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Graduate Certificate inSensory and Consumer Science

Program summary

Explore the science of consumer preference. The course work for this online graduate certificate program can help you learn how to obtain market data through research and translate that data into desirable product features.

100% Online

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

Application deadline

Apply by July 15 to start August 26

Credits and costs

12 Credits$1,017 per credit

Gain Skills to Understand Consumer Acceptance and Sensory Testing

  • Obtain, analyze, and describe product and consumer insight.

  • Provide clear recommendations for optimizing the quality of products and increasing the market success of those products.

  • Help your organization meet consumer expectations and position their products for long-term success.

  • Understand psychophysical and biological principles of human behavior and how they guide and inform sensory and consumer testing.

  • Explore the interaction of sensory and consumer science with marketing, consumer understanding, product development, and business.

Online Sensory and Consumer Science Courses

The Graduate Certificate in Sensory and Consumer Science is a 12-credit online program offering a formal education to sensory scientists and consumer professionals, as well as those who wish to enter the field.

The key concepts in your course work will include:

  • fundamentals of sensory practice
  • psychophysical and biological principles of human behavior, and how that behavior guides and informs sensory and consumer testing
  • the interaction of sensory and consumer science with marketing, consumer understanding, product development, and business
  • applied statistics and data analysis as used in sensory and consumer science

Most courses within the sensory and consumer science program are also available as individual courses for those looking to fulfill continuing professional development requirements. Read the instructions for how to register for Penn State World Campus courses to learn how you can enroll in any of the upcoming courses on an individual basis.

Required Courses (12 credits)

  • 3

    The field of sensory and consumer science is primarily focused on responses of consumers to food products and non-food, fast-moving consumer goods (e.g., shampoo). These responses may be sensory/perceptual (i.e., how sweet, how bitter, how smooth) or affective (i.e., liking / preference), with the assumption that the former generally drives the latter. The course also addresses contemporary research on pedagogy that indicates applied statistics are best taught in context to the field in which students will apply the statistical concepts. Here, students will gain practice applying introductory statistical topics (t-tests, Analysis of Variance, etc) to sensory and consumer data collected from human participants.

    • Prerequisite

      one undergraduate course in statistics

  • 3

    The main objective of this course is to allow each student to develop the data analysis skills needed for analyzing and interpreting sensory and consumer data. Additionally, students will develop an understanding for experimental designs and statistical analyses to plan, analyze, and interpret data collected from sensory studies. Hands-on experiences in analyzing sensory data will be provided through homework assignments and discussions of appropriate literature where indicated.

    • Prerequisite

      STAT 500

  • 3

    This course aims to allow each student to develop and apply the fundamental dimensions and value of consumer insights to product development objectives; implement key qualitative, quantitative, and hybrid approaches for consumer insights; recognize, identify, and apply key consumer biases; and examine trade-offs in research and consumer behavior. Real-world practical examples and assignments will be utilized extensively in the form of discussion forums, quizzes, literature critiques, and a final project.

  • 3

    Descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, power, estimation, confidence intervals, regression, one- and two-way ANOVA, chi-square tests, diagnostics.

    • Prerequisite

      one undergraduate course in statistics

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 July 15 to start August 26. 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.

Who Should Apply?

This certificate is an excellent credential to help you formalize your skills and knowledge in sensory and consumer science, whether you already have a master’s degree and are looking for additional training in this field or you are just starting your graduate education.

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 Less than a Year

  • Take 3–4 courses each semester

To Finish Your Certificate in One Year

  • Take 2–3 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.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by July 15 to start August 26

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.

  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by July 15 to start August 26
  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by November 15 to start January 13
  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by April 15, 2025, to start May 19, 2025

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.

    Most applicants will have an undergraduate degree in food science, nutrition, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, engineering, biopsychology, or other scientific discipline. Applicants who hold a bachelor's degree in a non-science area (e.g., marketing, consumer behavior) are also welcome to apply, provided they have completed 15 credits of science and quantitative course work before applying. For questions regarding this prerequisite, please email the sensory and consumer science program team at [email protected].

    GPA — Postsecondary (undergraduate), junior/senior (last two years) GPA is required. There is no minimum grade point average required, but prior experiences should demonstrate academic readiness to complete graduate-level work in quantitative courses.

  2. You will need to upload the following 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.

    Test Scores — Recent GRE scores (last five years) are required for most applicants, but GRE waivers are available for applicants with one or more of following:

    1. four or more years of professional/industrial work experience in a related industry
    2. an advanced degree (M.S., M.A., Ph.D., MBA) in a related area
    3. other prior experience that demonstrates an ability to complete graduate-level course work, including quantitative ability and advanced analytical reasoning skills

    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.

For general questions about Penn State World Campus or how to apply, contact:

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

For questions regarding the sensory and consumer science curriculum or your application status, contact:

Helene Hopfer, Ph.D.
Phone: 814-863-5572
[email protected]

Learn from the Best

Learn from expert faculty who are leaders in the field. Our courses are taught by distinguished faculty who have special training and experience teaching in an online environment. You can expect the same caliber of academic quality that you associate with Penn State.


  • John E. Hayes, Ph.D.

    • Degree
      Postdoc, Alcohol/Behavioral Genetics, Brown University
    • Degree
      Ph.D., Nutrition, University of Connecticut
    • Degree
      Graduate Certificate, Quantitative Research Methods (Psychology), University of Connecticut
    • Degree
      M.S., Food Science (Sensory Science), Cornell University
    • Degree
      B.S., Food Science, Cornell University

    Dr. John E. Hayes studies food choice in a biobehavioral framework by integrating traditional sensory science methods with behavioral genetics to understand biological factors that may cause individuals to like and consume some foods but not others. Dr. Hayes is also interested in using sensory science methods to increase the user acceptability of various drug delivery systems. He teaches courses in fundamentals of sensory science and ingestive behavior.

  • Helene Hopfer, Ph.D.

    • Degree
      Postdoc, Wine Sensory Science & Flavor Chemistry, UC Davis
    • Degree
      Ph.D., Chemistry, Graz University of Technology
    • Degree
      M.S., Polymer Science & Engineering, University of Leoben
    • Degree
      B.S., Polymer Science & Engineering, University of Leoben

    Dr. Helene Hopfer's work focuses on the human-food interface. She studies how food composition and structure affect human perception and food choice and combines sensory and consumer science with analytical chemistry, instrumental analysis, and multivariate statistics to elucidate the impact of production, processing, storage, and presentation on perception. Dr. Hopfer is also interested in improving flavor of plant products by linking sensory science to the breeding process more effectively. She teaches courses in data analysis (Sensometrics) and chemical methods of food analysis.

  • Sarah V. Kirkmeyer, Ph.D.

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Food Science, Rutgers University
    • Degree
      MBA, Marketing and Finance, Miami University
    • Degree
      M.S., Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University
    • Degree
      B.S., Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University

    Dr. Sarah V. Kirkmeyer’s focus is on consumer insights and sensory evaluation for new product innovation, leveraging qualitative, quantitative, and hybrid consumer research; sensory methods including descriptive, discrimination, and affective research; and advanced analytics. She combines her educational background with years of experience in industry with global consumer product companies, the flavor and fragrance industry, and market research across a variety of food and non-food categories. Dr. Kirkmeyer is the Senior Manager of User Research at Kroger and is conducting consumer perception research at Penn State together with teaching FDSC 516 Consumer Insights.

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

Apply by July 15 to start August 26. How to Apply