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Cognitive Science (Certificate)

The Cognitive Science Certificate provides an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the mind, combining knowledge and expertise from multiple disciplines including computer science, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and biology, among other fields.

How to apply

Enrolled PhD students in The Graduate School may pursue this certificate with the permission of their program. In order to petition to have a Graduate Certificate awarded and appear on the transcript, students must submit the Application for a Graduate Certificate  once all Graduate Certificate requirements have been completed, but no later than the time that the student files for graduation (in the final quarter of study). 

Who to contact

Please contact the program assistant, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the Cognitive Science Certificate website for more information.

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.

To earn a Certificate in Cognitive Science, a Northwestern graduate student must take six Cognitive Science courses, four of which must be outside of their home department. A broad range of courses can count as Cognitive Science courses. These are offered by a range of academic units at the university, including Anthropology, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, the Interdisciplinary Program in Biological Sciences, Linguistics, Learning Sciences, the Northwestern Institute for Neuroscience, the School of Music, Philosophy, and Psychology. A list of courses is given below. Other appropriate courses can be approved by the Cognitive Science Program Director or Director of Graduate Studies.

Students are strongly recommended to the take the course Mind and Brain, which bridges the Cognitive Science and Cognitive Neuroscience Programs at Northwestern. For the purposes of the certificate requirements, this course will count as a course outside the student’s home department.

Students are expected to participate in the Cognitive Science Program’s interdisciplinary events, including intensive tutorials, the Cognitive Science colloquium series, student-led discussions accompanying the colloquium series, and an annual event featuring presentations by graduate and undergraduate Cognitive Science researchers.

The Cognitive Science Certificate Program is, by design, highly flexible, allowing graduate students to select a set of courses that best meets their research interests and needs. Specialists are encouraged to capitalize on the flexibility of the program to develop novel combinations of theories and methodologies across the constituent disciplines of cognitive science.


Upon completion of the requirements, students should petition the program for the certificate by sending an email to the Program Assistant ( detailing the courses taken. Petitions will be reviewed and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies for the Cognitive Science Program. There is no time limit on completing this paperwork.

A qualified course that is co-taught by one professor inside a student's home department and one professor outside it counts as one half of an outside course. So, for example, a student could take three courses fully outside her/his home department, and two courses half outside, and thereby complete the outside-course requirement. A student taking 499 (Independent Study) earns one half an outside course credit if one of two supervising faculty members is outside the student’s home department, and one full outside course credit if the sole supervising faculty member is outside the student’s home department.

Courses taken P/N count the same for the Specialization as courses taken for a grade.