Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do you only accept students with a background in health care related fields?

No. We have students from all walks of life – from retired doctors to life-long marketing professionals. Many of our students have experienced first-hand the complexities of the health care system personally. However, we believe anyone can learn essential patient advocacy skills.

2. I don’t have a lot of experience with online classes, what is the format like?

We have designed our online certificate program for working professionals with a busy lifestyle. Many of our students are returning adult students, and we work with each of our students to best plan your studies. For our online courses, course content is published weekly and students have the entire week to complete all the course activities on their own schedule. Some students spend a couple of hours every night for studying, others put aside weekend hours to study. On average, students need 10 – 15 hours a week put aside for studying. During the experiential learning portion of the certificate program, we require students to have at least 6 hours of availability during business hours in 3-hour chunks – for a total of 12 hours a week. While our online program format provides more flexibility to our students, the time commitment for our course is comparable to similar courses taught in person, if not more.  See Technology Requirements page for details. Our advisors are happy to discuss your unique situation and see how we can make it work. Call us at 608 265 6267.

3. What do graduates do with the Consumer Health Advocacy Certificate?

The short answer is – it depends on the student. Because of our diverse student backgrounds, certificate graduates have done many different things after completing the certificate. Some graduates bring what they have learned in the program back to their existing careers in health care such as hospitals, insurance companies, and non-profit organizations. Other graduates with extensive experience in health care have started their own private practices in patient advocacy. Some graduates completed the program to better serve their loved ones and to pursue post-retirement opportunities. We have gap year students who will continue their post-graduate education in medicine, health policy, social work, pharmacy, and others.

Additional Info:
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4. I’m a Gap Year student looking to apply for medical schools in the future, is the certificate program a good fit for me? 

Yes. We have many Gap Year students studying with us. We offer the direct patient interactions that many Gap Year students are looking for. Through our program, students will have the opportunity to learn more about the health care system through the patient perspective. However, we are not a bridge program. Please reach out to us to get started with an advising session.

5. Do you need a bachelor degree to apply to the program?

If you want to pursue the For-Credit option with UW-Madison graduate credits, we do require a bachelor degree. If you want to pursue our non-credit option, a bachelor degree is not required and we will take your professional experience into consideration during the admissions process.

6. I’m a current graduate student at UW-Madison and I’m interested in pursuing the Consumer Health Advocacy Certificate, how should I get started?

Please email us or call us to schedule an advising session to get started. Email or call 608 265 6267. We offer the Consumer Health Advocacy certificate to ALL current graduate students at UW-Madison, including Law, Medicine, Public Health, Social Work, Genetic Counseling, Pharmacy, Nursing, etc. Certificate requirements differ based on your degree program.

7. What is the difference between the For-Credit and Non-Credit certificate options? 

The program content is the same for both options. For-Credit students will receive graduate level credits on a UW-Madison transcript. Non-Credit students will receive Continuing Education Units (CEUs) through the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

8. What is the difference between individual-level patient advocacy and system/policy level health advocacy? 

All our students will be exposed to both individual-level patient advocacy (work one-on-one with patients and families to help them navigate the healthcare system) and system/policy level health advocacy (advocating for policy/legislative change for organizations or systems). For those interested, you can choose to focus on the system/policy level health advocacy to gain more hands-on experience on system level advocacy projects and issues. Our advisors are happy to explore the best fit for you. Please reach out to us.

9. What is the difference between a certificate and a certification? 

A certificate indicates completion of a course or series of courses with a specific focus. Students will receive a certificate in the Consumer Health Advocacy Certificate Program from the Center for Patient Partnerships at the University of Wisconsin – Madison upon satisfactory completion of our program. Certification includes an experience and education component and usually requires passing an exam. It allows a practitioner to put letters after his or her name (e.g., CPP, CPA). There are several certification options available for patient advocates.

10. What if I don’t live in Madison, WI?  Can I still enroll?

Yes, students can complete the entire program online except a mandatory in-person 2-3 days orientation at the beginning of the second semester. We encourage students in the Madison area come and work in our clinic if that’s feasible.

11. How long does the certificate program take to complete? 

Depending on student availability, students on average have taken between 12 – 18 months to complete the program. If you are interested in pursuing the program at an accelerated pace, please reach out to our advisors at for an advising session to discuss details.

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