Graduate Certificate inCounterterrorism

Program summary

Gain the skills to implement proactive counterterrorism policies and effectively respond to potential or realized acts of terror with the course work offered through this online counterterrorism graduate certificate program.

Application deadline

Apply by July 1 to start August 26

Credits and costs

12 Credits$1,017 per credit

Online Certificate in Counterterrorism

The threat of terrorism and violent extremism remains one of the most pressing security challenges today. Because of this, educated professionals trained to counter the actions of terrorist and extremist groups and individuals are in great demand. Both the government and private industry are looking for specialists trained to craft, implement, and assess proactive counterterrorism policies, and to be able to effectively respond to potential or realized acts of terror.

Geared toward working professionals, the Graduate Certificate in Counterterrorism is open to candidates who hold a bachelor's degree. It is ideal for federal, state, and local emergency management officials; law enforcement personnel; members of the military; and employees in the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

Penn State's Counterterrorism Curriculum

The course work in the Graduate Certificate in Counterterrorism will familiarize you with the current counterterrorism policies, practices, and programs of various agencies in the Department of Homeland Security. Your education will feature a strong focus on understanding the motives, threats, recruitment strategies, and operational tactics of terrorist organizations. As a graduate of this program, you should be able to:

  • identify conditions likely to encourage terrorism
  • define counterterrorism techniques and operations
  • plan and execute intelligence-gathering programs
  • turn collected data into actionable information

In this program, you will have the opportunity to study with highly regarded faculty from the Department of Political Science in Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts, one of the premier institutions in the world to study and work in the liberal arts disciplines. As a student studying online, you can expect the same quality education that our residential students experience — high academic standards for courses taught by the same faculty with real-world experience, who have been trained to teach online.

Information for Military and Veterans

Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, or application instructions.


This 12-credit certificate program consists of four required courses.

After completing this certificate, you may only need to take an additional seven courses to obtain Penn State's 33-credit online Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security — Counterterrorism Option, if you apply and are granted admission into the master's program.

Required Courses (12 credits)

  • 3

    Surveys the history, evolution, strategies, techniques, tools, and contemporary issues related to counterterrorism in the world today. The course has a comparative focus, examining both U.S. counterterrorism and counterterrorism in other states and contexts. The course makes use of specific case examples of counterterrorism and engages normative/ethical debates on counterterrorism.

  • 3

    Investigates the role economic, political, and social factors play in determining patterns of international and domestic terrorism and terrorist activity.

  • 3

    Provides a comprehensive summary of the factors that promote the radicalization process, as well as the theoretical and practical foundations of efforts at counter-radicalization and de-radicalization.

  • 3

    Introduces students to the various resources and analytical techniques available to terrorism and counterterrorism experts today. It introduces them to the major sources of data on terrorist groups, terrorist incident reports, risk climates, and legal and criminal justice data surrounding terrorism and counterterrorism. It provides students with critical data-gathering and analysis skills useful to practitioners and engages them in reporting and threat-briefing exercises.

    • Prerequisite

      Students must complete PLSC 569 or PLSC 836 or PLSC 837 BEFORE taking PLSC 838

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,017 per credit
12 or more$12,203 per semester

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,027 per credit
12 or more$12,325 per semester

Paying for Your Certificate

Students pursuing a certificate are considered "nondegree," a status that is not eligible for federal student aid, including the Federal Direct Stafford Loan program. A private alternative loan may be an option to consider.

Additionally, Penn State offers many ways to pay for your education, including an installment plan and third-party payments. Penn State World Campus also offers an Employer Reimbursement and Tuition Deferment Plan. Learn more about the options for paying for your education.

Students pursuing a degree and meeting all other eligibility requirements may qualify for financial aid.

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

To view the detailed list of cost of attendance elements, select “World Campus” as the location on the tuition site.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Applications for all semesters are accepted on an ongoing basis. Decisions will follow soon after we receive your completed application. 

  • Fall DeadlineApply by July 1 to start August 26
  • Spring DeadlineApply now to start January 13
  • Summer DeadlineApply now to start May 19, 2025

Admission Requirements 

For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

Starting Your Application

You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

Begin the Graduate School application

  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

Online Application Materials

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee.

You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:   

A copy of an official transcript from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed — Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. 

GPA & Test Scores — Post-secondary (undergraduate), junior/senior (last two years) GPA is required. 

GRE or GMAT scores are NOT required for admission. 

English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. All international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with some exceptions. Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page.

References (2) — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of two references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.

References should come from current or former academic instructors, managers or supervisors, and/or professional peers. Family and friend references are not acceptable. 

Program-Specific Questions/Materials

Statement of purpose — A statement of no more than 500 words explaining to the admissions committee how your professional experience and goals relate to the program to which you are applying. Your statement could include aspects such as the following: your reasons for pursuing the degree; why you feel you are a good candidate for the program; and any information you would like the admissions committee to know about you personally and/or professionally.

Résumé — Upload your résumé (one to two pages) to the online application.

Technical Requirements 

Review the technical requirements for this program.

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by July 1 to start August 26. How to Apply 

Start or Advance Your Career

A homeland security professional working at a computer

You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

Student having a virtual meeting on a laptop with a career counselor

From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

A Head Start toward a Master’s Degree

A figure standing halfway up a set of stairs leading towards a graduation cap

Not only can this program help create opportunities in your career, it can also give you a solid head start toward a full master’s degree.

Degree Program Related to This Certificate

Some or all credits earned for this certificate can be applied to the following Penn State World Campus degree program:

Build an understanding of terrorist organizations and their motives, threats, recruitment strategies, and operational tactics. This online master's degree program option also covers the evolution of counterterrorism in the U.S. and abroad.

Learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security - Counterterrorism Option

Contact Us

For questions related to the Counterterrorism certificate or the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security — Counterterrorism Option, offered in partnership with the Department of Political Science, College of the Liberal Arts, please contact:

Andrew Vitek, Ph.D.
Assistant Teaching Professor, Counterterrorism Option Director
Political Science Department
217 Pond Laboratories
University Park, PA 16802
Email: [email protected]

Allison Haas
Political Science Department
220 Pond Laboratories
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-863-8110
Email: [email protected]

For general questions about Penn State World Campus, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
Email: [email protected]


  • Nazli Avdan

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, Duke University
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science and International Relations, Bosphorus University, Istanbul

    Dr. Nazli Avdan is an associate professor of political science at the University of Kansas, where she also directs the graduate program. She studies international migration and border policies, the security migration nexus, and international security and political violence, including specifically the causes and consequences of terrorism. Dr. Avdan’s work has been published in many of the leading political science and international relations journals. She teaches courses on foreign policy, terrorism, and migration policies.

  • Justin Conrad

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, Florida State University
    • Degree
      M.A., Latin American Studies, University of California
    • Degree
      B.A., International Affairs, Florida State University

    Dr. Justin Conrad is an associate professor of international affairs. He studies international security issues, including terrorism and interstate conflict, and his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense. Dr. Conrad's work has been published in many of the leading political science, security studies, and international relations journals. He has also worked in the international private sector and served as a U.S. military officer.

  • Paul Gill

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, University College Dublin
    • Degree
      M.A., International Social Science, University College Dublin
    • Degree
      B.S., International Social Science, University College Dublin and Uppsala University

    Dr. Paul Gill's research focuses on violent extremist behavior. It is interdisciplinary in nature, with publications in leading political science, psychology, criminology, mathematics, and general science journals. He teaches on the causes and correlates of terrorism.

  • Amira Jadoon

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Philosophy, Political Science, International Relations, Public Policy and Quantitative Methods; State University of New York, Albany
    • Degree
      M.S., Economic Development, Distinction in Applied Quantitative Methods; London School of Economics and Political Science
    • Degree
      B.A., Economics, and Journalism & Mass Communications

    Dr. Amira Jadoon is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences and a research associate in the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She specializes in international security, economic statecraft, and political violence, with a regional focus on South and Central Asia. Prior to beginning her career in academia and research, Dr. Jadoon worked as a consultant for Deloitte London (U.K.) between 2006-2011.

  • John Morrison

    • Degree
      Ph.D., International Relations, St. Andrews University
    • Degree
      MA, Forensic Psychology, University College Cork
    • Degree
      BA., Psychology, University College Dublin

    John Morrison has an interdisciplinary background in psychology, international relations and criminology. His teaching and research interests reflect this. He is particularly interested in the role of trust in terrorist involvement, and the broader psychology of terrorism.

  • James Piazza

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Politics, New York University
    • Degree
      M.A., Middle East Studies, University of Michigan
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science, Loyola University

    Dr. James Piazza is a liberal arts professor of political science at Penn State. His research and teaching focus on terrorism, counterterrorism, and the politics of the Islamic world.

  • Andrew Vitek

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, State University of New York at Albany
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, State University of New York at Albany
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science and Philosophy, McGill University

    Dr. Andrew Vitek is the director of the Counterterrorism Option and an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Political Science. His research focuses on terrorism, political violence, security studies, and pedagogy. He teaches courses on terrorism, homeland security, and comparative politics.

  • James Walsh

    • Degree
      Ph.D., International Relations, American University
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science, Trinity College

    Dr. James Walsh's research and teaching interests include political violence and terrorism, civil war, human rights violations, and intelligence and national security. He is the author of three books, including Drones and Support for the Use of Force, available from The University of Michigan Press. His work has been supported by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security, the Army Research Office, and the Minerva Research Initiative.

  • Jason Warner

    • Degree
      Ph.D., African Studies, Harvard University
    • Degree
      M.A., Government, Harvard University
    • Degree
      M.A., African Studies, Yale University
    • Degree
      B.A., International Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Dr. Jason Warner, assistant professor at the Military Academy at West Point, teaches in the Department of Social Sciences and is an associate in the Combating Terrorism Center, where he directs research on terrorism and counterterrorism in Africa. His research focuses on terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Africa, terrorism, counterterrorism, and political violence. He is the co-author or co-editor of three books and has published in leading academic journals in political science, security studies, and African studies.

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by July 1 to start August 26. How to Apply