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Program Overview

Preclinical Psychology

Preclinical Psychology Certificate Program

The Preclinical Psychology post-baccalaureate certificate program consists of nine psychology courses required for application to most graduate programs awarding either the doctor of psychology in clinical psychology (PsyD) or the doctor of philosophy in clinical psychology (PhD). While this program meets minimal requirements for application to clinical psychology graduate programs in the Chicago area, students are strongly advised to confirm the admission requirements of the graduate schools in which they are interested before enrolling to ensure that the SPS program will fulfill their needs. This program is designed for career changers who do not have an extensive background in science. Students who need only some of these courses may register as students-at-large or meet with an adviser to design a customized certificate, but will not be eligible for financial aid.



About the Preclinical Psychology Certificate Program

Preclinical Psychology Required Courses

All of the following courses are required:
  • PSYCH 110 Introduction to Psychology
  • PSYCH 201 Statistical Methods in Psychology
  • PSYCH 205 Research Methods in Psychology
  • PSYCH 215 Psychology of Personality
  • PSYCH 218 Developmental Psychology
  • PSYCH 228 Cognitive Psychology
  • PSYCH 303 Psychopathology
  • PSYCH 306 Introduction to Clinical Psychology
  • PSYCH 375 Psychological Tests and Measurements

In addition to the program requirements, students have the option to take any of the courses offered at SPS to fulfill prerequisites. Elective courses are NOT eligible for financial aid, based upon federal financial aid requirements.

View Preclinical Psychology Courses

Transfer Credit Policy for Preclinical Psychology

Students in the Preclinical Psychology post-baccalaureate certificate program may transfer up to six semester hours, or nine quarter hours of academic credit. A transcript and grade of B or better are required for transferred courses in the program. Courses audited or taken with the pass/no credit option cannot be applied toward a certificate program. Courses earned for a bachelor's degree at SPS may not be applied retroactively toward certificate requirements. Required courses that have been completed in the past two years by students-at-large may be applied toward the completion of a certificate, subject to the approval of the admissions committee, and provided admission requirements for the program are met. All transfer credit must be approved before a student begins his or her course work at SPS.

Preclinical Psychology Tuition

Post-baccalaureate students at Northwestern's School of Professional Studies pay per course. For more information about financial obligations and tuition, please visit the Tuition page.

Admission for Preclinical Psychology

In addition to completing an online application, you'll also need to submit a few supplemental materials. A list of requirements for admission including application deadlines and tips on how to apply can be found on the Admission page.

Preclinical Psychology Registration Information

Whether you're a first-time registrant or current and returning student, all students register using our online student registration and records systems. Important information about registering for courses at SPS, including registration timelines and adding or dropping courses in which you are already enrolled, can be found on the Registration Information page.

Preclinical Psychology Pre-Health Professional Student Group

Learn how students support one another through forums, resources and social networks on the Preclinical Psychology Pre-Health Professional Student Group page.

Preclinical Psychology Career Options

Find out more about Preclinical Psychology Gainful Employment Information.

Find out more about the Preclinical Psychology Program

Program Courses:Course Detail
Intro to Psychology <> PSYCH 110-CN

Psychology is a science that seeks to answer a wide range of questions about how we think, feel, act and interact with others. This course will give a broad overview of the entire field of psychology, which students will learn about through in-class demonstrations, outside observations, discussions, and presentations. We will explore human behavior from a biological, psychological and socio-cultural perspective. We will discuss the history of psychology beginning with an overview of psychology's roots, observing how prevailing paradigms have shifted throughout the centuries. We'll then discuss how to think like a social scientist, with an attitude of open mindedness and skepticism, as we observe people in different social settings. Discussion will include the tools and methods that are used by social scientists to formulate their questions and propose answers. With the tools of neuroscience we will explore the biological underpinnings of mind and emotions and how they influence behavior. We will seek to understand and have empathy with individuals suffering from psychological disorders ranging from mild depression to severe psychosis. Discussion will cover ways to diagnose psychopathology and therapies that have been proposed to heal such internal suffering. Practical skills for coping with stress and emotions will also be explored. Finally, we try to uncover group dynamics that can give rise to pathological and sometimes destructive behavior as that observed in cults. The course will conclude with a theme of malleability that challenges assumptions about how we perceive, remember and think. Carries social science credit.


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Intro to Psychology <> PSYCH 110-CN

The purpose of this course is to present an overview of the field of psychology. Among the topics we will cover are: history of the field, methods in psychological research, biological bases of behavior, perception, learning, memory, motivation, emotion, social influences on behavior, and psychological disorders. Class lectures, readings, and discussions will convey a sense of some of the foundational questions and methods of the science of psychology. Ultimately, the goal of this course is to impart an initial understanding of some fundamentals of human nature and behavior, as well as instill a deeper appreciation for the science of psychology. The class will have weekly quizzes and a comprehensive final exam. Carries social science credit.

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Statistical Methods in Psychology <> PSYCH 201-CN

This course explores techniques for describing the real world with numbers and for making educated guesses about how the world works by manipulating these numbers. Students acquire a knowledge of how to execute statistical tests, but more importantly when and why to execute these tests. Emphasis is placed on understanding and interpreting data as well as on techniques of statistical analysis. A secondary goal of this course is to provide a framework from which to think critically about statistical evidence presented in the media and research reports from journals in psychology. Classes will consist of lecture and problem-based group work. The assessments include in-class quizzes, exams, a series of in-class "team" problem sets, take home problem sets, and a short paper analyzing the use of statistical information in the media. May not be audited. Carries social science or science credit. Prerequisites: PSYCH 110 and high school algebra.

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Research Methods in Psychology <> PSYCH 205-CN

This course provides an introduction to designing, conducting, evaluating, and presenting psychological research. Among the topics to be covered are: experimental and non-experimental research; statistical analyses; writing psychological reports; ethics in research; and utilizing library resources. Students will collect and analyze data for three research projects during the quarter, and write a report on each in the style used by research psychologists. May not be audited. Carries social science credit. Prerequisite: PSYCH 201.

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Psychology of Personality <> PSYCH 215-CN

This course examines psychoanalytic, biological, behavioral, cognitive, trait, humanistic, and interactional theoretical approaches to understanding personality. Strength and weaknesses of various approaches are explored; modern research is integrated with each approach. The aim is to create a rich and multifaceted picture of human personality. A contextual perspective is followed, emphasizing cultural contributions to the development of personality, especially noting diversity dimensions of personality configuration. Students will demonstrate the ability to critically discuss and understand major personality theories; will assess the importance of established research in theories of personality; will summarize and interpret theories of personality applied toward understanding life experiences and will also demonstrate an understanding of their own and others' personality. Carries social science credit. Prerequisite: PSYCH 110 or equivalent.

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Developmental Psychology <> PSYCH 218-CN

The focus of this course is the development of perception, cognition, language, personality and social interaction from infancy through adolescence. We consider perspectives and methods in developmental research. We also explore specific issues, including: How do young infants perceive the world? How do infants and toddlers develop an attachment to their parents or caretakers? How does children's thinking and problem solving change across childhood and adolescence? How do parents' beliefs and values influence children's development and school achievement? How do parents' discipline style influence children's social and personality development? As each new topic is introduced, students are encouraged to think critically about the assumptions and methods that underlie research on particular issues. A central goal is to help students develop an appreciation of different criteria for evaluating research and other forms of evidence. The course will have weekly quizzes and a comprehensive final exam. Carries social science credit. Prerequisite: PSYCH 110 or equivalent.

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Cognitive Psychology <> PSYCH 228-CN

This course is an introduction to research into mental processes, such as memory, reasoning, problem solving and decision making. Carries science or social science credit. Prerequisite: PSYCH 110 or equivalent.

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Psychopathology <> PSYCH 303-CN

What is a psychological disorder, and can we really define what it means to be abnormal? Despite a long history of studying psychological disorders, there is no clear consensus when it comes to answering these questions: Our understandings of what constitute psychological disorders and how to best treat them vary considerably across different time periods and cultures. It is fascinating to learn about the complexity in even defining psychological disorders. At the same time, it is also frustrating, especially in the face of real psychological distress that many experience: If we cannot agree on what psychological disorders are, then how are we to study them and treat them? In this course, we will begin exploring these questions through an introduction to the major categories of psychological disorders as we currently (and historically) understand them and through the integration of related research findings. In addition to focusing on the symptoms and causes of these disorders, we will learn about some major approaches to diagnosis, assessment, and treatment. Finally, special attention will be paid to current and/or controversial issues in abnormal psychology. The course will have weekly quizzes and a comprehensive final exam.

Carries social science credit. Prerequisite: PSYCH 110 or equivalent.

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Intro to Clinical Psychology <> PSYCH 306-CN

This course introduces major concepts and methods of clinical psychology. The course emphasizes four main areas relevant to clinical psychology: (1) fundamentals of clinical psychology with some discussion of the history of the field, (2) psychological assessment, (3) psychotherapy, and (4) research that has been used to investigate the efficacy of interventions in clinical psychology. Ethical issues as they relate to the field are also be considered. Course requirements include an annotated bibliography and research paper, two essay exams, and class attendance and participation. Carries social science credit. Prerequisite: PSYCH 110 or equivalent. Completion of PSYCH 303 is recommended for students enrolled in PSYCH 306, but not required.

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Psychological Tests and Measures PSYCH 375-CN

In psychological testing and measurement, two assumptions can be made – that certain states and traits exist, and that they therefore can be measured. However, the usefulness the information obtained from these measures is only as good as the measure itself. In this course, we will explore what makes a test a “good” test and how these guidelines have been used (or not used) to create tests across a variety of domains. First, we will explore how psychological measurement has developed over time and, based on this knowledge, will work to develop an understanding of how to create solid measures and how to test the quality of those measures. Then, we will take a deeper look at assessment in a variety of contexts, including intelligence, achievement, personality, and clinical assessment. Finally, we will investigate the ethical and legal issues involved in testing to examine why “good” assessment is so important. Prerequisite: PSYCH 110 or equivalent. Carries social science credit.

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