Penn State offers graduate certificate in renewable energy

By Sue Retka Schill | July 15, 2014

Bioenergy professionals interested in getting certified or earning a master’s degree might want to check in on Penn State’s program in renewable energy and sustainability systems. The university launched its masters program last year and recently added graduate certificates in four areas: bioenergy, sustainability management and policy, solar and wind energy.

According to Daniel Ciolkosz, program coordinator, the four three-credit graduate courses offered online for the bioenergy certificate include:

- Biomass Energy Systems: theories and applied technologies for production and conversion of biomass into energy and coproducts.

- Bioenergy Feedstocks: the characteristics, production and improvement of plants as feedstocks for conversion to energy.

- Biomass Harvesting and Logistics: harvesting and handling scenarios and relevant cost analysis and systematic considerations.

- Conversion Technologies for Bioenergy Production: chemical, biochemical, thermochemical and bioseparation technologies for the production of bioenergy.

A student completing the certificate will be able to apply those credits towards the university’s masters of professional studies in renewable energy and sustainability systems. “These are 100 percent online courses, and they are set up so that students can fit their course work around their job schedule and personal responsibilities,” Ciolkosz explained. “Sometimes people wonder if online degrees are really as good as those taught in classrooms.  At Penn State, we have the same standard of excellence for online courses as on-campus, and we work very hard to make sure that our students receive a truly world class education.  Even though the courses are online, students are still expected to interact and work together on projects, and we do have practical lab exercises integrated with some courses as well.” 

The online courses follow the same academic calendar as on-campus studies, he added, and between 30 and 50 master’s students are being accepted into the program each year, with a similar number accepted for the certificate programs. “We’re really thrilled with how well the program has started, and how our students are enjoying the challenge and the fun of the program,” Ciolkosz said.

The certificates are aligned with the green energy and sustainability management sector, which needs professionals with a broad skill set focused on sustainability, as well as technical capabilities. The certificates can help adults build additional skills in such areas as project development, sustainability assessment, systems engineering and strategic planning.

Penn State academic units involved in these programs include the colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Engineering and the Liberal Arts; and the departments of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Architectural Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Ecosystem Science and Management, Energy and Mineral Engineering, Marketing, and Plant Science.

For more information on applying to the program visit the Penn State website