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CIP Codes and Use at CU-Boulder

What is a CIP code?  CIP stands for Classification of Instructional Programs.  It's a coding scheme developed and maintained by the US Department of Education, National Center on Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System, to classify and code academic disciplines.  The codes are then used to characterize data on student majors, degrees granted, courses taught, employees, etc.

The CIP code system is currently revised every 10 years but may be added-to or revised more often in future. 

Every CIP is a 6-digit number where

  • digits 1-2 indicate a broad area -- e.g., 13=education, 14=engineering
  • digits 3-4 indicate a subfield -- e.g., 1419 = mechanical engineering, 1425 = petroleum engineering
  • digits 5-6 indicate even more detail -- e.g., 4008 = physics; 400801 = physics general, 400806 = nuclear physics, etc.
  • Many 4-digit CIPs have only one associated 6-digit, including both examples in engineering noted above; so the full CIPs for those are 141901 for mechanical, 142501 for petroleum.

For a searchable list of all CIP codes see You can search/list for 2, 4, or 6 digits, do a word search, etc., and pop through to the full text on the IPEDS site.

CIPs cover lots of areas that no CU campus has. E.g., 120301 = funeral service and mortuary science, general.

National use.  All by-discipline reporting through the US Department of Education uses CIP codes.  All by-discipline data exchange and storage of the AAU data exchange (AAUDE) uses CIP codes.  Many college guides and other national collections use CIP codes.  However, some collections have their own, different, coding schemes, including NSF, NRC, and Peterson's graduate collection.

Use at CU-Boulder.  CU-Boulder, other CU campuses, and other schools nationwide use CIP codes to categorize degrees granted and enrolled students because federal (IPEDS) reporting of completions (degrees) and of enrollments requires the use of CIPs, as does Colorado Department of Higher Education (DHE/CCHE/SURDS) reporting, which actually feeds IPEDS.

We work with DHE/CCHE to characterize every approved degree program with a CIP code.  When the Regents approve a degree program, and it goes to CCHE for "approval" (if it is aligned with the university's role and mission, then approval is "rubber stamp"), CCHE assigns it a 6-digit CIP code based on our recommendation. We sometimes consult other schools before recommending a CIP code (we did this with the ATLAS PhD) because the whole point of CIP codes is to label similar programs with similar CIP codes.

A few Boulder programs have an additional "CIP sequence" number assigned to them because there is no appropriate unique CIP code to differentiate them from another similar Boulder program.  For example, both electrical engineering and telecommunications are CIP code 14.1001 (which means Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering).  There is no separate CIP code suitable for telecommunications, so it has an assigned sequence number of 2. 

See a list of all approved degree programs with CIP codes (and CIP sequence codes) at   The CIP/sequence codes are used in all reporting to DHE/CCHE, and must be on the DHE/CCHE approved list to be accepted as valid data.

For the Boulder IPEDS degrees/completions report, with CIP codes, see

Because of the DHE/CCHE practice of associating unique CIP/seq codes with approved degree programs, we at Boulder do not associate different CIP codes with different majors within a degree program.  For example, the bachelor's program in business administration (CIP 52.0201, which means Business Administration and Management, General) includes majors in accounting, in finance, in marketing, and in other areas.  Separate CIP codes exist for these areas -- e.g., accounting is 52.0301.  We do not use 52.0301 on SIS or in any reporting; students with accounting majors, and degrees earned by those students, are all coded simply as 52.0201.

The CIP codes for student majors and their associated degree programs are on the SIS academic program record (iaRrcPR or RPR), screen 1A3.  PBA maintains the CIP codes there. 

PBA assigns, outside SIS, CIP codes to academic departments.  These generally match the CIP codes used for approved degrees and are used in sharing data with AAUDE on faculty salaries, faculty counts, and instructional activity by discipline.

PBA assigns CIP codes to what we call "PBA departments," academic entities tying together data of several types by discipline: data on personnel in departments (faculty, instructors, staff), student majors, degrees granted, courses taught, money spent.  PBA departments and their CIP codes are shown at

CU-Boulder and probably many other schools use CIP codes to categorize courses taught as well as students. These are stored on SIS in the course inventory, again maintained by PBA.  The CIP codes for course subjects need not meet DHE/CCHE validation rules, and are therefore in more detail than the codes used for student majors.  For example, the course subject accounting is CIP 52.0301, which means "accounting."

We report student credit hours taught by 2-digit CIP code to DHE/CCHE (but not to IPEDS) via the "budget format 40" report.  This is shown at (fourth bullet under Over Time)

Cautions: Because CIP codes can be used to characterize enrolled students based on their major or degree program, and used to characterize courses taught, it's critical in handling counts by CIP code to recognize whether the CIP codes are based on students or on courses.  For example, students majoring in French (16.0901) may take courses in French (16.0901), in English (23.0101), in chemistry (40.0501), and so on.  Students taking courses in French (16.0901) will likely include French majors (16.0901), Spanish majors (16.0905), English majors (23.0101) and others. 

This is especially important in studies establishing cost bases by discipline.  So too is the issue of whether counts "by level" are based on level of the student (doctoral, master's, senior, freshmen, etc.) or level of the course (usually 1000 . . . 9000 level).  Consider:

  • half of entering freshmen, and all non-degree students, have no major corresponding to a CIP at all -- so dividing student enrollments by discipline is tricky, leaving a large number unclassified. Degrees are easier, because every degree granted has a real CIP.
  • most of the courses that doctoral-level students take (except dissertation hours) are "master's level" courses, 5000-6000 numbers. And numerous other cross-overs.

Last revision 01/15/08

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