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Graduate Certificate inRemote Sensing and Earth Observation

Program summary

Learn to leverage data gathered from drones, satellites, and lidar. This certificate focuses on remote sensing, terrain mapping, and image analysis and draws upon the resources of one of the most respected online GIS programs in the U.S.

Application deadline

Apply by August 1 to start August 14

Credits and costs

12 Credits$1,017 per credit

Earn an Online Certificate in Remote Sensing and Earth Observation

The need for GIS professionals who can work with remotely sensed imagery and terrain models is increasing rapidly, along with the rise in new satellite and drone platforms for capturing imagery.

The Penn State World Campus Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing and Earth Observation provides a foundation in remote sensing, terrain mapping, and image analysis for the geospatial professional who possesses a working knowledge of fundamental principles in GIS.

Your Online Remote Sensing Curriculum

This 12-credit, four-course online certificate program boasts a curriculum that addresses the theory, methodologies, and techniques for the professional application of remote sensing in geographic information systems and analysis. Completing this certificate can:

  • empower you to leverage data gathered from sources such as satellites, drones, and lidar
  • explore the use computational methods to automate the analysis of earth observation data and integrate those skills into a GIS workflow
  • help prepare you to sit for the GISP, ASPRS, and/or USGIF certification exams

The Penn State Difference

With one of the most respected online GIS programs in the country, Penn State takes pride in providing convenient online instruction to aspiring and experienced GIS professionals since 1999. As a leader in online geospatial education, we constantly refine our curriculum to incorporate emerging trends to ensure that you gain skills using today's most widely used technologies and analytical methods.

For more than 20 years, our nationally ranked, award-winning GIS programs, coupled with our extensive alumni network, have provided graduates with the knowledge and confidence they need to excel in this growing field.  

Accelerated Admission to an Online Master's Program

Any geospatial certificate student who earns a 3.67 GPA or higher after completing the first three courses of the certificate may qualify for accelerated admission to the Master of Geographic Information Systems, Master of Science in Spatial Data Science, or Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security – Intelligence and Geospatial Analysis option. Advantages of accelerated admissions include:

  • No GRE test is required
  • No professional experience is required
  • No letters of recommendation are required
  • Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis, year-round

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.


Students who enroll in the Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing and Earth Observation program are expected to have working knowledge of geospatial concepts and prior experience with ArcGIS at an introductory level. If you are a GIS novice, we encourage you to complete our Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems prior to applying to the remote sensing certificate program.

This 12-credit certificate explores the science of acquiring information about the Earth from images and sensor networks. Using remote sensing technologies to collect data, you will learn how to analyze images to provide spatial insights for improved decision-making in domains like business, crisis management, ecology, and the energy sector.

Required Courses (9 credits)

To earn your remote sensing certificate, it is recommended that you take courses in the following order:

  • 3

    Using imagery and terrain data in typical application scenarios faced by the geospatial professional.

    • Prerequisite

      GEOG 482 or equivalent professional experience

    • Note

      For individuals with professional experience in GIS, these prerequisites may be waived as part of the application review process.

  • 3

    Using airborne topographic lidar to create elevation models for GIS applications.

    • Prerequisite

      GEOG 362 or GEOG 480; GEOG 160 or GEOG 482; or equivalent professional experience

    • Note

      For individuals with professional experience in GIS, these prerequisites may be waived as part of the application review process.

  • 3

    Understanding remote sensing systems' operation, data products, and processing techniques to address typical problem scenarios faced by the GEOINT professional.

    • Prerequisite

      GEOG 480

Electives (select 3 credits)

Select one course from the following list or from other electives (at the discretion of the program director).

  • 3

    Highlights emerging theoretical and methodological trends in high-performance remote sensing for geospatial analysis through discussion and laboratory experiences.

    • Prerequisite

      GEOG 480 and GEOG 883

  • 3

    Introduces theory and methods for operating an unmanned aerial system for geospatial data acquisition and analysis.

    • Prerequisite

      GEOG 480

Program Flexibility

The remote sensing certificate program is offered via five 10-week terms a year. With two terms that partially overlap in fall and spring, and one term in the summer, you have the flexibility to complete your certificate at your preferred pace. You can schedule your courses without any overlap, take as many courses as possible to finish sooner, or set your own pace, allowing you to start and stop when the time is right for you.

Description of fall, spring and summer semesters

Registration for most courses begins three months before the start of the course. Given the limited number of seats available in our courses, early registration is strongly encouraged.

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 this certificate may be eligible for federal student aid. Find more information from the online geospatial education program office.

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 reviewed on a rolling basis. Due to the volume of applications received, prospective students are strongly encouraged to submit their application before the deadline:

  • Fall DeadlineApply by August 1 to start August 14
  • Spring DeadlineApply by December 15 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 15, 2025, to start May 21, 2025

Admissions Help

Did you miss the deadline? If so, please email the program office immediately at [email protected] to learn how you may begin an online course as a nondegree student. Successfully completed credits may be applied toward requirements for the certificate.

Admission Requirements

To pursue the Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing and Earth Observation, you must be admitted by two Penn State organizations:

  1. Penn State Graduate School
  2. Penn State Department of Geography

For admission to the Graduate School, you 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 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.

GRE test scores are NOT required.

Program-Specific Questions/Materials

Résumé — This should include contact information for two references. An electronic version can be uploaded and submitted with your completed application.

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 "Remote Sensing and Earth Observation" 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 the Online Geospatial Program at Penn State. In addition, please review the Remote Sensing — Technical Requirements for this specific program.

Ready to Learn More?

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

Apply by August 1 to start August 14. 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

A figure standing halfway up a set of stairs leading towards a graduation cap

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 Programs Related to This Certificate

The credits you earn in this program may also be applied to the following master's degree programs, if you apply and are accepted into one of these competitive programs:

Gain the expertise to design and leverage geographic information systems and spatial analysis tools to tackle real-world problems that impact people and our planet. This online GIS master's degree program allows for flexibility and customization.

Learn more about the Master of Geographic Information Systems

Combine intelligence analysis with geospatial science and technology to gain situational awareness and provide a decisive advantage in preventing and responding to homeland security threats. This online degree program can help improve the accuracy of your organization's most critical intelligence assessments.

Learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security - Intelligence and Geospatial Analysis Option

Contact Us

Our program specialists are available now to help you with your application and to answer any questions you have about our online geospatial programs. Please contact us with anything you wish to discuss.

Julene Santiago, Geospatial Portfolio Program Assistant
Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
[email protected]
Phone: 814-865-2557

To see more detailed information about the geospatial portfolio, visit the program website within Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. You can also visit Penn State’s Repository of Open and Affordable Materials (ROAM) to preview some of the geospatial courses offered online by the Department of Geography.

For general questions about Penn State World Campus, please contact:

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


  • Brandi Gaertner

    Ph.D., Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University

    Dr. Brandi Gaertner, assistant teaching professor of spatial data science in the online geospatial education program, joined the Penn State faculty in 2021. Dr. Gaertner is a climate change hydrologist and GIS analyst. Her research focus is on evaluating historical and future impacts of climate change on surface streamflow and climate variables such as precipitation and temperature.

  • Karen Schuckman

    • Degree
      M.S., Geographic Information Systems, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.A., Liberal Arts, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Meteorology, Penn State

    Karen Schuckman's teaching and research interests include applications of airborne and spaceborne remote sensing to topographic mapping, land-use/land-cover analysis, positional accuracy assessment of remotely sensed base map data products, and other geospatial applications.

  • Anthony C. Robinson

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Geography, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.S., Geography, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Applied Geography, East Carolina University

    Dr. Anthony C. Robinson is an associate professor and director of online geospatial education at Penn State. He is also assistant director for the GeoVISTA Center. Dr. Robinson is a cartographer who designs and evaluates geovisualization tools to improve geographic information utility and usability. He has worked in epidemiology, crisis management, national security, and education domains to develop and evaluate new methods for visualizing spatial data.


Karen Schuckman stands behind a microphone.
Remote sensing faculty member appointed to lead national organization,
A screenshot is shown of LionVu showing counties in Pennsylvania
Capstone project improves disease mapping tool for Penn State Cancer Institute,

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

Apply by August 1 to start August 14. How to Apply