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Postbaccalaureate Certificate inEducating Individuals with Autism

Program summary

Learn to assess individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and develop evidence-based practices to enhance social, behavioral, communication, and academic gains. As the number of children diagnosed with autism continues to rise, so does the demand for skilled professionals with expertise.

100% Online

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

Application deadline

Apply by November 15 to start January 13

Credits and costs

12 Credits$1,017 per credit

Effectively Assess and Educate Students with Autism

  • Develop professional skills to work with families of individuals with ASDs.

  • Enhance the language development and communication skills of students through effective educational programming.

  • Acquire professional competencies to collaborate with other educators and related personnel.

Advance Your Teaching Proficiency with Online Courses

The 12-credit program will provide you with advanced training in the area of autism spectrum disorders and can help prepare you for an ASD endorsement by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), or to accumulate continuing education credit in your profession, such as Pennsylvania Act 48 hours.

Course topics include:

  • character and learning traits, classification systems, and special emphasis on selecting evidence-based interventions
  • applied behavioral analysis, stimulus control, punishment, prompting, fading, generalization, and maintenance, as well as other issues affecting persons with autism and their families
  • language development and communication strategies, pragmatics, communication systems, augmentative and alternative communication systems, social deficits in autism, and approaches for teaching skills
  • screening, diagnosis, identifying skills in developmental domains, such as sensory, oral motor, and communication

Required Courses (12 credits)

  • 3

    This course will include an overview of characteristics and learning traits, classification systems, assessment strategies/issues, approaches, and interventions related to individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Special emphasis will be given to selecting evidence-based practices and enhancing collaboration among individuals with ASD, their families, and supporting professionals.

  • 3

    The course content includes an overview of basic principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and elements of empiricism in education settings. Basic principles include reinforcement, stimulus control, punishment, prompting, fading, generalization, and maintenance. Special emphasis will be given to the application of ABA principles to classroom settings. A historical perspective will be outlined concerning the application of ABA to individuals with autism as well as the use of ethics in treatment and education. Empirically based interventions for persons with autism will be covered, including discrete trial, analysis of verbal behavior, and direct instruction. Finally, issues affecting persons with autism and their families will be addressed, including functional analysis, sleeping, eating, toileting/grooming, and determining credibility of treatments.

  • 3

    Language development and communication strategies, issues, pragmatics, communications systems, augmentative and alternative communication systems (AAC), social deficits in autism, and approaches for teaching social skills.

  • 3

    Types of assessment, such as screening, diagnosis, and identification of skills in development diagnosis; identification of skills in developmental domains, such as sensory, oral motor, play, and communication; practical strategies detailing what to teach based on assessment results; and an overview of curricula approaches and materials.

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.

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 graduate certificate?

Apply by November 15 to start January 13. 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

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.

A Head Start toward a Master’s Degree

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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:

Learn to support students with special needs. This online degree program focuses on current issues and topics in the field of special education and gives you the opportunity to choose an emphasis in academic and behavioral supports, applied behavior analysis, or autism.

Learn more about the Master of Education in Special Education

Optional Autism Spectrum Disorders PDE Endorsement

As a student in this program, you have the option to receive an ASD Endorsement approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). To receive the endorsement, you must successfully complete the 12-credit certificate and participate in integrated practicum field experience requirements.

Upon successful completion of the course work and practicum, you will be eligible to apply to PDE to add the ASD Endorsement to your existing Pennsylvania instructional certificate. Only students with current Level I or II certification are eligible for the courses with the additional ASD Endorsement course work.

Who Should Apply?

You can benefit from the program if you are in one of these professions: 

  • general education teacher
  • behavior specialist
  • mobile therapist
  • educational consultant
  • speech and language pathologist
  • occupational therapist
  • school counselor
  • school psychologist
  • school nurse
  • social worker

Act 48–Approved

Penn State is an Act 48–approved provider for Pennsylvania educators, so the courses for the postbaccalaureate certificate in autism education may count toward your professional development hours.

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 One Year

  • Take 2 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.

Professional Licensure / Certification


Many U.S. states and territories require professional licensure/certification to be employed. If you plan to pursue employment in a licensed profession after completing this program, please visit the Professional Licensure/Certification Disclosures by State interactive map for more information.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by November 15 to start January 13

Application Instructions

Deadlines and Important Dates

Complete your application and submit all required materials by the appropriate deadline. Your deadline will depend on the semester you plan to start your courses.

  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by November 15 to start January 13
  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by March 31, 2025, to start May 19, 2025
  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by June 30, 2025, to start August 25, 2025

You may start the program with any of the four courses, although we strongly recommend that you begin in the spring semester with SPLED 461: Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders, particularly if you are new to the field or don’t have any experience working with individuals with autism.

Steps to Apply

  1. 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.

  2. You do not have to provide transcripts, a cover letter, letters of recommendation, test scores, nor any other documentation with your application.

    English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

  3. To begin the online application, you will need a Penn State account.

    Create a New Penn State Account

    If you have any problems during this process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

    Please note: Former Penn State students may not need to complete the admissions application or create a new Penn State account. Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions.

  4. 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.

    • Choose Enrollment Type: "Certificate Admission"
    • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

    Checking Your Status 
    You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form. 

    Technical Requirements  
    Review the technical requirements for this program.

  5. 5. Complete the application.

Admissions Help

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

Contact Us

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

To learn more about the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism, please contact:

Kelly A. Mercorella, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Phone: 814-863-2286
[email protected]

Learn from the Best

One of the primary reasons Penn State is recognized around the globe as a distinguished university is its faculty. The Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism is offered in partnership with the Penn State College of Education and as a student, you will enjoy the opportunity to learn from the same instructors who teach traditional, face-to-face classes on Penn State's campuses across Pennsylvania.


Joanne E. Gerenser

  • Degree
    Ph.D., Speech and Hearing Sciences, City University of New York Graduate Center
  • Degree
    M.A., Speech and Hearing Sciences, Ohio State University
  • Degree
    B.S., Speech Pathology and Audiology, SUNY at Geneseo

Dr. Joanne E. Gerenser, CCC-SLP, is the executive director of Eden II Programs, a not-for-profit organization that serves the autism community of Staten Island, New York City, and Long Island through education, adult day programs, residential care, and numerous other services. She co-authored the interactive CD-ROM titled Behavioral Programming for Children with Autism, and she has written several book chapters and articles on autism and developmental disabilities. Dr. Gerenser has also won numerous awards for her work with individuals with autism. She sits on a number of professional advisory boards for autism service providers.

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

Apply by November 15 to start January 13. How to Apply