Technician working on solar panels

Graduate Certificate inSolar Energy

Program summary

Focus on an electric-driven study as you prepare to lead development in the rapidly expanding solar energy sector. This online certificate program includes courses that offer a foundation in project development, system design and analysis, and process improvement.

Application deadline

Apply by April 20 to start May 13

Credits and costs

12 Credits$1,017 per credit

Solar power is a key piece of the growing "green economy." Rapid growth in the science and practice of solar energy has given rise to the need for advanced understanding in resource assessment, project development, system design, and emerging technologies for solar electric systems. As employment opportunities continue to expand, organizations will look for professionals who can develop, manage, and improve solar energy systems through project development, system design and analysis, and process improvement.

Why a Certificate in Solar Energy at Penn State?

The 12-credit Graduate Certificate in Solar Energy is offered through Penn State World Campus. Our online courses make it possible for you to further your education while maintaining your current responsibilities.

This online graduate certificate program provides you with a highly relevant solar energy curriculum taught by faculty with world-class expertise. A graduate certificate in solar energy can help you add an important credential to your résumé — as you acquire a skill set valued across the solar energy industry. In addition, you get the convenience and flexibility of completing your course work at times and places that fit into your life and current schedule.  

Who Should Apply?

The Graduate Certificate in Solar Energy could be right for you if you are a current or aspiring professional seeking the progressive skills needed to advance the solar energy sector.

Students will come from a variety of undergraduate degrees; however, a background in systems science, engineering, or physics is strongly recommended for this graduate certificate.

Solar Energy Online Courses

With this graduate certificate, you can gain the solar energy systems project development skills and knowledge that many companies will require from their sustainability professionals. 

To prepare you for these opportunities, our curriculum covers a breadth of topics, including:

  • solar resource assessment for selected locales
  • effective communication techniques to maximize the solar economic utility to clients/stakeholders
  • electric-derived solar conversion technologies
  • technical information about hybridized solar energy systems design
  • the social and policy context of solar energy systems project design

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 two decades 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.


You can earn the Graduate Certificate in Solar Energy by successfully completing four online courses. If you are subsequently granted admission to the Master of Professional Studies in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (MPS-RESS) degree program, you may apply these 12 credits. Please note that a grade of "B-" or higher must be received in each certificate course for the credits to count toward the MPS-RESS degree.

Courses in the program can prepare you to lead project development in the rapidly expanding solar energy sector. The curriculum will cover topics such as:

  • full systems perspective of a solar energy project, including financial policies and analysis tools required for development and implementation
  • design tools, solar policies, financing tools, and factors affecting the short-term and lifecycle costs of solar energy systems
  • physical qualities of the solar resource, estimation of the fractional contributions of irradiance to total demand, and economic assessment of the solar resource
  • power production from solar energy conversion, including conversion via photovoltaics
  • theories and design practices of solar electric systems in the context of utility and commercial scale applications

Required Courses (12 credits)

  • 3

    Theories and practices of solar electric systems, including component selection, performance simulation, grid interconnection, codes, and design documentation.

  • 3

    Economic analysis of solar energy projects, including project development process, energy policies, finance methods, and economic analysis tools.

  • 3

    Methods, economic criteria, and meteorological background for assessing the solar resource with respect to solar energy conversion technologies.

  • 3

    Technical and theoretical background for utility-scale solar energy conversion technologies to generate electric power.

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

This program accepts applications throughout the year. If you wish to begin taking courses in a particular semester, please submit a completed application by the semester application deadlines noted below.

The application deadlines for this program are:

  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 20 to start May 13
  • Fall DeadlineApply by July 20 to start August 26
  • Spring DeadlineApply by December 10 to start January 13

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 will need to upload the following items as part of 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.

GRE and GMAT test scores are NOT required.

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 "Solar Energy" 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 degree 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 April 20 to start May 13. 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 Opportunities for Graduates

By successfully completing the course work for the Graduate Certificate in Solar Energy, you could qualify for such leadership positions as:

  • solar energy project manager
  • solar PV design engineer
  • VP of business development in a commercial solar sector
  • solar research analyst
  • project engineer in solar energy

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 

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 Program Related to This Certificate

In addition to the Graduate Certificate in Solar Energy being an excellent stand-alone credential, all of the courses can be applied toward the Master of Professional Studies in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (MPS-RESS) degree program, also offered online through Penn State World Campus:

Learn to leverage technical expertise and project development skills to successfully implement renewable energy systems and sustainable business policies through the courses offered in this online degree program.

Learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

Contact Us

Our Student Services and program specialists are available now to help you with your application and to answer any questions you have about our graduate programs in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (RESS). Please contact us with anything you wish to discuss.

Noelle Capparelle, MPS-RESS Program Assistant
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 814-867-5401

To see more detailed information about the renewable energy and sustainability systems portfolio, visit the RESS program website. You can also visit the Open Educational Resources website to preview the courses offered online by the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering.

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

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


  • 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.

  • Erich Schienke

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    • Degree
      M.S., Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    • Degree
      B.A., Technology Studies, Hampshire College

    Dr. Erich Schienke's research and teaching interests are in the areas of energy policy, renewable energy systems design and implementation, ethical dimensions of renewable energy and sustainability systems, sustainability indicators, ESG, and workforce requirements needed to meet the demands of the rapidly growing renewable energy industry. He has published in multiple peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes, which have received more than 250 citations across a range of topics, including climate risk management, ethics and sustainability, and ecological governance.

  • Mohamed Amer Chaaban

    • Degree
      Ph.D. Candidate, Electrical Engineering, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
    • Degree
      M.S., Architectural Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    • Degree
      B.S., Electrical Engineering, Damascus University

    Mohamed Amer Chaaban is an adjunct instructor for the RESS graduate online program at Penn State. He is the author and instructor of AE 868. He worked for AEP and RGS Energy, one of the nation's top solar power companies, as a solar design engineer. During his work, he designed thousands of residential and dozens of large commercial solar systems combined with more than 20 megawatts in capacity. He is an advocate of sustainability and of making solar affordable for all humans in the world.

  • Mark D. Kleinginna

    • Degree
      MPS, Renewable Energy Systems and Sustainability, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.A., Economics, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Economics, Penn State

    Mark D. Kleinginna is interested in the entire continental energy topology, including research and expert testimony in rate making, electricity transmission, renewable energy systems, decarbonization of the built environment, and thermal energy networks.

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

Apply by April 20 to start May 13. How to Apply