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The student handbook is intended for students who have already gained acceptance into one of Penn State's online geospatial education certificate or master's programs. If you are a prospective student who would like to learn more about our offerings and how to apply, please see our Program Office.

Admission Checklist

Before your classes start, we recommend that you do the following:

  • Make sure you have an active Penn State Access Account, user ID, and password (not your Limited Access account).
  • Understand the financial considerations and deadlines for dropping a course.
  • Purchase the required course materials.
  • Check your Penn State email.
  • Log in to Canvas. Classes you are registered for will show up in Canvas a week before they start.
  • Read through this handbook to make sure you are familiar with the policies and requirements of your specific certificate or degree program. 

Students Currently in a Certificate Program

  • Do you want to apply to one of our master's degrees?

    Credits earned toward one of our certificates may also be applied toward the requirements of one of our master's degrees. If you've completed 3 or more classes with a GPA of at 3.67 or above, you're eligible to apply via our accelerated admission option. Accelerated admission is a rolling process (you don't have to wait until one of our three intakes) and you do not need letters of recommendation. If you do not qualify for accelerated admission, you can also apply via our regular admission option. Further details on applying to one of our master's degrees can be found here.

  • Do you want to earn an additional certificate?

    For students pursuing multiple certificates, 20% of the credit hours earned may overlap – therefore 80% must be unique to each certificate. For example, if you want to earn the GIS (12 cr) and GEOAPP (13 cr) certificates, you may double-count one 3-credit class, reducing the total credit requirement from 25 to 22. To explore earning multiple certificates, you should email to request a time to speak to an advisor about developing a plan of study to earn multiple certificates. Once your plan of study has been approved by an advisor, you will need to apply for and pay the graduate school application fee for any additional certificate program.

  • Are you in the wrong certificate program?

    New students sometimes decide that a different certificate program is a better pathway for them. If you have not yet begun your first class, there's a good chance we can get your application switched to a different certificate program. Please email to ask for assistance in making that happen. After your first class has begun, you will need to re-apply (and pay another application fee).

Students Currently in a Master's Program

  • Do you want to earn a certificate while you work toward your degree?

    You can earn a certificate while you work toward earning your master's degree. You have to apply to the certificate program in which you are interested. The Graduate School requires an application (and fee) for each credential that is earned.

Credit Transfers

Transfer credits for the programs are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Students should discuss transfer credits with their academic advisors

A maximum of 3 credits of high-quality graduate work completed at an accredited institution may be applied toward a certificate. Up to 10 credits may be counted toward a master's degree. To be eligible for transfer, academic work must have been completed within five years prior to the date of first degree registration at the Graduate School of Penn State (as a degree-seeking or non-degree graduate student), must be of at least B quality, must appear on an official graduate transcript of an accredited university, and must be documented in a course syllabus or other authoritative description. Credits earned to complete a previous degree, whether at Penn State or elsewhere, may not be applied to the MGIS degree, MS SDS degree, HLS degree, or a certificate program.

Students should direct requests for credit transfers to Transfer requests will not be considered until you have begun taking classes in our program. Approval to apply any transferred credits toward a certificate or degree program must be granted by the program and the Graduate School. The Graduate School policy statement for transfer of credits can be found at GCAC-309: Transfer Credit.