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.

There are two basic components to certificate recording: entering the certificate into eCert in eISIS and recording the student on ARUSBD in ISIS. The steps for each component and the appropriate authorizations are outlined below. In addition, an online tutorial may be found on the ITS Training Services website.

How to Create, Submit and Approve a Certificate

eCert exists in eISIS (a web-based version of ISIS) and is used to define certificates. There are three steps:

  1. Create/propose a new certificate. New certificates have a status of "N" (new). Any user with access to eCert may create/propose a new certificate.
  2. Submit the new certificate for approval. A submitted certificate has a status of "P" (pending). Only users with appropriate college access to eCert may submit certificates. When a certificate is submitted, the approver (college associate dean) is notified via email. In addition, the submitter is notified that a description of the certificate must be submitted to the approver for forwarding to the Faculty Senate Office so that the certificate may be included in the University Bulletin. Templates are provided to assist in developing the Bulletin copy.
  3. Approve the certificate. An approved certificate has a status of "A" (approved). Only the college associate dean may approve certificates for the college. When a certificate is approved, the proposer is notified via email and the approver is instructed to forward the Bulletin copy to the appropriate office. Alternatively, college associate deans may also deny certificates by entering a status of "D" (deny). When a certificate is denied, the proposer is notified via email.

    Note: For postbaccalaureate and graduate certificates, an additional step occurs which involves a review by the Graduate School to ensure compliance with Graduate Council guidelines regarding certificates. Postbaccalaureate and graduate certificates are not available for offering until the Graduate School review step is complete.

Some Important Notes About Certificates

  • The area of emphasis is optional and should be used only in rare cases where a single certificate is being offered with various options (e.g. premedicine with options in optometry, dentistry, etc). Areas of emphasis such as "public" or "general" or those that are redundant with the certificate name should NOT be used.
  • Certificates will be noted on the student's transcript as in the following example:


  • Proposers should take great care in selecting the title for a new certificate. The word "certificate" and phrases like "certificate in" should be avoided in the title since they will be repetitive on the transcript.

Changes to Certificates

Prior to approval, anyone with college-level access to eCert may make changes to certificates in his/her college. However, once a certificate has been approved, changes are severely limited.

Approved certificates may be deactivated by entering a "Semester End" in eCert. This may only be done by the certificate approver (college associate dean). Students who are enrolled in the certificate at the time it is deactivated will be permitted to complete, but no new students will be permitted to enroll after the end semester.

Once a certificate is approved, in addition to the semester end, the list of campuses may be changed. Campuses may be added and/or removed on approved certificates only by the certificate approver (college associate dean).

How to Enroll, Complete and Approve Students in Certificate Programs

ARUSBD exists in ISIS and is used to associate students with certificates. There are three steps:

  1. Student enrolls in a certificate. For undergraduate and noncredit certificates, the student is simply marked as having expressed an intention to pursue a certificate. This intention is recorded on ISIS screen ARUSBD by adding the certificate to the student's record. Anyone with add/update college access to ARUSBD may enroll students in the college's undergraduate credit and noncredit certificates. For postbaccalaureate and graduate certificates, students apply using an online application, which creates an ARUSBD record automatically.
  2. Student indicates that he/she has completed the certificate requirements. Students are responsible for notifying the academic unit responsible for the certificate program regarding completion of their certificate. The academic unit responsible for the certificate program then indicates the completion of the certificate by placing a "C" in the CERT STATUS column on ISIS screen ARUSBD. Anyone with add/update college access to ARUSBD may mark students as having completed the college's certificates. When a student is marked as complete, an email is sent to the approver.
  3. Someone in the college with academic authority for the certificate reviews the student's transcript and ensures that all certificate requirements have been successfully completed. If so, the student is marked with a "Y" in the APPR INDC column on ISIS screen ARUSBD. After approval, a message is automatically recorded on the student's transcript. An email is sent to the person who marked the student as complete to inform him/her that the student has been approved. For undergraduate and noncredit certificates, the college may print a paper certificate to be given to the student.

Retroactive Certificates

Colleges may enter historical certificate data into eCert and ISIS/ARUSBD in order to ensure complete and accurate student records and proper transcript notations. Certificates should be entered into eCert with a Semester Begin that corresponds to the earliest semester in which students were enrolled. If the certificate is no longer active, the Semester End must be on or after the latest semester in which students completed the certificate. Historical certificates must be created, submitted, and approved in eCert.

Once the certificate has been approved in eCert, student records may be entered. Using ARUSBD, students must be enrolled retroactively and approved. Retroactive enrollment is accomplished by adding the certificate to the student's record (as outlined in step 1 above) and entering an "R" (retroactive award) in the CERT STATUS column. An "R" should be entered for any certificate that was awarded prior to fall 2011. Using the "R" status will ensure that certificates are not double-counted in Penn State's IPEDS reports. After the retroactive award has been processed, the approval must be entered on ARUSBD as described in step 3 above.