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Policy on Awarding Certificates

From time to time schools create curricular packages smaller than a major or a minor (if that is an option within a school) that they present to students as a “certificate.” Programs leading to certificates are designed to recognize extraordinary work completed through a set of courses with a specified focus or concentration.

Minimum criteria for certificates are as follows:

A. Undergraduate certificates may be awarded by one of the seven schools that award undergraduate degrees or by a professional school that does not award undergraduate degrees.

Such certificates are generally interdisciplinary. For an undergraduate certificate to be posted on the transcript, all of the following must be satisfied:

  1. There is no major or minor in the area. The certificate requires academic course work of at least four units uniquely counted, not also applied to any other academic plan or credential. Such coursework may fulfill other degree requirements such as distribution or required electives.
  2. For certificates with course work from one school, approval is required under the standard curricular review process in the school. For certificates that contain substantial course work from more than one school, approval is required under the standard curricular review process in each contributing school.

B. For a certificate awarded by The Graduate School to be posted to the transcript, the following must be satisfied:

  1. Students currently enrolled in a PhD or master’s program in TGS and who wish to pursue a Graduate Certificate may only do so when the Graduate Certificate goes beyond the degree program requirements and is an extension of the student’s expertise into a different field.
  2. Students must complete at least five quality letter-graded (ABC, not P/NP) courses authorized for Graduate School credit.
  3. The Graduate School allows students to count courses towards both the Graduate Certificate and degree. Graduate Certificate programs may have stricter requirements.
  4. Students who wish to pursue multiple Graduate Certificates may not count the same coursework for more than one certificate.

C. For a certificate awarded by the School of Professional Studies for non-credit classes to be posted to the transcript, the student must successfully complete a course or a series of courses of non-credit SPS courses that together have been designated as a faculty-approved plan of study.


Responsible Office: Office of the Provost

Who Needs to Know This Policy: All Northwestern faculty members

Contacts: If you have any questions on this policy, contact

Dated: April 1, 2022