Postbaccalaureate Certificate in
Educating Individuals with Autism

Program summary

Learn to assess individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and develop strategies 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 in this field.

Application deadline

Apply by June 30 to start August 21

Credits and costs

12 Credits $1,007 per credit

The Number of Children Diagnosed with Autism Continues to Rise

Autism is a complex developmental disability that affects a child's ability to communicate and interact with others. Demand is high for trained special education professionals who can work with the approximately 1.5 million Americans affected by autism. To help meet your career goals, Penn State World Campus has partnered with the College of Education, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Bureau of Special Education, to offer you an online Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism.

Penn State Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism

Penn State’s autism certificate is designed to help you acquire comprehensive, evidence-based information to assist you in developing effective educational programming for all students with autism spectrum disorders. The program also fosters networking with your colleagues across the United States and abroad, and helps you earn professional development hours such as Act 48 in Pennsylvania.

Through this program, you can learn to assess individuals with autism spectrum disorders to effectively provide instruction; develop strategies to enhance social, behavioral, communication, and academic gains; strengthen your professional skills to work with families; and develop professional competencies to permit you to work with other educators and related personnel.

Penn State’s College of Education is regularly ranked among the nation’s best graduate schools, according to U.S. News & World Report, and the online educating individuals with autism program is taught by the same nationally recognized faculty.

Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement (Optional)

Students enrolling in the certificate also have the option of receiving an ASD Endorsement approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. To receive the ASD Endorsement, students must successfully complete the 12-credit certificate and participate in integrated practicum field experience requirements. Successful completion of the course work and practicum will enable candidates to apply to PDE to add the ASD Endorsement on their existing Pennsylvania certificates. Only students with Level I or II certification are eligible for the courses with the additional ASD Endorsement course work.

Act 48–Approved

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

Who Should Apply?

If you are a general education teacher, this program was designed for you. You can also benefit greatly from the program if you are one of the following professionals:

  • behavior specialists
  • mobile therapists
  • educational consultants
  • speech and language pathologists
  • occupational therapists
  • school counselors
  • school psychologists
  • school nurses
  • social workers


Penn State's 12-credit Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism will provide you with advanced training in the area of autism spectrum disorders and help you earn 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 (ASD). 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.

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.

2022–23 Academic Year Rates

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,007 per credit
12 or more $12,082 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

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.

The application deadlines are:

June 30 for fall semester admission

November 15 for spring semester admission

March 31 for summer semester admission

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact our admissions counselors.

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.

What You Need

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. 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.

Start 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 "Certificate Admission" as the enrollment type
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
  • Choose "Educating Individuals with Autism" as the certificate

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.

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 June 30 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 

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  

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.

Contact Us

To learn more about the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism, offered in partnership with the Penn State College of Education, please contact:

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


  • 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.

  • Pamela Wolfe

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Special Education, University of Virginia
    • Degree
      M.S., Special Education, University of Kansas
    • Degree
      B.S., Special Education, University of Kansas

    Dr. Pamela Wolfe is an associate professor of special education at Penn State and the director of the Educating Individuals with Autism certificate program. Her teaching and research center on work with persons having autism spectrum disorders (ASD), severe disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. Her research includes interventions related to social skills and sexuality for persons with ASD, as well as advocacy and transition. She has presented at international and national conferences on topics such as teacher training, application of evidence-based instruction, and intervention models. 

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

Apply by June 30 to start August 21. How to Apply