Penn State Mark

Certificate Processes

A certificate is a formal award documenting the satisfactory completion of a postsecondary educational curriculum. 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.

Certificates are valuable credentials to students and it is important that they be accurately and completely recorded on the student's academic record. Certificates may be undergraduate, graduate, or post-baccalaureate and may be credit or non-credit. The ACUE policy/procedure may be found on ACUE's website. The policy on postbaccalaurate and graduate certificates is located on The Graduate School's home page.

How to Create a Certificate

Undergraduate and Non-degree

  • Follow the approval process steps outlined in ACUE M-12. Once these steps are completed, log into https://curriculum.psu.edu/, select create proposal, and complete the online proposal form. Once the certificate has been approved, the Office of the University Registrar will enter the certificate into LionPATH and the University Bulletin.

Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate

  • Log into https://curriculum.psu.edu/, select create proposal, and complete the online proposal form. Once the certificate has been approved, the Office of the University Registrar will enter the certificate into LionPATH and the Graduate School will update the University Bulletin.
  • Post baccalaureate and graduate certificates are reviewed by the Graduate School to ensure compliance with Graduate Council policy. Post baccalaureate and graduate certificates are not approved until the Graduate School review step is complete.   

Change to Certificates

Once a certificate is approved, all changes must be added to the Curriculum System and go through the approval process.

How to Enroll Students in a Certificate Program:

Undergraduate degree-seeking students can use Update Academics, within LionPATH, to add/change/remove a certificate from their academic record.

Undergraduate non-degree students notify the academic unit responsible for the certificate program. All new non-degree students must submit a non-degree enrollment form. Once entered in the Student Information System, the academic unit enrolls the students in the certificate program.

Graduate level students must apply for certificates through the Penn State Graduate School application.