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Bachelor of Science inEnergy and Sustainability Policy

Program summary

Build strong science, business, and analytical skills as you learn to conduct critical analysis of energy management and sustainability policy and its impact on the environment in this online degree program.

Application deadline

Apply by March 15 to start May 13

Credits and costs

120 Credits$626/$671 per credit

Nationally Recognized

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Our bachelor's degrees are highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Bachelor of Science in Energy and Sustainability Policy

Modern society is faced with the challenge — and opportunity — of balancing global energy demand with availability. Accomplishing that goal while staying within the planet's ecological boundaries is a critical task. 

As a student in the program, you can:

  • acquire multi-faceted knowledge (societal, economic, and technical) of both conventional and renewable energy use and its environmental implications
  • gain valuable analytical and communication skills
  • foster strong collaboration skills needed to facilitate stakeholder interactions on matters associated with energy, sustainability, and related policies
  • develop ethics and leadership skills needed to navigate the complexities of energy and sustainability management

As a graduate of the program, you may work with a variety of organizations, advocacy groups, commercial firms, or regulatory bodies on projects related to energy project development; energy policy planning, analysis, and implementation; energy efficiency and waste reduction initiatives; environmental assessments; regulatory compliance; stakeholder communications; and more.

The Penn State Difference

The ESP program at Penn State is one of the few online programs in the country that focuses specifically on policy within the realm of energy and sustainability. Our program is all-inclusive, covering all forms of energy with policy serving as the program's nexus.

In addition to instilling a strong sustainability ethic, we integrate an international perspective into the program, so you can gain knowledge of international, social, cultural, and political dimensions of energy and sustainability considerations on a global scale.

Your Online Bachelor of Science Curriculum

This interdisciplinary program, developed by industry experts and academic leaders in the field, integrates course work in energy sources, uses, and implications; sustainability principles and practices; and policy development and analysis. As a student, you will also gain knowledge in other relevant areas, including the fields of science, analysis, management, and leadership. Those students who aspire to conduct critical analyses of energy management and its environmental impact will find this degree particularly useful.

A Degree to Meet Your Needs: B.S. or B.A.

The Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts in Energy and Sustainability Policy are both 120-credit programs, with the same General Education requirements and the same prescribed course work. In the B.S. program, students select additional course work in areas closely related to the major. In the B.A. program, the focus is expanded to allow students to select a foreign language and take supporting course work in global culture and humanities. In choosing which program best meets individual needs, students are encouraged to consider personal interests and strengths, professional aspirations, and plans for graduate school. For those with prior learning experience, the applicability of earlier course work to degree requirements may also be a consideration.

Military Grant-in-Aid Benefits for ESP Students

The Military Grant-in-Aid is an undergraduate program that brings our tuition rate closer to the Department of Defense cap, making a Penn State World Campus–quality education more affordable to our military students and spouses. More details, including Grant-In-Aid forms, can be found on the Military Grants and Scholarships page.

Courses

The B.S. in Energy and Sustainability Policy (ESP) is a 120-credit degree program that emphasizes sustainability principles, policy development, and energy production. Students in the B.S. program also choose supporting course work in focused areas closely related to the major.

Prescribed course work includes such topics as energy sources, uses, and technologies; sustainability principles and practices; climate change; and policy development and analysis. You will also select additional courses in energy and science; analysis and technology; business and management; and ethics, leadership, and communications.

Students must complete 120 credits to earn the B.S. in ESP. The course list includes only courses offered by World Campus. An official degree audit or the recommended academic plan for this program may include additional course options and detailed requirements. All students are expected to complete at least 36 credits at Penn State to earn this degree. Please consult an academic adviser for details.

Prescribed Courses (62 credits)

  • 3
    credits

    Introduction to speech communication: formal speaking, group discussion, analysis and evaluation of messages.

  • 3
    credits

    Resource use decisions and their effect on local, national, and global development.

    • Prerequisite

      ECON 102 and MATH 022 or equivalent

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    Methods of economic analysis and their use; price determination; theory of the firm; distribution.

  • 3
    credits

    National income measurement; aggregate economic models; money and income; policy problems.

  • 3
    credits

    Exposure to energy efficiency in day-to-day life to save money and energy, and thereby protect the environment.

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    Survey of the commercial development of the world petroleum industry from various international, historical, business, and cultural perspectives.

  • 3
    credits

    Energy is in transition, with increased international energy demand and increasing environmental pressures. Energy transitions, approaches, and outcomes are addressed.

    • Prerequisite

      EGEE 101 or EGEE 102 or CHEM 112

  • 3
    credits

    Critical evaluation of selected media (e.g., books, film) in contemporary culture on topics related to energy and sustainability.

  • 1
    credit

    Orientation to goals of the Energy and Sustainability Policy program and resources available to help students succeed.

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    Industry perspective on the resources, technologies, engineering approaches, and externalities involved in satisfying worldwide energy demand profitably and sustainably.

    • Prerequisite

      ECON 104 and EGEE 102 and EGEE 120

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    Capstone course in energy technology and policy options for reduced-carbon communities. Covering agent/stakeholder relations, sustainability, communication, and public engagement.

    • Prerequisite

      GEOG 30N, CAS 100, GEOG 432

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    An intensive, rhetorically based experience in reading and writing that will prepare you both to understand the communications that surround you and to succeed in your own communication efforts.

    • Prerequisite

      ENGL 4 or satisfactory performance on the English placement examination

    • GWS

      The credits earned in this course may be applied toward the Writing/Speaking (GWS) requirement.

  • 3
    credits

    Writing reports and other common forms of business communication.

    • Prerequisite

      (ENGL 15 or ENGL 30) and fourth-semester standing

    • GWS

      The credits earned in this course may be applied toward the Writing/Speaking (GWS) requirement.

  • 3
    credits

    Introduction to the relationships between humans and the natural environment, in addition to the theories and methods that geographers employ in addressing them.

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    Analysis, formulation, implementation, and impacts of energy-related policies, regulations, and initiatives.

    • Prerequisite

      EBF 200 and EGEE 120 and PLSC 490

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    Human dimensions of global environmental change: human causes; human adaptations; and policy implications of global warming.

    • Prerequisite

      (EARTH 2 or GEOG 10 or METEO 3) and GEOG 30N

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    Examination of global warming and climate change: the basic science, projects, impacts, and approaches to mitigation.

    • Prerequisite

      STAT 200 or MATH 110 or MATH 140

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3
    credits

    This course examines the American democracy by looking at the dynamic interaction between the founding ideals of the United States government, the institutions established by the Constitution, and the ongoing contest for power within and through those institutions.

  • 3
    credits

    Advanced analysis of public policy, emphasizing policy evaluation and the factors that determine policy success and failure.

    • Prerequisite

      (PLSC 1 and PLSC 2) or PUBPL 304W

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 4
    credits

    Descriptive Statistics, frequency distributions, probability and normal distributions, statistical inference, linear regression, and correlation.

    • Prerequisite

      Placement into MATH 21 or higher.

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

Additional Courses (select 6 credits)

  • 3
    credits

    Nontechnical treatment of fundamentals of modern meteorology and the effects of weather and climate.

    • 3
      credits

      Courses offered in foreign countries by individual or group instruction.

    • or:
      3
      credits

      Supervised off-campus, nongroup instruction including field experiences, practica, or internships. Written and oral critique of activity required.

Engaged Scholarship: Internships and Foreign Studies

Carnegie Foundation: 2015 Community Engagement Classification honor

Penn State was selected by the Carnegie Foundation for its 2015 Community Engagement Classification, an honor resulting from our commitment to providing students with at least one outside-the-classroom engagement opportunity that impacts our community. For ESP students, foreign studies (EGEE 299) or domestic internship (EGEE 495) provide opportunity for learning outside of the classroom. You will work with faculty to design a meaningful and appropriate experience, considering your prior work and travel, interests, and professional aspirations.

Supporting Courses (select 21 credits)

Supporting courses should be selected in consultation with an adviser.

  • Select 6 credits in Energy and Science
  • Select 6 credits in Analysis and Technology
  • Select 6 credits in Business and Management
  • Select 3 credits in Ethics, Leadership and Communication

Electives (select 11 credits)

  • 11 credits chosen in consultation with an adviser

General Education Requirements

Some General Education requirements may be satisfied by courses required for the major. Students should work with an adviser to select courses.

  • Foundations: 15 credits  
    All courses require a grade of C or better. Inter-Domain courses may not be used for foundations requirements. 
    • Writing/Speaking: 9 credits 
    • Quantification: 6 credits 
      3-6 credits are selected from mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics; 3 credits may be selected from computer science or symbolic logic. 
  • Knowledge Domains: 15 credits  
    Inter-Domain courses may not be used for knowledge domain requirements.
    • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits 
    • Natural Sciences (GN): 3 credits 
    • Arts (GA): 3 credits 
    • Humanities (GH): 3 credits 
    • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 3 credits  
  • Integrative Studies: 6 credits
    • Inter-Domain course work: 6 credits  
  • Exploration: 9 credits 
    • Natural Sciences (GN) (may be Inter-Domain): 3 credits
    • GA, GH, GN, GS, and Inter-Domain courses: 6 credits  
      May include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the requirements of the student’s degree program or at the 12th credit level, whichever is higher.

These General Education Requirements are for students who started in summer 2023 or later. Students who started earlier can review the prior version of the general education requirements

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.

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. 

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.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Your degree application, including receipt of all transcripts, must be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete.

  • Summer DeadlineApply by March 15 to start May 13
  • Fall DeadlineApply by June 30 to start August 26
  • Spring DeadlineApply by October 31 to start January 13

New students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA by March 1. Please visit the Office of Student Aid website for more information about applying for financial aid and recommended deadlines.

Admissions Help

Thank you for your interest in applying to this program. Contact an admissions counselor to discuss your educational goals, financial aid options, and application deadlines.

Admission Requirements 

To apply for this program, you must be a high school graduate or have completed your GED. 

What You Need

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need the following items to complete your application:

High school transcripts or GED transcript — First-year applicants are required to submit Self-Reported Academic Records (SRAR). Official high school transcripts will only be required at the time a student accepts an offer of admission to Penn State.

Official college or university transcripts, if you attended another institution, and/or official military transcripts (if applicable). — All college or university transcripts are required regardless of the length of time that has passed, the grades earned, or the accreditation of the institutions attended. Acceptance of transfer credit toward your degree is subject to final approval by the academic department. For detailed information, see the Transfer Students page.

Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Please send your transcripts by mail or electronically through Parchment, eScrip-Safe, or the National Student Clearinghouse directly to Penn State from the college/university where course work was attempted.

Submit official documents by mail to:

Undergraduate Admissions Office
The Pennsylvania State University
201 Shields Building
University Park, PA 16802

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 Language Proficiency section on the Undergraduate Admissions International Requirements page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

Start Your Application

Former Penn State students may not need to complete the admissions application. Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions. 

If this is your first time applying to Penn State, you'll need to complete the following steps:

  1. Review the application instructions before beginning.
  2. Complete the online application and submit all official documents.
  3. Pay the application fee.

Checking Your Status

You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form and choosing "MyPennState — Check Application Status." Your decision letter (confirming your acceptance or denial) will be mailed four to six weeks after receipt of all application materials. An admissions counselor will contact you if additional information is required.

Technical Requirements 

Review the technical requirements for this degree program.

Ready to Learn More?

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State bachelor's degree?

Apply by March 15 to start May 13. How to Apply 

Start or Advance Your Career

An energy sustainability professional meeting with business partners

The Bachelor of Science degree in Energy and Sustainability Policy (ESP) can prepare you for careers in the rapidly evolving energy and sustainability policy sector, especially where strong science, business, and analytical skills are required.


Job Titles Related to This Degree

The following roles are often held by people with this type of degree:

  • Environmental Analyst
  • Environmental Programs Specialist
  • Environmental Protection Specialist
  • Natural Resource Manager
  • Resource Conservation Specialist

Employment Outlook for Occupational Fields Related to This Degree

Estimates of employment growth and total employment are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are subject to change. While these occupations are often pursued by graduates with this degree, individual outcomes may vary depending on a variety of factors. Penn State World Campus cannot guarantee employment in a given occupation.

Compliance Officers

4.6%
employment growth (10 years)
359,640
total employment

Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health

6.1%
employment growth (10 years)
77,270
total employment

Conservation Scientists

4.1%
employment growth (10 years)
22,880
total employment

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 

Contact Us

To learn more about the online Bachelor of Science in Energy and Sustainability Policy, offered in partnership with the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, please contact:

Energy and Sustainability Policy Program Office
Brandi J. Robinson
Associate Teaching Professor, Director of Advising
[email protected]
Phone: 814-863-1009

Hours (Eastern Time)
Monday–Thursday: 8:00 a.m–9:00 p.m.
Friday: 8:00 a.m–5:00 p.m.

You may also visit the Energy and Sustainability Policy (ESP) program website within Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Faculty

  • Seth Blumsack

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
    • Degree
      M.S., Economics, Carnegie Mellon University
    • Degree
      B.A., Math and Economics, Reed College

    Dr. Seth Blumsack's research focuses on policy-driven issues and technological change faced by the electricity and natural gas industries. He studies regulation, network reliability and resilience, and technological change in the power grid and natural gas supply systems.

  • Mark Fedkin

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Geo-Environmental Engineering, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.S., Geo-Environmental Engineering, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Geology, Moscow State University (Russia)

    Dr. Mark Fedkin is an assistant teaching professor and lead faculty of the energy and sustainability policy program at Penn State. He is also a lead faculty in the renewable energy and sustainability systems graduate online program. He has worked for more than ten years for the Earth and Mineral Sciences Energy Institute, where he led experimental research on electrochemical energy systems and processes, including fuel cells, hydrogen technologies, electrophoresis, and corrosion in extreme environments. During his career as an experimentalist, Dr. Fedkin developed a number of methods and technologies for monitoring and sensing the environmental parameters in both simulated and natural settings.

  • Matt Howard

    • Degree
      M.A., International Affairs, The George Washington University
    • Degree
      B.A., International Economics and Cultural Affairs, Valparaiso University

    Matt Howard is an adjunct instructor in the energy and sustainability policy program area with nearly 20 years of work experience in the field. He has developed and run sustainable manufacturing programs at the federal and local levels. Matt has also served as the sustainability officer for a major U.S. city and managed its energy portfolio. He previously served on the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology and currently works in the nonprofit sector addressing water security and sustainability issues.

  • Daniel Kasper

    • Degree
      M.A., Geography, University of Denver
    • Degree
      B.S., Earth Science, Penn State

    Daniel Kasper is an adjunct instructor in the energy and sustainability policy program. His teaching focus is on global energy issues, residential and commercial energy efficiency and conservation, political ecology, and general sustainability. The focus of his research and praxis is environmental and social justice, political ecology, energy efficiency and conservation, energy and sustainability policy, sustainable food production, and community gardening, with a particular focus on issues disproportionately impacting low income and otherwise marginalized communities.

  • Brandi Robinson

    • Degree
      M.S., Geography, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.A., Environmental Studies and Geography, University of Pittsburgh

    Brandi Robinson is an associate teaching professor and director of advising for the Penn State Energy and Sustainability Policy program. She also serves as an instructor for the renewable energy and sustainability systems master's program. She brings expertise in policy formation and analysis relative to carbon markets to her teaching, as well as local-scale greenhouse gas inventorying and mitigation strategy development.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State bachelor's degree?

Apply by March 15 to start May 13. How to Apply