Resources and FAQs

Find answers to commonly answered questions regarding the Professional Development program area at SPS. Use the links below to browse by topic. You can also browse academic resources to find helpful tools for your studies.


Registration and Payment

Is there an admissions process to become enrolled in the certificate programs?
There is no formal admissions process for any Professional Development program, except:

When should I enroll?
We recommend that you register as early as possible, at least one week before the course begins. If a course has reached enrollment capacity, we reserve the right to to refuse your registration. Some courses have firm registration deadlines due to pre-class tasks, and last-minute registration will not be allowed.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The registration process for Fall 2020 professional development courses requires you to (A) register for your course, (B) complete return to campus training, regardless of whether or not you will be on campus, AND (C) review and agree to a revised set of community expectations in CAESAR. Current students with an active NetID must complete their student acknowledgment in CAESAR before registering for Fall 2020 courses. New students must complete their student acknowledgment in CAESAR within 48 hours of enrollment before official registration can be finalized. Please contact for assistance.

Can I enroll in individual courses without having to complete the program?
Yes. Students can enroll in a single course if no certificate of completion is desired. Individual classes can be taken for professional development or personal enrichment.

Should I take classes in a certain order?
Students who plan on earning a certificate of completion should move through their program by taking courses in the order recommended on each program’s homepage. If no recommended order is listed, classes may be taken in any sequence unless prerequisites are required.

Is there a time limit to complete the program?
There is no time limit to complete most programs. The exceptions are Northwestern Coding, Data Science, Cyber, and FinTech Boot Camps.

I don’t see any sections of a course that I want to enroll in.
If sections of a course are not available for registration on our website, then that course is not being offered during the current quarter. Northwestern University courses are scheduled based on the quarter schedule (refer to the University academic calendar for quarter dates). Professional Development Program courses are offered on a rotating basis throughout the year.

Is there a cancellation policy/fee?
The University reserves the right to cancel classes due to insufficient enrollment, instructor illness, severe weather or natural disaster. In the event of cancellation, registrants will be notified immediately and all fees will be returned.

Student-generated enrollment cancellations must be reported by dropping the course in CAESAR (Northwestern University’s registration system). In order to receive a complete refund, students must have dropped the course in CAESAR before the first meeting of the course. Please note that no refunds will be issued after the course begins.

Students dropping a course due to exceptional circumstances (e.g. a medical or family emergency), may apply for a waiver using the Student Affairs Petition Form (requires NetID and password). Visit to login to access the form.

I can no longer take the course I signed up for. What happens if I drop the course before it begins?
After officially dropping the course in CAESAR, a student’s tuition will be credited to their Northwestern student account. This credit may be applied toward registration for a future course.

To request a refund to the original form of payment, follow this step-by-step guide. Students can also request a refund by contacting Student Accounts Chicago at Please allow time for your message to be received, and for transactions to be processed. We recommend that you allow 5 to 7 business days for your financial institution to apply the credit.

Can international students participate in noncredit, non-degree Professional Development Programs?
All of the certificate programs offered by SPS Professional Development Programs offered are noncredit and non-degree.
  • Online courses: International students may participate in online courses if they are offered in the certificate program.
  • In-person courses: The School of Professional Studies does not process I-20 or DS-2019 forms for full-time student or exchange visas. Our programs are designed as part-time programs for working professionals and cannot be used to maintain legal status in the United States.

Please refer to the U.S. Department of State for additional information regarding travel permission or visas to study in the United States.

What is a NetID?
Your NetID is your electronic identity at Northwestern University. During the online registration process, you will create a password and a NetID will be generated for you. You will need to use your NetID and password to access University systems, such as CAESAR and Canvas.

The most common format of a NetID is a combination of three letters and three or four numbers. Your NetID is different from your seven-digit student/employee number. If you have previously attended or worked at Northwestern University and were assigned a NetID, you should use the same NetID to register for PDP courses. Please visit for more information.

Books, Materials, and Instructors

Who are the instructors that teach in the program?
Our instructors are experienced professionals from the Chicago area and beyond. Instructors deliver current and relevant course material through a dynamic and rich classroom experience. For instructor biographical information, please see the course listings.  

Are course materials included in the cost of the tuition?
Please see the individual course listing for more information. Some courses include course materials in the price of tuition, while others require students to purchase books or materials separately. 

Where can I purchase books and materials?
Textbooks and/or required course materials will be posted with the course offering information. Students may purchase books at any retailer.

What is Canvas?
Canvas is a cloud-hosted learning management system (LMS) that allows Northwestern instructors and students to deliver course materials, submit assignments and tests, view grades, create learning activities, and configure personal notification options to integrate with services such as Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging.

Where do I find my course’s Canvas site?
To access Canvas, go to

You will need your NetID and password that you created during course registration in order to log in. You will need to wait 24-48 hours after registering for a course to be automatically enrolled in the Canvas course site.

Canvas support is provided 24/7/365 for the Northwestern community for general questions relating to getting started, how to use Canvas features and basic troubleshooting assistance. For an overview, visit the Canvas Student Quickstart Guide.

How do online courses work? What does asynchronous mean?
Online courses are delivered through Canvas. Online courses are held asynchronously (“asynch”) so students do not need to log in at a specific time each week to complete readings, assignments, discussion posts or other coursework. This flexibility makes the course accessible to students regardless of location. However, asynchronous does not mean “self-paced”. Coursework in online classes is designed to be completed across each week, and instructors may specify due dates for students to complete weekly deliverables.

What is a synchronous session?
Some online courses have synchronous (“sync") sessions which are held at a specific time and date. Students can access their sync sessions through their Canvas course site. These recordings will be shared only with students enrolled in the course and will be deleted at the end of the course. Your instructor will communicate how you can access the recordings.

Grades, Communication and Attendance

How will I be contacted once I’m enrolled in class?
Students are contacted via the default email address in the student record system, CAESAR. This is the email address that appears on the CAESAR Class Roster.

If you created an email address when you registered for the course, please check that account for messages, as your NU email will become your default email. You can access this account via Northwestern Webmail with your NetID and password. (You can change your default email preferences in CAESAR. To login to CAESAR, you will need your NetID and password.)

How do I get in touch with my instructor?
All registered students will have access to Canvas where they can contact fellow students in the class as well as the instructor. Students can also use the Northwestern University Directory to locate instructor contact information.

What if I need to miss a class?
The instructor may determine his or her policy regarding attendance in class. As a general guide, the SPS Office of Professional Development will allow a student to miss one class without penalty, provided that the student coordinates with his or her instructor to make up missed work. For courses that consist of four or fewer sessions, a student should not miss any classes.

How are Professional Development Programs graded?
Most Professional Development Programs courses are graded on a Satisfactory Performance (S) / Unsatisfactory Performance (U) basis. Some courses are graded on a letter grade. This is noted in the course description and/or syllabus. In cases where a student requires a letter grade from his/her instructor, he/she should request this at the beginning of the course.

How do I request a grade report?
Submit a Grade Report Request if you need a grade report (similar to an unofficial transcript). This document shows a listing of your course with a pass/fail grade, or a letter grade if you requested one from your instructor.

Send a handwritten or typed letter requesting a grade report that includes:

  • The date
  • The mailing address of where you would like to receive the report
  • A handwritten signature of consent

Please send your letter to the Registrar’s Office at (The handwritten signature can be signed in ink first, and then scanned and emailed.) We require this letter and handwritten signature to comply with federal regulations about student records (FERPA).

Completion of Your Program

How do I get my Certificate of Completion?
Within three months following the completion of your final course, complete the Program Completion - PDP/Post-baccalaureate form, listed under Undergraduate Forms. **Please note: you must use a web browser other than Chrome and Java in order to successfully open the form. If you are unable to complete the online form, please submit the Program Completion Form (PDF format) to the SPS Office of Professional Development at

UPDATE: Due to the School of Professional Studies’ current remote working policy, you will be issued a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon request, a physical certificate can be mailed once the School of Professional Studies is back in the office.

I submitted my completion form and have not received my certificate. Who should I contact?
Contact the SPS Office of Professional Development via email at Please allow three to four weeks for processing of your certificate.

UPDATE: Due to the School of Professional Studies’ current remote working policy, you will be issued a digital certificate of completion. Upon request, a physical certificate can be mailed once the School of Professional studies is back at the office.

How can I request a letter that indicates that I successfully completed a course?
Submit an official letter request if you need documentation from Northwestern University Professional Development Programs (PDP) to indicate that you have completed a course. No grade will be listed. This letter is generally sufficient when claiming continuing education credit or to satisfy inquiries from employers/potential employers. To request a letter, please email

Campus Safety

Where can I find a copy of Northwestern's Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics?

As provided by the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, now known as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, you are entitled to request and receive a copy of Northwestern University's Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. This Report includes statistics for the previous 3 years concerning reported crimes that occurred on campus; in certain off-campus buildings or property owned or controlled by Northwestern University; and on public property within, or immediately adjacent to and accessible from campus. The Report also includes institutional policies concerning campus security, such as policies on drug use, crime prevention, the reporting of crimes, sexual assault, fire safety and other matters. You can obtain a copy of this Report by contacting the Northwestern University Police Department Deputy Chief at 847-491-3256. The Report can also be accessed and printed from the University Police.

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