Prephysician Assistant Certificate

The prephysician assistant post-baccalaureate program is designed to allow career changing students the opportunity to complete core course requirements needed for admission to Physician Assistant (PA) Programs. The PrePA program meets most foundational requirements for physician assistant graduate programs in the Chicago area, though students are strongly advised to confirm the admission requirements of the graduate programs in which they are interested before enrolling to ensure that the SPS program fulfills their needs.

PrePA students complete courses with Northwestern curriculum and faculty, which offers students the opportunity to build a deep and strong science foundation. PrePA coursework is primarily offered in evening and weekend classes, and can be completed in 15 or 21 months, depending on the student's needs.

This program is designed for career changers and students who have not completed the core coursework needed to apply to PA programs. Students who need only some of these courses should consider the Prephysician Assistant Completion program. Students who have already completed the course requirements for master’s programs for PAs may consider the Advanced Studies in Biology for the Health Professions certificate program, or designing a specialized post-baccalaureate certificate to meet their needs.

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Dennis Shea

The professors are doing cutting edge research and it helped me get the most out of my time at Northwestern. I’m certain some of the more advanced concepts I learned here are going to help me fit in well at Yale.”

Dennis Shea, completed prephysician assistant program, accepted to Yale Physician Associate program

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About the Prephysician Assistant Certificate

Prephysician Assistant Required Courses

All of the following courses are required*:

  • BIOL SCI 201 Molecular Biology
  • BIOL SCI 202 Cellular Biology
  • BIOL SCI 203 Genetics and Evolution
  • BIOL SCI 217 Physiology
  • BIOL SCI 232 Molecular and Cellular Processes Laboratory
  • BIOL SCI 233 Genetics and Molecular Processes Laboratory
  • BIOL SCI 234 Investigative Laboratory
  • BIOL SCI 308 Biochemistry
  • BIOL SCI 313 Human Anatomy
  • BIOL SCI 317 Regional Anatomy Lab
  • BIOL SCI 328 Microbiology
  • CHEM 110 Quantitative Problem Solving in Chemistry
  • CHEM 131 General Chemistry 1 (with lab, CHEM 141)
  • CHEM 132 General Chemistry 2 (with lab, CHEM 142)
  • CHEM 215-A Organic Chemistry I (with lab CHEM 235-A)
  • STAT 202 Introduction to Statistics
  • CLASSICS 110 Scientific Vocabulary Through Classical Roots
  • One Elective Course 

Elective Course Options:

In addition to core requirements, prePA students select one of the courses from the list below. These are courses required by some, but not all PA programs. To make the best course selection, students should consult their graduate programs of interest to determine which course best fits their needs.

  • PRO HLTH 390 Careers in Professional Health
  • PSYCH 110 Introduction to Psychology
  • BIOL SCI 316 Human Structure and Function
  • BIOL SCI 318 Advanced Human Physiology

For more information and current course schedule, see the Prephysician Assistant Courses page.

* For students admitted to the Prephysician Assistant program prior to fall 2022, please find your list of required courses here.

Transfer Credit Policy for Prephysician Assistant

Students in the prephysician assistant 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.

Prephysician Assistant 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 Prephysician Assistant

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.

Prephysician Assistant 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.

Prephysician Assistant Sample Course Plans

Review Sample Course Plans for the Prephysician Assistant Certificate Program offered by Northwestern University School of Professional Studies.

Prephysician Assistant Pre-Health Professional Student Group

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


Find out more about the Prephysician Assistant Certificate

Program Courses:Course Detail
Molecular Biology <> BIOL_SCI 201-CN

This course is part of the four-course introductory biology sequence. Students will learn about the basics of molecular biology, including the structure of macromolecules, DNA replication, transcription, and translation and the mechanisms by which these processes are regulated. Students will also learn current biotechnology methods used to study molecular biology.

Credit not allowed for both BIOL SCI 201 and BIOL SCI 215. Students who have previously completed BIOL SCI 215 should not register for this course.


View BIOL_SCI 201-CN Sections
Cell Biology <> BIOL_SCI 202-CN

This course is part of the four-course introductory biology sequence. The cell biology course covers mechanisms the cell uses to compartmentalize and transport proteins, to move, to regulate growth and death, and to communicate with their environments.

This course should be taken concurrently with BIOL SCI 232. Credit not allowed for both BIOL SCI 219 and BIOL SCI 202. Students who have previously completed BIOL SCI 219 should not register for this course. 

Prerequisite: Students must have completed BIOL SCI 201 or 215 with a grade of C- or better to register for this course.

 


View BIOL_SCI 202-CN Sections
Genetics and Evolution <> BIOL_SCI 203-CN

Fundamentals of genetics and evolution. From the rules of heredity to the complex genetics of humans, the methods and logic of genetics as applied to inheritance, development, neurobiology, and populations. The process and tempo of evolution, from natural selection to speciation, emphasizing how genetics plays a critical role.

Prerequisite: Students must have completed BIOL SCI 202-CN or BIOL SCI 219-CN with a grade of C- or better to register for this course.


View BIOL_SCI 203-CN Sections
Genetics and Molecular Biology <> BIOL_SCI 215-CN

This course is the first of a four-course sequence that is completed with BIOL SCI 217 in the fall quarter, BIOL SCI 308 in the winter and BIOL SCI 219 in the spring. The genetics and molecular biology course covers the principles of inheritance; gene function; mechanisms by which DNA is replicated, transcribed into RNAs, and translated into proteins; and the basics of the process of natural selection. This is an asynchronous, remote course.

Prerequisite: one year of general chemistry with laboratory (CHEM 101, 102, 103 or CHEM 110, 131, 132).


There is no available section.
Cell Biology <> BIOL_SCI 219-CN

The cell biology course covers mechanisms that cells use to compartmentalize and transport proteins, to move, to regulate growth and death, and to communicate with their environments. This course was formerly BIOL SCI 216. Students who have previously taken BIOL SCI 216 should not register for this course.

A lab course, BIOL SCI 222, may be taken concurrently with this course. Prerequisite: CHEM 103 or 132.

 


View BIOL_SCI 219-CN Sections
Genetic Molecular Process Lab <> BIOL_SCI 220-CN

Laboratory techniques and experiments in fundamental aspects of transmission genetics and molecular biology. Credit for this course is 0.34 units. Prerequisite: C- or higher in both BIOL_SCI 221 and CHEM 103 or 132.


There is no available section.
Cellular Processes Laboratory <> BIOL_SCI 221-CN

Laboratory techniques and experiments in fundamental aspects of cell biology. Credit for this course is 0.34 units. Prerequisite: grades of C- or higher in CHEM 103 or 132.


View BIOL_SCI 221-CN Sections
Investigative Lab <> BIOL_SCI 222-CN

The Investigative Laboratory is a hypothesis driven, discovery based laboratory class. During the quarter, students will be engaged in independent laboratory research projects where they will design and implement their own experiments centered around a central theme. Credit for this course is 0.34 units. Prerequisite: grades of C- or higher in both BIOL SCI 221 and CHEM 103 or 132.


View BIOL_SCI 222-CN Sections
Cellular and Molecular Processes Lab <> BIOL_SCI 232-CN

This is the first course in a three-quarter sequence of introductory biology laboratory. The course is designed to provide students with an authentic laboratory experience that investigates relevant scientific research and teaches scientific inquiry skills such as experimental design, writing research proposals, data collection, data analysis/interpretation, and the presentation of results. The experimental model revolves around atherosclerosis and macrophage phagocytosis of apoptotic cells. Students will learn and become proficient at various cell and molecular biology techniques.

This course should be taken concurrently with BIOL SCI 202. Credit not allowed for both BIOL SCI 221 and BIOL SCI 232. Students who have previously completed BIOL SCI 221 should not register for this course.


View BIOL_SCI 232-CN Sections
Genetics and Molecular Processes Lab <> BIOL_SCI 233-CN

This is the second course in a three-quarter sequence of introductory biology laboratory. The course is designed to provide students with an authentic laboratory experience that investigates relevant scientific research and teaches scientific inquiry skills such as experimental design, writing research proposals, data collection, data analysis/interpretation, and the presentation of results. The experimental model revolves around aggregate prone proteins in nematodes and how RNA interference (RNAi) can be used to affect protein folding and the clearance of protein aggregates. Students will learn and become proficient at various cell and molecular biology techniques.

Credit not allowed for both BIOL SCI 220 and BIOL SCI 233. Students who have previously completed BIOL SCI 220 should not register for this course.

Prerequisite: BIOL SCI 232


View BIOL_SCI 233-CN Sections
Investigative Lab <> BIOL_SCI 234-CN

This course is the culminating life-science lab experience in the biology lab sequence. Students design and generate reagents that can be used in larger experiments. The topic varies from year to year, but typically revolves around the sub-cloning of a specific gene fused to a reporter for detection.

Credit not allowed for both BIOL SCI 222 and BIOL SCI 234. Students who have previously completed BIOL SCI 222 should not register for this course.

Prerequisite: BIOL SCI 233.


View BIOL_SCI 234-CN Sections
Biochemistry <> BIOL_SCI 308-CN

This course covers basic concepts in biochemistry, emphasizing the structure and function of biological macromolecules, fundamental cellular biochemical processes, and the chemical logic in metabolic transformations.

Students who have previously completed BIOL SCI 218 should not register for this course.

Prerequisites: Students must have completed, or be currently enrolled in, CHEM 215-A or CHEM 215-B or CHEM 215-C.


View BIOL_SCI 308-CN Sections
Human Anatomy <> BIOL_SCI 313-CN

This course is an introduction to human anatomy. Topics include: system approach to anatomical organization; sections of the body; musculoskeletal and nervous systems; embryology development. Lectures are supplemented by selected prosections of human cadavers and dry exercises using bones, models, and computer animations. Prerequisite: BIOL SCI 165, 170, or equivalent course.


View BIOL_SCI 313-CN Sections
Human Anatomy <> BIOL_SCI 313-DL

This course is conducted completely online.This is a course on human anatomy, focusing on morphology and function. It follows both a regional and systems approach. All course content, activities, and assessments will be online learning activities and assessments. The course will also have a broad emphasis on clinical application that is applicable to all health care professions. The course covers gross anatomy of the human body; therefore, images of human cadavers will be presented in your textbook, as well as in other course resources. Readings are assigned from the Marieb, Wilhelm and Mallatt text. Prerequisite: BIOL SCI 165, 170, or equivalent course.

This course will be conducted completely online. A technology fee will be added to tuition. There will be optional online office hours on Thursday from 6:15-9:15pm.


View BIOL_SCI 313-DL Sections
Regional Human Anatomy Lab <> BIOL_SCI 317-CN

This is a lab course utilizing prosections and demonstrations of human cadavers. It is an advanced anatomy course examining the details of human body systems. Topics include: Body wall and cavities, contents and features of the thorax and abdomen (cardiac, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal systems), pelvis (genito-urinary system), spinal cord and back, innervation and blood supply of the upper and lower limbs, cranial cavities and contents, cranial nerves and blood supply of the head and neck. The majority of the coursework will be done in the cadaver lab, with limited lectures to introduce topics. The lab work will be guided by a lab workbook, handouts and instructor demonstrations. Models, bones (skeletal materials), skulls, and medical images will supplement the cadaver prosections. Lab work will be assessed by the weekly lab assignment, three practical quizzes and a written final exam. A research project will be assigned to allow the student to bridge their knowledge of lab anatomy with more clinical concepts. Students are expected to follow all lab safety guidelines including the cadaver lab dress code; also students should show respect for the cadavers at all times.

Credit for this course is 0.34 units. Enrollment is in the course limited to 15 total, and is limited to students in professional health careers certificate programs.

Prerequisite: BIOL SCI 313. Only students who have completed the prerequisite will be able to register for this course.


View BIOL_SCI 317-CN Sections
Microbiology <> BIOL_SCI 328-CN

This course provides an introduction to bacteria and viruses with an emphasis on their impact on human health and society. Topics covered include bacterial and viral morphology/structure, physiology, metabolism, basic replication, and genetics. Practical applications of research in microbiology are explored, including genetic engineering and biotechnology. We will also discuss the impacts of microorganisms on human health include a discussion of pathogenesis, the human microbiome, and current challenges regarding antimicrobial resistance. Students have an opportunity to explore current topics in microbiology of interest.

This course will have a lab component, BIOL SCI 328-A, integrated into the lecture time. The lab component focuses on bacteriology, including how bacteria are cultured, isolated, and identified in the laboratory. A lab fee will be applied to tuition.

Prerequisites: BIOL SCI 215-CN and BIOL SCI 219-CN, or BIOL SCI 201-CN and BIOL SCI 202-CN.


View BIOL_SCI 328-CN Sections
Quantitative Problem Solving in Chemistry <> CHEM 110-CN

Solution strategies for traditional word problems and their application to basic chemistry quantitative problems: dimensional analysis, chemical equations, stoichiometry, limiting reagents


View CHEM 110-CN Sections
General Chemistry 1 <> CHEM 131-CN

Quantum mechanics, electronic structure, periodic properties of the elements, chemical bonding, thermodynamics, intermolecular forces, properties of solids and liquids, special topics in modern chemistry. Must be taken concurrently with the CHEM 141-CN General Chemistry I Lab. Prerequisite: completion of CHEM 110-CN (grade of C- or better), or current enrollment in CHEM 110-CN.


View CHEM 131-CN Sections
General Chemistry 2 <> CHEM 132-CN

Solutions and colligative properties, chemical equilibrium, aqueous solution equilibria, chemical kinetics, metals in chemistry and biology, oxidation-reduction reactions and electrochemistry, special topics in modern chemistry. Must be taken concurrently with CHEM 142-CN General Chemistry Lab 2. Prerequisite: completion of CHEM 131-CN and CHEM 141-CN (grade of C- or better), or current enrollment in CHEM 131-CN/CHEM 141-CN.


View CHEM 132-CN Sections
General Chemistry 1 Lab <> CHEM 141-CN

Chemical analysis of real samples using basic laboratory techniques including titration, colorimetric analysis, density measurements, and atomic spectroscopy. Planning, data collection, interpretation, and reporting on experiments. Credit for this course is 0.34 units. Must be taken concurrently with CHEM 131-CN General Chemistry 1. Prerequisite: completion of CHEM 110 (grade of C– or better), or current enrollment in CHEM 110-CN.


View CHEM 141-CN Sections
General Chemistry Lab 2 <> CHEM 142-CN

General Chemistry Lab 2 is a laboratory course in which techniques applied to materials science and nanotechnology, acid-base chemistry, and chemical kinetics will be employed. Major objectives involve work involving planning, data collection, interpretation, and reporting on experiments. Credit for this course is 0.34 units. Must be taken concurrently with CHEM 132-CN General Chemistry 2. Prerequisite: completion of CHEM 131-CN and CHEM 141-CN (grade of C- or better), or current enrollment in CHEM 131-CN/CHEM 141-CN.


View CHEM 142-CN Sections
Organic Chemistry <> CHEM 210-A

This course is the first of a three-course sequence that is completed by CHEM 210-B in the winter quarter, and CHEM 210-C in the spring quarter. Basic concepts of organic chemistry will be presented, including hybridization, resonance, nomenclature, stereochemistry, and reaction mechanisms. The preparation and reactions of alkyl halides, alkenes, alkynes, and alcohols will also be covered. There will be some additional lectures, to be arranged once the quarter begins. Prerequisite: completion of General Chemistry Sequence (CHEM 110, 131, 132 and 141, 142) with a grade of C- or better, or equivalent transfer credit with qualifying score on the Chemistry Placement Exam.


There is no available section.
Organic Chemistry I <> CHEM 215-A

Foundational concepts in organic chemistry will be introduced. Topics include structure and properties of common functional groups, acidity/basicity, conformational analysis, stereochemistry, and reactivity of organic compounds. The chemistry of hydrocarbons, alkyl halides, and alcohols, ethers, and carbonyl compounds will be included.

This course should be taken concurrently with CHEM 235-A Organic Chemistry Lab I.

Prerequisite: completion of CHEM 132 and CHEM 142 with a grade of C- or better, or equivalent transfer credit with qualifying score on the Chemistry Placement Exam.


View CHEM 215-A Sections
Organic Chemistry Lab I <> CHEM 235-A

Standard laboratory techniques in organic chemistry will be covered. Techniques will focus on the isolation and purification of organic compounds as well as the use of spectroscopic methods to determine identity and purity. The results of the technique-based modules will be communicated by completion of short on-line worksheets. One complete organic experiment, including reaction set-up, product isolation, and preparation of samples for characterization will be performed. The results of the complete experiment will be communicated in a full formal lab report.

This course should be taken concurrently with CHEM 215-A.

Prerequisite: completion of CHEM 132 and CHEM 142 with a grade of C- or better, or equivalent transfer credit with qualifying score on the Chemistry Placement Exam.


View CHEM 235-A Sections
Scientific Vocabulary Classical Roots <> CLASSICS 110-CN

The intent of this course is to familiarize students with a wide range of Greek- and Latin-derived words encountered in scientific and primarily medical fields. Students learn the basic components and an understanding of the underlying principles of word formation, which includes acquiring a basic vocabulary of word roots, prefixes, and suffixes, much of which is a matter of applied memorization. It also includes analysis of words, aiming at an understanding of the relationship of their various components. 

No prior knowledge of Greek and Latin is required for this course.


View CLASSICS 110-CN Sections
Professional Health Careers Proseminar I <> PRO_HLTH 396-A

Prohealth Proseminar I will meet during the first fall quarter of the students’ pre-health program to prepare students to succeed in the professional health careers program. This proseminar series will be completed by PROHLTH 396-B: Prohealth Proseminar II in the students’ final spring quarter. This non-credit course covers topics including adjusting to life as a science student, academic resources, extracurricular resources, and preparing for the professional/medical school application process. There is no tuition charged for this course.

Enrollment in this course is limited to students in SPS professional health careers certificate programs. Only students in those programs will be able to register for the course.

 


View PRO_HLTH 396-A Sections
Professional Health Careers Proseminar II <> PRO_HLTH 396-B

This non-credit proseminar is for students in the Professional Health Careers certificate programs. This course prepares students for the year-long application cycle beginning in the summer. This course will provide opportunities for students to work on major application components as part of the coursework, including their AMCAS activities listing, preparing a strong personal statement, selecting target medical/professional schools, and navigating the centralized application. The course will also allow students to practice their interviewing skills and plan for their glide year.

There is no tuition charged for this course.

Enrollment in this course is limited to students in SPS professional health careers certificate programs. Only students in those programs will be able to register for the course.

 


View PRO_HLTH 396-B Sections
Introduction to Statistics <> STAT 202-CN

This course is intended to familiarize students with the basics of statistics as a baseline for academic and/or professional application. Topics include (but are not limited to) basic descriptive statistics, data testing, correlations, analyses of variance, and regression analysis. The course will include instruction on how to use Excel to help students perform statistical analyses for future problem-solving and decision-making. Basic knowledge of algebra is recommended.


View STAT 202-CN Sections
Introduction to Statistics STAT 202-DL

This course provides an introduction to probability and statistics theory. Assignments and projects help develop students’ analytic and critical thinking skills and challenge them to apply statistical analysis with real world data. The course contains three parts: methods of data collection, techniques for data organization and analysis, and techniques for interpreting data using statistical methodologies. Students will learn not only how to appropriately collect and analyze data, but how to draw conclusions from their data for use in decision-making. The course emphasizes use of Microsoft Excel for graphing and data analysis in homework assignments. Students will also collect and analyze a data set of personal interest for the final project. A final paper will also be prepared. Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint techniques relevant to the final project will be taught in class, however, a basic understanding of these applications is expected.

This course is conducted completely online. A technology fee will be added to tuition.


View STAT 202-DL Sections