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.

PDP courses are offered online, remotely, and on-campus. Please refer to the Schedule Notes for course delivery information.

IMPORTANT: The registration process for all professional development courses requires you to register for your course and update your emergency contact information in CAESAR, Northwestern University's Student Enterprise System. 


Registering for multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a mandatory, integrated step to access Northwestern University systems. Northwestern uses the DUO Mobile smartphone application for multi-factor authentication. Steps to install the DUO Mobile App can be found here. Once you have completed the MFA registration process, you will have access to systems like CAESAR and CANVAS, Northwestern’s Learning Management System. 

*It is a student’s responsibility to ensure access to Northwestern systems after registering for a PDP course. If you do not have a smartphone capable of downloading and using the DUO Mobile app, you may want to consider a YubiKey that can be purchased from several online retailers.    

Please contact pdp@northwestern.eduwith any questions. 

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 AI, Coding, Cybersecurity, Data Science, and UX-UI 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 program cancellation, registrants will be notified immediately, and all tuition fees will be credited to their Northwestern student account. SPS is not responsible for any travel or other related expenses accrued by registrants. 

Northwestern University classes are rarely cancelled due to snow or other weather-related emergencies. However, should such an event force the cancellation of on-campus classes and/or closure of the University, students should contact their course instructor or the Office of Professional Development Programs for information, or check the Northwestern University homepage for alerts. Weather-related course cancellations for the Chicago and Evanston campuses do not apply to SPS online or remote courses.  

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 their registration in CAESAR prior to the end of the registration period, generally the day before the course begins. All refunded tuition fees will be credited to the student’s Northwestern student account and may be applied toward registration for any future course at Northwestern University. 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 sending an email with their name, Northwestern student ID number, and refund request to Student Accounts Chicago. 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/remote courses: International students may participate in online or remote courses if they are offered in the certificate program.
  • In-person/on-campus 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 their instructor, they should request this at the beginning of the course.

How do I request a grade report?
SPS’s Registrar’s Office does not issue official student transcripts for non-credit PDP programs. If documentation including a grade is needed, students may submit a request for a Grade Report. The Grade Report is an official document that lists the grades of all noncredit courses taken.

To request a Grade Report, please complete a Grade Report Request Form PDF.  Download the Grade Report Request Form PDF and send it to the SPS Registrar’s Office. You can submit the form via email to We require this letter and handwritten signature to comply with federal regulations about student records (FERPA). The handwritten signature can be signed in ink first, and then scanned and emailed. Grade Report Request Forms are sent out via Canvas at the end of each course and can also be requested from the Office of Professional Development.

Please allow 4-6 weeks for processing and mailing of grade reports. For questions or to check the status of your grade report, you may contact the SPS Registrar’s Office directly at or by calling (312) 503-6951. 


Completion of Your Program

How do I get my digital Certificate of Completion?

Once all program requirements have been met, students may submit a Program Completion Form to request a digital Certificate of Completion from Northwestern University School of Professional Studies. The online Program Completion – PDP/Post-baccalaureate form can be found on the SPS Forms and Documents page. A NetID and password are required to log in to this page. Students who cannot access the online form can request a Program Completion Form (fillable PDF) from the Office of Professional Development Programs at

After program completion form submission, a digital certificate of completion will be sent to the student’s preferred email address listed in the student’s Northwestern University student account (CAESAR). Students with a Northwestern University email address ( or will receive their certificate at this account. Students who are unsure on how to access university email or their CAESAR account should email the Office of Professional Development Programs at for assistance.

I submitted my completion form and have not received my digital certificate. Who should I contact?
Please allow 4-6 weeks for processing. Students who have not received their digital certificate after this period should contact the SPS Registrar’s Office at with their follow-up inquiry.

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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