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Undergraduate Certificate in
Earth Sustainability

Program summary

Develop sustainability and Earth-friendly strategies to supplement your degree or jump-start your career in geosciences, emergency preparedness, conservation, or natural resource management with this certificate.

Application deadline

Apply by August 14 to start August 21

Credits and costs

12 Credits $620/$664 per credit

Earn an Online Undergraduate Certificate in Earth Sustainability

The Undergraduate Certificate in Earth Sustainability, developed by Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and delivered through Penn State World Campus, is designed to provide students like you — regardless of your background — with the knowledge needed to make environmentally sustainable decisions.

This certificate increases your geoscience literacy and can help add depth to your résumé and prepare you to become a steward of the green movement in education, politics, business, or law. You may also use this credential to jump-start a career in geosciences, emergency preparedness, environmental health and sustainability, land management and conservation, or natural resource management.

Why Sustainability at Penn State?

As a leading research institution and leader in geosciences, Penn State brings expertise and depth to the study of sustainability. Our online certificate program will provide you access to a Penn State education — without stepping foot on campus. Even though you may be learning from a distance, your experience will be supported by frequent interaction with faculty and other students, access to information and instructional resources, and valuable academic advising and support services.

Your Online Sustainability Courses

The courses in this 12-credit program address key sustainability issues, including the impact of climate change on Earth and its inhabitants, access to clean drinking water, sustainable energy, and the hazards posed by our overpopulated coastal regions.

This online program was made possible, in part, by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to introduce more students to the geosciences and the importance of sustainable living.

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.


The online Earth sustainability certificate is a 12-credit program of study that you may earn as a stand-alone certificate. To acquire this certificate, you must successfully complete the following 3-credit prescribed course, along with 9 credits chosen from the offerings within the additional courses section.

General Education Requirements

If you are pursuing a bachelor's degree from Penn State, these courses may also satisfy certain individual General Education requirements. You should consult with your adviser to determine what, if any, credits earned in this certificate may be applied toward your degree completion requirements.

Prescribed Course (3 credits)

  • 3

    Climate predictions for the coming century are utilized to examine potential impacts on regions, sectors of society, and natural ecosystems.

Additional Courses (select 9 credits)

  • 3

    This course presents the past, present, and possible future response of Earth's climate to human energy use.

  • 3

    Outcomes include the processes responsible for formation, diversity, and evolution of coastal landscapes; socioeconomic and policy responses to changes in coastal regions.

  • 3

    Energy is a critical component of modern society, yet we face significant challenges associated with balancing energy demands, energy security, environmental sustainability, and stable economics with sound regulations and policy. Unconventional energy development from shale formations has been a game changer for the fossil fuel industry over the past decade and is projected to continue to grow over the next several decades.

  • 3

    Students will investigate water behavior and occurrence, and its relevance to life, human activities, politics, and society.

  • 3

    Introduces students to the multiple connections of people and the environment through the dynamics of food and the places where it is produced, processed, and consumed.

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

Undergraduate Tuition

Undergraduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register and the number of total credits you have accrued at or transferred to Penn State. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2022–23 Academic Year Rates

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? If you have 59 or fewer credits If you have 60 or more credits
11 or fewer $620 per credit $664 per credit
12 or more $7,527 per semester $8,125 per semester

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.

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.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

  • Fall DeadlineApply by August 14 to start August 21
  • Spring DeadlineApply by January 1 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by May 5, 2024, to start May 13, 2024

All supporting materials should be sent following the submission of your application.

For current and future course registration deadlines, visit the Registrar's website to view the academic calendar by semester

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact [email protected].

Admission Requirements 

To apply for the Undergraduate Certificate in Earth Sustainability, you must be a high school graduate, or have completed your GED. There are no additional prerequisites associated with taking the individual courses.

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 undergraduate certificate?

Apply by August 14 to start August 21. How to Apply

Start or Advance Your Career

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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

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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 

Contact Us

For questions about admissions and applications, please contact World Campus Central:

World Campus Central
Phone: 814-865-1146
[email protected]

To learn more about the online Undergraduate Certificate in Earth Sustainability, offered in partnership with Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, please contact:

Noelle Capparelle, Program Assistant
Earth Science Programs
The Pennsylvania State University
2217 Earth–Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-867-5401
Toll-free: 877-713-7778
[email protected]

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

Apply by August 14 to start August 21. How to Apply