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Program Overview

Prephysician Assistant

Prephysician Assistant Certificate

The prephysician assistant concentration admits post-baccalaureate students into a program of study that will aid them in meeting the entrance requirements for master's programs for physician assistants (PAs). While this program meets most minimal requirements for applications to physician assistant graduate programs in the Chicago area, 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. This program is designed for career changers who do not have an extensive background in science. Students who need only some of these courses should consider the Advanced Studies in Biology for the Health Professions certificate program, or designing a specialized post-baccalaureate certificate to meet their needs.



About the Prephysician Assistant Certificate

Prephysician Assistant Required Courses

All of the following courses are required:
  • BIOL SCI 215 Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • BIOL SCI 217 Physiology
  • BIOL SCI 219 Cell Biology
  • BIOL SCI 220 Genetic and Molecular Processes Laboratory
  • BIOL SCI 221 Cellular Processes Laboratory
  • BIOL SCI 222 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 210-A Organic Chemistry I
  • STAT 202 Introduction to Statistics
  • CLASSICS 110 Scientific Vocabulary Through Classical Roots

Optional Courses:

  • PRO HLTH 396-A Professional Health Careers Proseminar I*
  • PRO HLTH 396-B Professional Health Careers Proseminar II*

*These non-credit seminar courses are optional, but highly recommended, for prephysician assistant students and are offered free of charge to students in the Professional Health Careers program. For more information, please see the Prephysician Assistant Course Listing page.

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

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 Career Options

Find out more about Prephysician Assistant Gainful Employment Information.

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
Genetics and Molecular Biology <> BIOL_SCI 215-CN

This course is the first of a four-course sequence that is completed by BIOL SCI 217 in the fall quarter, BIOL SCI 219 in the winter and BIOL SCI 308 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.

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

View BIOL_SCI 215-CN Sections
Physiology <> BIOL_SCI 217-CN

This course is the second in a four-course sequence that is completed by BIOL SCI 219 in the winter and BIOL SCI 308 in the spring. The physiology course covers organization and functioning of the major organ systems in mammals.

A lab course, BIOL SCI 220 Genetic and Molecular Laboratory, may be taken concurrently with this course. 

View BIOL_SCI 217-CN Sections
Cell Biology <> BIOL_SCI 219-CN

This course is the third course in a four-course sequence that is completed by BIOL SCI 308 in the spring. 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 221 Cellular Processes Laboratory, 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: CHEM 103 or 132.

View BIOL_SCI 220-CN Sections
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: CHEM 103 or CHEM 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: CHEM 103 or CHEM 132.

There is no available section.
Biochemistry <> BIOL_SCI 308-CN

This course is the conclusion of a four-course sequence, BIOL SCI 215, 217, and 219. The 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. This course was formerly BIOL SCI 218. Students who have previously taken BIOL SCI 218 should not register for this course.

A lab course, BIOL SCI 222 Investigative Laboratory, may be taken concurrently with this course. Prerequisites: BIOL SCI 217 or 219 and CHEM 210-A.

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. The course is an introduction of human anatomical form and organization. Body structure will be studied with a regional approach and will involve a primarily gross anatomical study with supplementary histological and clinical material where relevant. Form-function relationships will be emphasized. Topics covered will include: anatomical terminology, cells and tissues, and the integumentary, skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic/immune, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. The systems will be covered as they are encountered in the regional approach. 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. Prerequisite: BIOLSCI 313-CN or equivalent.


Due to space limits, registration is by permission only. Priority will be given to SPS certificate or degree students in good academic standing who need a lab to meet entrance requirements of physical therapy, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant programs. If seats remain, additional priority will be given to students enrolled in the professional health careers post-baccalaureate certificates, biology-related post-baccalaureate certificiates, or SPS undergraduate degree students. If you are interested in the course, please email the undergraduate program managers ( anytime after February 22 to request a permission number or for more information.

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

This course provides an introduction to microbiology with an emphasis on bacteria and viruses and their impact on human health and society. Topics covered include: introduction to microbiology including the evolution of microorganisms; essentials of bacterial, archaeal, eukaryotic and viruses; morphological, physiological and genetic elements; the general principles of bacterial growth and control of microorganisms in the environment; principles of microbial molecular biology and genetics including basics of bacterial genome replication; bacterial pathogenesis and current challenges regarding antimicrobial resistance. This course will also provide an introduction to the primary microbiology literature. Prerequisite: BIOL SCI 210-C or BIOL SCI 217.

This course will have a lab component integrated into the lecture time. A lab fee will be applied to tuition.

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 laboratory course. Prerequisite: Chem 110-CN (C- or better).

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 the Chem 142-CN laboratory course. Prerequisite: CHEM 131-CN and 141-CN (C- or better in both courses).

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

Credit for this course is 0.34 units. Enrollment is concurrent with CHEM 131-CN.

There is no available section.
General Chemistry 2 Laboratory <> 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. The course must be taken concurrently with CHEM 132.

Credit for this course is 0.34 units. Prerequisite: grade of C- or higher in CHEM 131 or equivalent course, or consent of instructor.

There is no available section.
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 on Saturday mornings, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., to be arranged once the quarter begins. Prerequisite: one year of general chemistry with a grade of C- or higher.

View CHEM 210-A Sections
Scientific Vocabulary Classical <> 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. Students will be able to develop, practice, reinforce and test these skills through a variety of in-class exercises, as well as regular tests (weekly quizzes, a midterm and a cumulative final exam). Once equipped with the knowledge of how all such words function, the meaning of thousands of scientific words encountered in context may be inferred with reasonable assurance of accuracy. 

Another aim of the course is to acquaint students with the ancient Greek and Roman roots of scientific (specifically medical) inquiry. We will explore the ancients’ philosophical ideas and understanding of the workings of the human body and mind and their views on health, healing, and disease patterns and patient care. We will also examine developments in science broadly speaking, and discoveries and advancements in ancient anatomy, physiology, surgery and pharmacology with ramifications for modern science in general, and medicine in particular.

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

View CLASSICS 110-CN Sections
Professional Health Careers Proseminar II <> PRO_HLTH 396-B

This non-credit proseminar is for students in the Professional Health Careers certificate programss. 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.

This course is by permission only and available only to students in the professional health careers certificate program. Please email for a permission number.


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

This course provides an introduction to the basic concepts of statistics. Throughout the course, students will learn to: summarize data using graphs and tables; explain/calculate descriptive statistics, confidence intervals, correlation, regression, and probability; and explain tests of significance and data-production including sampling and experiments. Basic knowledge of algebra is recommended.

View STAT 202-CN Sections
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