A certificate is a formal award documenting the satisfactory completion of a postsecondary educational curriculum designed primarily for students who are typically beyond the compulsory age for high school. The purpose of certificates includes academic, vocational, and continuing professional education and excludes avocational and adult basic education. Certificates are not to be confused with certifications, which are awarded by governmental and professional agencies.

Certificates reflect emerging academic areas, necessary professional development requirements, or those that do not constitute a degree program. They may be supplements or enhancements to existing degree programs or may be stand-alone. In the credit arena, certificates often provide "step-up" opportunities to degree programs allowing for milestones of progress.

Certificates are intended to foster development of an area of specialty or competency within a discipline or field of study. They are typically flexible in nature to accommodate the parameters of the discipline or field of study as well as the specific educational needs of the students. Each certificate consists of a sequence, pattern, or group of courses developed, supervised, and evaluated by the faculty members of the offering academic unit.

It is recommended that undergraduate credit certificates consist of a minimum of 6 credits and a maximum of 30 credits.

It is recommended that noncredit certificates consist of a minimum of 3 courses and 24 hours of instruction. All courses that comprise a noncredit certificate must be offered for educational value measures (EVMs), of which continuing education units (CEUs) are one variety.

Requirements for a certificate may be completed at any campus location offering the specified courses for the certificate.

All credit courses for a certificate require a grade of 'C' or higher. All noncredit courses for a certificate require satisfactory completion, as defined by the unit offering the certificate.

Approval Process:

All certificates (credit and noncredit) must be authorized by a degree-granting academic unit of the University. Academic deans, campus college chancellors, and, for the campuses of the University College, the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses (or their designees) are charged with approving all undergraduate credit and noncredit certificates and are responsible for ensuring that all aspects of the certificate adhere to the guidelines for certificates, that supporting documentation is included, and that all certificates are entered into the eCERT system.

Once a proposed certificate is approved by the appropriate academic dean, campus college chancellor or the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses, all units offering such certificates are required to use the web-based eCERT system for recording of undergraduate credit and noncredit certificates and ISIS screen ARUSBD for recording student enrollments in and completion of those certificates.

The following link provides web-based training on the use of eCERT to create, update and approve certificates and the use of ARUSBD screen in ISIS to assign certificates to students, track their progress and approve the completion of a certificate: https://its.psu.edu/training/handouts/ecert/index.htm.

Penn State certificates are designed to provide academic and/or professional development experiences for a wide range of students. Courses comprising a certificate must be Penn State courses. Any new courses that are developed as part of a certificate must be approved through standard processes.

Descriptions of approved undergraduate credit certificates are published in the Undergraduate Bulletin.

Each academic unit should develop its own processes for proposing and approving certificates. Although academic deans, campus college chancellors, and, for the campuses of the University College, the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses (or their designees) may request additional information, all certificate proposals must include the following supporting materials:

  1. The academic unit responsible for the certificate, including an individual's name and contact information.
  2. A list of all campuses where the certificate may be offered.
  3. A concise explanation of the purpose and objectives of the certificate.
  4. Requirements of the certificate including entrance requirements, courses, time limit for completion of the certificate, and/or non-course completion requirements.
  5. A facsimile of the actual paper certificate that is proposed to be awarded to students.

It is also recommended that consultation be completed with a content area expert.

Enrolling Students in Certificates:

All students who enroll in certificates must be defined as Penn State students. New students enrolling in undergraduate credit certificates must enroll as non-degree regular students (see AAPP A-4 and Senate policy 14-00). New students enrolling in noncredit certificates must be created as noncredit students on ISIS screen ARUSNP.

A student intending to complete a certificate must be entered on ISIS screen ARUSBD as being enrolled in the certificate.

A student who completes a certificate must be entered on ISIS screen ARUSBD and approved by the academic unit as having completed all requirements for the certificate. Following approval, the certificate will be recorded on the student's transcript. A paper certificate will then be produced by the academic unit and issued to the student.

Approved: ACUE (5-5-11)

The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. Please consult a Penn State academic adviser for more detailed information. Penn State is an affirmative action, equal opportunity university.