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Undergraduate Certificate inEarth 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.

100% Online

Complete your Penn State course work at your own pace and 100% online.

Application deadline

Apply by August 18 to start August 26

Credits and costs

12 Credits$626/$671 per credit

Gain Skills to Make Environmentally Sustainable Decisions

  • Communicate the major sustainability issues facing the Earth and their possible solutions to stakeholders including policy-makers and fellow citizens.

  • Assess the connection between human activities and the changing climate and environment.

  • Interpret the relationships among the key elements of sustainability, including energy, water, and food supply.

  • Manipulate and interpret data related to the Earth’s climate and resources and their future.

  • Leverage a variety of tools to project how the climate, energy use, water, coastal hazards, and food supply will change in the future.

Online Earth 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

  • the hazards posed by our overpopulated coastal regions

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.

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.

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.

Add depth to your résumé and become a steward of the green movement in education, politics, business, or law. This credential can also help jump-start your career in geosciences, emergency preparedness, environmental health and sustainability, land management and conservation, or natural resource management.

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 

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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Learn more about this program

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

Apply by August 18 to start August 26. How to Apply 

Costs and Financial Aid

Learn about this program's tuition, fees, scholarship opportunities, grants, payment options, and military benefits.

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.

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?If you have 59 or fewer creditsIf you have 60 or more credits
11 or fewer$626 per credit$671 per credit
12–19$7,602 per semester$8,206 per semester

Undergraduate students taking more than 19 credits will be charged the flat tuition rate plus the regular per credit hour rate for each credit above 19. 

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?If you have 59 or fewer creditsIf you have 60 or more credits
11 or fewer$632 per credit$678 per credit
12–19$7,678 per semester$8,288 per semester

Undergraduate students taking more than 19 credits will be charged the flat tuition rate plus the regular per credit hour rate for each credit above 19. 

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.

Geosciences Expertise

This program was made possible, in part, by the National Science Foundation to introduce students like you to the geosciences and the importance of sustainable living. As a leading research institution and leader in geosciences, Penn State brings expertise and depth to the study of sustainability.

Set Your Own Pace

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Whether you are looking to finish your program as quickly as possible or balance your studies with your busy life, Penn State World Campus can help you achieve your education goals. Many students take one or two courses per semester.

Our online courses typically follow a 12- to 15-week semester cycle, and there are three semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall). If you plan to take a heavy course load, you should expect your course work to be your primary focus and discuss your schedule with your academic adviser. 

To Finish Your Certificate in Less than a Year

  • Take 3–4 courses each semester

To Finish Your Certificate in One Year

  • Take 2–3 courses each semester 

To Finish Your Certificate in Two Years

  • Take 1 course each semester

Convenient Online Format

This program's convenient online format gives you the flexibility you need to study around your busy schedule. You can skip the lengthy commute without sacrificing the quality of your education and prepare yourself for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving your home.

A Trusted Leader in Online Education

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Penn State has a history of more than 100 years of distance education, and World Campus has been a leader in online learning for more than two decades. Our online learning environment offers the same quality education that our students experience on campus.

Information for Military and Veterans

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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, and application instructions.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by August 18 to start August 26

Application Instructions

Deadlines and Important Dates

  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by August 18 to start August 26
  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by December 22 to start January 13
  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by May 5, 2025, to start May 11, 2025

Steps to Apply

  1. 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.

    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.

  2. 2. Complete the application.

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, email [email protected] or call 814-865-1146.

Contact Us

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Have questions or want more information? We're happy to talk.

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]

Learn from the Best

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 taught by distinguished faculty who have special training and experience teaching in an online environment.

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

Apply by August 18 to start August 26. How to Apply