Since 1995, the School of Professional Studies and its forebears have administered and developed innovative programs that fill a diversity of student needs.

Originally named the Division of Special Programs, professional education at Columbia began with several non-degree programs, one overseas program, the Summer Sessions, Summer High School Programs, the American Language Program, and a few inter-institutional arrangements. Over the next five years, the Division expanded steadily, launching a series of programs aimed at postgraduate students who needed to prepare for graduate school or career advancement and at undergraduates who wanted to study overseas for a semester, year, or over the summer.

In 2002, the Board of Trustees of Columbia granted final approval for the creation of the School of Continuing Education, the first new school at Columbia in 50 years. With this status, the school gained the authority to confer the Master of Science degree.

To reflect a targeted focus on professional degree offerings, market-specific academic programming, and cross-disciplinary scholarly research, the Board approved changing the school’s name in 2015 to the School of Professional Studies.