Professional Development Noncredit Certificate FAQs

About Our Noncredit Certificates

What is a professional development noncredit certificate?
Graham School noncredit certificates are focused on offering professional development and educational opportunities for students on a variety of topics, including writing and editing, marketing, and project management. Our certificates are rigorous in nature and provide students with the opportunity to dive deeply into an area of interest and to broaden a skill set. Students who enroll in noncredit certificate programs enjoy similar benefits of being connected to the University— camaraderie with fellow classmates, engaging with instructors who are industry experts, and being part of the alumni community. A noncredit certificate is a sequence or group of courses focusing on an area of specialized knowledge. The goal of a certificate program is to contribute to a student’s ability to meet standards of competence within a given field. A noncredit certificate is not a degree program, and students do not earn credit toward a graduate degree.
What is the difference between a professional development noncredit certificate and a for-credit certificate?
While noncredit certificates offer the opportunity to study a specific subject without applying to a degree program, students do not earn credit for these programs. Although noncredit students may earn grades in the courses they take, the courses are noncredit and cannot be transferred to a credit-bearing or degree program. Additionally, the application process for noncredit certificates is often less onerous than for-credit programs. Application requirements for noncredit certificates include a resume, a personal statement, unofficial transcripts, and an application fee.
By completing a professional development noncredit certificate, can I earn credit toward a graduate degree?
No, students who complete a professional development noncredit certificate cannot transfer credit toward a graduate degree. Noncredit certificates provide professional education but do not carry credit toward an undergraduate or graduate degree.
What is the difference between a certificate and a certification?
Certificate programs provide professional training and are usually awarded by an educational institution. They also do not have to be renewed. Certifications are awarded by governmental and professional agencies, and often need to be renewed to be kept active.


What are the benefits of enrolling in a professional development noncredit certificate program?
Professional development noncredit certificates allow students to further their professional education by gaining skills and knowledge in a targeted field or subject matter. Students can take as many courses as they like in a variety of different subject areas and hone their skills. The benefits of enrolling in a professional development noncredit certificate program extend beyond the classroom. Students can leverage the connections made in their courses to build their professional networks. Additionally, all professional development courses are taught by instructors with years of experience in their field.
Are there alumni benefits for noncredit students?
Yes, students who complete a professional development noncredit certificate program do have access to UChicago alumni benefits, including access to networking resources like the alumni directory and alumni clubs, job search resources like the Chicago Career Connection, and additional resources like monthly webinars. Note: These benefits are only available to students who have completed a certificate program.

Online Courses | General

Can I take professional development noncredit courses online?
We currently offer eight online certificate programs comprised of the same curriculum and instructors as our on the ground programs. Our online certificate programs allow you to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills under the expert direction of faculty and those working in the field while interacting with other University of Chicago students and with course instructors.

What happens in online courses?
When you take an online course you’ll get the same information, same rigor, same instructors as you do in the face-to-face classes. The difference is that you’ll interact with them in a virtual classroom rather than a physical one. Individual courses differ in their structure, but in general, you’ll have access to your syllabus and assignments through the University’s online learning management system (LMS), called “Canvas,” which allows you to access all course materials, assignments, quizzes, and projects, and to communicate with your instructor and classmates electronically. Like our face-to-face courses, the online courses emphasize critical thinking, discussion, and project-based learning throughout its curriculum.
Do I ever need to come to campus physically?
No. You will have face-to-face contact with your instructor and the other students during the “synchronous” classroom sessions, during which you’ll participate in a live discussion online via a technology called Zoom. Some programs have the option of combining online courses with face-to-face courses, depending on your schedule and interests. Check the program brochure for more information. Depending upon your program, you have the option of doing some of your courses online and some in a traditional face-to-face format, depending on your schedule.
What is the time commitment for an online course?
That depends upon the program. In general, you’ll spend at least as much time on an online course as you would in a face-to-face class, since much of the material will be delivered as readings and written responses to questions or online discussions. Typically, students spend about 5-6 hours a week working on the course.
Do I have to be a computer expert to participate in an online program?
No, not at all. The learning management system, Canvas, used by the University of Chicago is very user friendly. You do need some basic computer skills, however, such as the ability to conduct a basic search on the web using a browser, download software from the Internet, to send and receive emails, open attachments, and save documents in Word, Excel, and as PDFs. It may take a few minutes when you get started to learn how to use the online discussion boards and synchronous class meeting spaces, but there will be good instructions along the way for using the technology until you get used to it. The University’s “Canvas” site is a great place to review online tutorials in case you get stuck or want to learn a more advanced feature of the system.
Do I have to apply to the online certificate program?
Yes. You apply for admission to the program just as you would for the face-to-face program, using the application form
What is a synchronous session? What is Zoom?
Each online course includes weekly synchronous sessions, which are additional opportunities for discussion, lecture, student presentations, and interaction. The synchronous sessions are pre-scheduled dates and times when you, your instructor, and your classmates will all gather in the online meeting room at the same time. We currently use a program called Zoom to conduct synchronous sessions.
Is there any orientation to online learning, and to the learning management system?
Yes. Once you’re accepted in the certificate program, you’ll be directed to free Canvas tutorial. This brief course provides you with a chance to use the system and get a feel for the technology and its features before you begin your first course.
Will I need to buy textbooks, or is everything included online?
Some courses have text books, but others do not. The required materials and texts are listed in the course syllabus for each course, which you’ll receive once you register for the course. If a textbook is required, you must purchase the book independently.
How do I register and access the materials for my courses?
When you register for a course, you will receive an email with information about how to access your materials. You will either use your CNet ID, which you will claim through the university and will create an ID and password, or the email address you registered under. You’ll receive more information about this process once you’re accepted into your program.
I can’t make the synchronous session.
You should make arrangements with your instructor and program manager as early as possible if you are going to miss a synchronous session. You will need to watch the recording of the session when it is posted to the Canvas site and you may be asked to complete additional assignments assigned by the instructor. Attendance in the synchronous sessions is mandatory so missing a session may affect your final grade.

Online Courses | Technical / Software / Troubleshooting

What kind of equipment and software do I need in order to take an online course?

At a minimum, you will need the following hardware and software to participate in the online programs:

  • Access to a modern computer
  • Reliable high-speed Internet access via cable, Ethernet, or WIFI
  • A recent version of a reliable internet browser
  • An email account and service that is dependable and easily accessible at various times of the day
  • A basic microphone for participation in group discussions
  • A sound card and speakers for participation in group discussions
I can’t hear the audio during the synchronous session.
First make sure your headphones are plugged into the proper jack, and also check that the master volume setting on your computer is not muted. You can check this by right clicking on the small speaker icon on the lower right corner of your desktop. If you have verified that your volume is on and are still having trouble with audio, check to make sure the speaker icon on the top of the synchronous session screen is green. Click on the down arrow next to the icon to adjust your volume.
My microphone is not working.
First make sure your microphone is plugged into the appropriate jack. Next ask the host if the microphone rights for participants have been turned on.
I can’t get the modules to load and open.
This is usually browser or cache related. You might also try logging out and logging back into Canvas as well as shutting down your computer and restarting.
How do I empty my cache?
Enter the search phrase “how do I enter my cache [insert computer model]” in a Google search.
I can’t view Word documents.
Make sure you are using one of the recommended browsers, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari. If you are and you are still having problems, try emptying your cache.
I can’t view PowerPoint slides.
Please make sure you are using one of the recommended browsers. Also, if you are using a recommended browser and are still having problems, try emptying the cache on your computer.
How do I contact IT Services for help?
You can call IT Services at 773.702.5800 (option 4) or email them at Their hours of operation are 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Central Time.
I can’t remember my CNET password.
Reset your password online.
I can’t access the online library resources, like the AMA Manual of Style.
The permissions on your CNET account may need to be adjusted. Please leave a message with your program staff.

Application, Registration, Financial Aid

Do I have to apply to a specific program to begin taking courses?
No, students do not need to apply to a program to begin taking courses. Students can take up to one course in any professional development program without applying to that program. However, if students want to complete the certificate, they do need to apply to the program via an application found on the program webpage.
Is there a start date for the professional development noncredit certificate programs?
There is no specific start date for professional development noncredit certificate programs. Students can start taking courses any quarter. Core courses are typically offered 2-3 times per year, while electives are offered once per year. Students should keep in mind that all courses aren’t offered each quarter, so it’s important to plan ahead to complete the necessary requirements.
How do I register for courses?
You can register for courses online by visiting the online course registration portal and creating an account. You can also register by phone at 773.702.1722. Students who want to apply discounts to their tuition must register by phone.
Do I qualify for financial aid as a noncredit student?
Noncredit students do not qualify for financial aid. However, the financial investment in the Noncredit Certificate Program is significantly less than that of a degree seeking program. For more information about tuition payments, please visit our Tuition, Financing, and Billing page.


Are there other noncredit certificates?
Yes, the Graham School offers a noncredit certificate in Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults.