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Graduate Certificate in
Strategic Leadership

Program summary

Explore the challenges that managers face when implementing corporate strategy and learn to shape organizational cultures that facilitate change with this online graduate certificate program in strategic leadership.

Application deadline

Apply by April 15 to start May 13

Credits and costs

12 Credits $1,248 per credit

Develop Your Ability to Think and Lead Strategically

Gain the knowledge you need to plan, evaluate, and implement effective strategies as a student in Penn State’s Graduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership program. 

This completely online program is ideal for experienced managers who want to connect their organization with the outside world and wish to set a strategic path to ensure their organization is able to remain relevant and flourish in today’s dynamic marketplace.

This four-course program can help you become a more effective leader as you:

  • think strategically about organizational issues
  • develop effective strategies for performance and success
  • explore the managerial challenges of strategy implementation
  • learn to shape organizational cultures that facilitate change
  • examine unique approaches to strategic leadership

Why Study Strategic Leadership Online at Penn State?

Top Producer of CEOs
In 2018, LinkedIn named Penn State second in the country for graduating the most CEOs, placing it ahead of many Ivy League institutions. 

Reputation and Faculty Expertise
This program is offered in partnership with the Penn State Smeal College of Business, which is AACSB–accredited, an honor reserved for the top 5% of business schools worldwide. You will connect with expert faculty who are passionate about serving nontraditional students and are specially trained to teach in an online environment.

This program is AACSB Accredited

Flexibility and Engagement
Penn State’s flexible online platform allows you to earn a world-class education while you continue to gain valuable work experience. 

Who Should Apply?

The ideal candidate for the certificate program should have at least five years of experience managing a team and aspire to move into an executive role that requires strategic thinking and decision-making. Exceptional candidates with less experience will be considered at the discretion of the program director. Students may come from a variety of backgrounds and industries.

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.


The Graduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership is a 12-credit, four-course online program that can help you gain expertise in the language and discipline of strategy while developing your strengths as an ethical executive leader. You can complete the program on a part-time basis in as little as 12 months.

Your courses are primarily asynchronous — meaning you are not required to attend online classes at a specific time. Most courses, however, will include a voluntary synchronous session weekly or bi-weekly that allows you to interact online with professors and peers. These engaging sessions are recorded, giving you the chance to watch them at a later date, if your schedule allows. 

Your education will blend independent study with peer-to-peer interaction. You'll complete weekly assignments, readings, discussions, and occasional group work, as well as exams and other activities designed to enhance your learning outcomes — all at times that are most convenient for you.

Required Courses (12 credits)

  • 3

    Provides the fundamental concepts, frameworks, and principles underlying the formulation of successful strategies. Integrates multiple functional business areas to resolve global business problems and improve organizational performance.

  • 3

    Addresses the managerial challenge of strategy implementation, particularly by examining the organizational elements that must be drawn into line to support a strategy, as well as the immense difficulties of changing an organization. Relies on two overarching frameworks: a model of organizational alignment and a model for managing the change process.

  • 3

    Emphasizes identity issues that are critical to understanding individual and collective processes in organizational life.

  • 3

    Presents a senior executive perspective on the key opportunities and challenges faced by business leaders; includes discussions on the changing context for setting strategy and leading organizations in an evolving business environment.

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 $1,248 per credit
12 or more $14,980 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 $1,260 per credit
12 or more $15,130 per semester

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.

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.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Your certificate application must be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete.

  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 15 to start May 13
  • Fall DeadlineApply by July 20 to start August 26
  • Spring DeadlineApply by November 15, 2024, to start January 13, 2025

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.

Applicants ideally should have at least five years of post-undergraduate work experience as a manager or team leader. Less experienced candidates will be considered at the discretion of the program director.

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:

GRE or GMAT Scores are NOT required.

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.

Program-Specific Questions/Materials

Vita or Résumé — A one- to two-page listing of your professional experience. Upload to the online application.

Statement of Intent — Describe how your professional experience and goals align with the Graduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership. Do not exceed 500 words. Upload to the online 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 "Certificate Admission" as the enrollment type
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
  • Choose "Strategic Leadership" 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 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 15 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 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 Programs Related to This Certificate

You can apply successfully earned credits from this certificate toward the completion of your master’s degree, should you apply and be accepted into one of these highly competitive programs.

Acceptance to the strategic leadership certificate does not guarantee or imply admission into the Master's in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership. For this executive-level degree program, applicants typically require about 10 years of post-undergraduate, professional work experience and at least 5 years of current managerial or team leadership experience. Extensive leadership experience in the military will also be considered. Exceptional students that fall outside of these general guidelines may be considered.

Prepare to lead organizations at the highest level. This program focuses on strategic thinking and leadership and is designed to help you master organizational strategies that drive effectiveness and performance.

Learn more about the Master's in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership  

Learn to strategically manage high-performance teams and solve complex, real-world business challenges. With more than 25 concentrations to choose from, you can customize this highly ranked online MBA to suit your unique career goals.

Learn more about the Master of Business Administration  

Learn to strategically manage corporate innovation; develop new products, services, and business models for companies; and launch startups. With multiple concentrations to choose from, you can customize this online degree program to suit your individual and organization needs and support your goals.

Learn more about the Master's in Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship  

Contact Us

To learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership, please contact:

Penn State Smeal College of Business
Professional Graduate Programs Office
[email protected]

For general questions about the application process, please contact:

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


  • Brendan Bagley

    • Degree
      MPS, Psychology of Leadership, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Agribusiness Management, Penn State

    Brendan Bagley is the information technology project manager for Undergraduate Education for Penn State's Student Engagement Network Portal Project. He also serves on the faculty in the Smeal College of Business, where he teaches leadership, human resource management, talent management, and project management. He is a former U.S. Army officer and holds the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, in addition to certifications in risk management and project management from the George Washington University School of Business.

  • Forrest Briscoe

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Management, MIT Sloan
    • Degree
      B.A., Harvard College

    Forrest Briscoe is a professor of management and a Frank and Mary Jean Smeal Research Fellow in the Penn State Smeal College of Business. He teaches courses in strategic management, business ethics, social entrepreneurship, and organizational theory. His research examines strategic decision-making in relation to a variety of topics, including corporate stakeholders, workforce management, resource allocation, social responsibility, and data governance.

  • Jeffrey A. Krug

    • Degree
      MLE, Institute for Management and Leadership in Education, Harvard University
    • Degree
      Ph.D., Strategic Management, Indiana University Bloomington
    • Degree
      M.S., International Business, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.A., Economics, Penn State

    Dr. Jeffrey A. Krug is the program director for the Master’s in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership program in the Penn State Smeal College of Business, where he teaches courses in strategic management. He also advises startup companies through the Penn State Startup Leadership Network and Happy Valley LaunchBox. His research focuses on corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions (M&As), global strategy, and the effects of M&As on acquired top management teams.

  • Al Vicere

    • Degree
      D.Ed., Higher Education, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.Ed., Counselor Education, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.A., Advertising, Penn State

    Dr. Albert A. Vicere is the program director for the Master’s in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership program in the Penn State Smeal College of Business and a teaching professor of business administration in the Smeal College, where he teaches courses in strategic leadership. He has served as Smeal's associate dean for executive education, faculty director of the Smeal Executive MBA program, and director of the College's Institute for the Study of Organizational Effectiveness. His research interests focus on leadership development and strategy implementation.

Penn State Smeal Advantage

More options, greater flexibility and a commitment to lifelong learning

The desire for knowledge and professional growth spans a lifetime. That is why the Penn State Smeal College of Business offers a portfolio of professional graduate programs for all stages of your career. In partnership with Penn State World Campus, Smeal makes it easy to customize a learning plan to your unique career aspirations and busy schedule. Penn State Smeal offers you a lifetime of learning with more concentrations and one of the most integrated, flexible offerings of online and residential programs in the United States.

Penn State Business building

An entire team dedicated to your success

Personal advising — Our experts will explain the many options that Penn State Smeal offers and will help you refine your career strategy and craft the educational experience best suited to your interests. It all starts with a simple, but critical question: “What are your goals?” 

Career coaching* — Our Alumni Career Services team will support you across all career stages with professional advancement opportunities and coaching to help you stay focused on achieving your goals.

Delivering the best of online and in-person learning for a rich educational experience

We understand that today’s professional learners want meaningful discussion and interaction with faculty and classmates along with the technologies and flexible approaches of contemporary online learning. By aligning the best of both worlds, we bring richness, depth, and diversity to the overall educational experience.

Courses designed to engage and motivate the professional student

Creative Teams consisting of a lead faculty member, a Teaching Support Specialist (TSS), and an Instructional Designer use advanced analytics to develop and deliver contemporary graduate courses that promote application and engagement. We strive to innovate in ways that others don’t. 

A real-world perspective

  • Industry professionals inside the virtual classroom — Many of Penn State Smeal’s courses feature industry professionals who have been in the trenches and work hard to make an impact every day. These individuals, most of whom hold a Smeal graduate degree, partner with our renowned faculty to provide a rich academic context with real-world application.
  • Global immersion* — This unique, optional experience will enhance your ability to communicate cross-culturally, adapt to evolving business environments, and manage the risks and benefits of operating on a global scale. Any student pursing a full degree from Smeal may participate in this optional, faculty-led experience for elective credit. Previous destinations have included Shanghai, China; Johannesburg, South Africa; Prague, Czech Republic; Santiago, Chile; and Zagreb, Croatia.

One of the largest and most influential networks in the country

At Penn State, you are part of a worldwide community of instructors, learners, and more than 750,000 alumni who support one another and make a meaningful impact. 

More than 90,000 Smeal alumni benefit from connections around the globe as well as networking events, podcasts, webinars, a powerful LinkedIn community, and opportunities for volunteerism.

Impact Smeal Day — This day provides alumni and professional graduate students with the opportunity to come to campus and interact with current students, network with other alumni, gain professional insights, and hear about college initiatives. The day is designed so that you can sign up for the sessions that work for your schedule.

* Services are available only to students and alumni of Penn State Smeal’s degree programs and online degrees led by Smeal and delivered through the World Campus. Students and alumni of online graduate certificates are not eligible to receive these benefits unless they are also enrolled in a degree program.

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

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