can supplement the program, such as participating in leadership retreats, clubs, community service events and more. Get started by visiting the Student Activities Center.


The core required courses focus on leadership, speech communication and organizational theory. The core course, LD ST 322: Leadership Styles and Strategies in a Diverse Society, is an interactive course that invites students to work with peers to develop their own leadership skills and to better understand society’s views of leadership. The elective courses will vary based on the department. Students are encouraged to take elective courses that are relevant to their areas of interest.

The courses can be taken in any order. However, it can be helpful to take LD ST 322 first, as it can serve as a prerequisite for SP CM 312 if you are enrolled in the certificate or minor. Also, be mindful of prerequisite courses that are required for some courses in the leadership studies curriculum.

LDST 3220 is offered every summer as an online course in Session I and/or Session II. Please check with your advisor, the Course Catalog or the Schedule of Classes for information about the availability of the other core courses, since they are from other academic departments.

Yes. The course requirements are tailored to work with a student’s current major, so if you have already completed a course on the approved course list then it will count towards fulfilling the program requirements.

Not all courses will be approved, but we welcome suggestions for classes to be added to the list of approved courses to meet the needs of students. A department can propose a course by completing the Leadership Studies Course Proposal form (PDF) and submitting it to

No, all leadership studies courses are available to any student enrolled at Iowa State University. However, enrollment in a particular section of a course may occasionally be restricted to certain groups of students.

Further information or questions