geodesign map

Graduate Certificate inGeodesign

Program summary

Learn to assess the impact of geodesign on people and nature. This program introduces concepts that are increasingly important as the public begins to demand sustainably designed places, smart risk management, and informed environmental justice.

Application deadline

Apply by August 3 to start August 26

Credits and costs

15 Credits$1,017 per credit

Why a Certificate in Geodesign at Penn State?

As an emerging and evolving field, geodesign is becoming increasingly important in a variety of professions and industries. The goal of the Graduate Certificate in Geodesign is to provide you with a foundation in geospatially oriented design through the investigation of interdisciplinary methods and the collaborative nature of the geodesign process. The 15-credit Graduate Certificate in Geodesign, offered through Penn State World Campus, allows professional practitioners who wish to advance their careers, or those who seek to make career changes, to complete the required course work in one year through the convenience of online courses.

Who Should Apply?

Penn State's Graduate Certificate in Geodesign is designed for current or aspiring professionals from a variety of backgrounds, employed in government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations, who see limitations in how regional and urban planning and design challenges are now addressed. 

To apply to the program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution.

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. 

Online Education at Penn State

Penn State has a history of 100+ years of distance education and more than a decade of experience in online learning. We create an online learning environment that offers you the same quality education our residential students experience in a face-to-face setting. Learn more about Penn State World Campus.


The 15-credit Graduate Certificate in Geodesign provides you with the flexibility to complete your course work at times and places most convenient for you, combined with a highly relevant, dynamic curriculum taught by faculty with world-class expertise. You can complete this online graduate certificate program in one year.

The courses can help you develop the skills needed to take the lead on complex environmental design problems that require the synthesis of geographic knowledge, geospatial analysis, and best practices of design. Through successful completion of the course work, you can learn to:

  • perform critical evaluations of specific geodesign model techniques relative to particular environmental and cultural contexts and conditions
  • demonstrate knowledge of the multidimensional scope and scale of projects to which geodesign can be applied
  • combine design with relevant science-based and value-based information, in a manner that explores alternative solutions from a cross-disciplinary, decision-driven approach

Program Flexibility

Geodesign (GEODZ) courses operate on 7 1/2-week terms. Our geography (GEOG) courses operate on 10-week terms. Two course terms will be offered in the fall and spring and one in the summer. Please see the course schedule for a complete listing of courses being offered.

With two sessions being offered in fall and spring, and one session in the summer, some courses may overlap. However, this term structure provides you with the greatest flexibility possible in completing your certificate at your preferred pace.

Required Courses (9 credits)

  • 3

    Students study the theory and principles of geospatially based design by investigating the methods and collaborative nature of the geodesign process.

    • Prerequisite

      GEOG 482 (Please contact the program to discuss waiving this requirement.)

  • 3

    The principles, inherent values, and practical applications of evaluation and decision models as implemented within the geodesign framework.

    • Prerequisite

      GEODZ 511

    • 3

      The principles, inherent values, and practical applications of process and impact models as implemented within the geodesign framework.

      • Prerequisite

        GEODZ 822

    • or:

      The principles, inherent values, and practical applications of representation and change models as implemented within the geodesign framework.

      • Prerequisite

        GEODZ 822

Elective Courses (6 credits)

Students are required to take at least 6 credits of geography courses at the 400 level or higher. Based on your experience in geographic information systems, you and your academic adviser will determine which GEOG electives will best meet your needs and interests.

Recommended Elective Courses if No GIS Experience

The following GEOG courses are recommended for those individuals without GIS experience.

  • 3

    Case studies, student investigations, and projects reveal the scope, impact, and character of the Geospatial Revolution.

  • 3

    How geographic information systems facilitate data analysis and communication to address common geographic problems.

    • Prerequisite

      GEOG 482

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.

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.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. Admissions decisions are based on the quality of the applicant's credentials.

  • Fall DeadlineApply by August 3 to start August 26
  • Spring DeadlineApply by January 8 to start January 13
  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 27, 2025, to start May 19, 2025

The above start dates reflect the earliest possible date that a course may begin for that semester. Most Geodesign courses are 8 weeks in length, allowing students to schedule more than one course per semester. Geodesign course start dates vary.

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.

You should also be comfortable working online and have a strong working knowledge of basic computer software, along with excellent communication skills, a desire to know more about environmental policies, and additional training or experience in geography, engineering, social sciences, urban planning or landscape design if you wish to enroll in the geodesign graduate certificate.

What You Need

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

Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

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

Applying as a Nondegree Graduate Student

Classes may be taken in nondegree-seeking status prior to admission into the graduate certificate in geodesign program. For many students, completing one or more classes prior to applying for the geodesign certificate helps ensure that online learning is the right option. 

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 degree program.

Ready to Learn More?

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

Apply by August 3 to start August 26. How to Apply 

Start or Advance Your Career

Example of a map produced by geospatial professionals

The geodesign graduate certificate can prepare you to work in a variety of design and planning roles. Demand for the services of professionals in these roles will continue to rise, driven by increasing public demand for more sustainably designed places, smart risk management, and informed environmental justice.

Job Titles Related to This Degree

In this program, you can learn to couple science and evidence-based approaches with the design process, enabling you to become more adept at assessing the impact of designs on people and nature. This will become critical for a variety of roles, including:

  • architect
  • environmental scientist and specialist
  • environmental engineer
  • geoscientist
  • landscape architect
  • geographer
  • urban and regional planner
  • hydrologist
  • natural resource manager
  • public health professional
  • disaster and security specialist

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 Graduate Certificate in Geodesign, offered in partnership with the College of Arts and Architecture, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
[email protected]

Online Geodesign Program Contact:

David Goldberg, Associate Clinical Professor and Program Director
Geodesign Program Office
College of Arts and Architecture
121 Stuckeman Family Building
University, Park PA 16802-6500
Phone: 814-865-6112
Fax: 814-863-8706
[email protected]

To learn more about the program, visit the program website within Penn State's College of Arts and Architecture.


  • Janet Silbernagel Balster

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Forest Science, Michigan Technological University
    • Degree
      M.S., Forest Science, Michigan Technological University
    • Degree
      B.L.A., Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Dr. Janet Silbernagel Balster is an adjunct lecturer teaching GEODZ 826: Representation and Change. Janet brings a wealth of practical knowledge and expertise, having worked as a landscape ecologist and landscape architect with the U.S. Forest Service before beginning an academic career that spans more than 25 years. Janet is an emeritus professor of landscape architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Janet founded Silvernail Studio for Geodesign, LLC. The private practice offers multifaceted services that span professional geographic information system (GIS) map products to landscape conservation strategies and sustainable landscape architectural design.

  • Kelleann Foster

    • Degree
      M.L.A., Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts
    • Degree
      B.S.L.A., Landscape Architecture, Penn State

    Kelleann Foster is an active emeritus professor of landscape architecture. She is a proven design leader and invited speaker at many national and international design planning and technology-focused conferences. She is a registered landscape architect whose work is rooted in interdisciplinary and forward-thinking outreach in many respects. Her work advances technologies to communicate alternative scenarios to citizens. She is the author of the Wiley book Becoming a Landscape Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design.

  • David Goldberg

    • Degree
      M.L.A., Landscape Architecture, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S.L.A., Landscape Architecture, Penn State

    David Goldberg is the director of online geodesign programs and associate clinical professor of landscape architecture. David teaches courses in design implementation, building information modeling, site design, and geodesign. His research intentionally sways between tool-centric and topic-centric inquiries, allowing him to be pragmatic in professional practice and aspirational in teaching. He negotiates the role of applied design computing between the academy and the industry. This includes optimizing the physical and virtual environments where teams interact, enhancing interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations, and developing strategies for virtual learning environments for studio design courses. Topically, he focuses on how landscape architecture incorporates building information modeling and how leveraging big data and near-real-time data creates "digital twins" for landscape architecture — the results of which will be impactful to the practice and discourse of geodesign.

  • Devin Lavigne

    B.A.A., Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson Polytechnic University

    Devin Lavigne is an adjunct lecturer teaching GEODZ 852: Urban/District-Scale Challenges. Devin is a nationally recognized urban planning professional with more than 20 years of experience in urban planning, geodesign, and geographic information systems (GIS). Lavigne is a co-founder of Houseal Lavigne Associates, an award-winning planning and design firm based in Chicago. The firm specializes in community planning, urban design, and economic development, and uses creativity and collaboration to deliver quality solutions.

  • James Sipes

    • Degree
      M.L.A., Landscape Architecture, Iowa State University
    • Degree
      B.L.A., Landscape Architecture, University of Kentucky

    James Sipes is an award-winning environmental planner, landscape architect, and writer with more than 30 years of experience encompassing a wide range of design and planning projects. His work includes environmental planning and design, land use planning, watershed management, low-impact development, urban design, cultural resource management, and community-based design. He has received national recognition, having written more than 350 articles for a variety of publications and several books on environmental issues, green infrastructure, and water resources.

  • Robert Stauder

    • Degree
      MPS, Community Planning, University of Cincinnati
    • Degree
      B.A., Spanish, Colorado State University

    Robert Stauder is an adjunct lecturer teaching GEODZ 511: Geodesign History, Theory, and Principles. Robert is a geographic information systems (GIS) professional with more than 25 years of experience in geodesign, GIS analysis, and planning. Robert is the GIS analyst/developer for Houseal Lavigne, an award-winning planning and design firm based in Chicago. Prior to joining Houseal Lavigne, Robert was a project manager for Esri, where he worked on and supported projects in the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Robert has experience in using GIS for public engagement, planning, conservation, public safety, and workflow optimization.


We Are Sculpture at Penn State's University Park campus
Geodesign program launches video series to raise awareness about the discipline, Penn State College of Arts and Architecture

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

Apply by August 3 to start August 26. How to Apply