Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence


This FAQ is for the Geospatial Intelligence program. It does not refer to the GIS certificate or masters degree programs FAQ.

Applying to a program

Registering for courses


Time Frame

Technology Requirements

Penn State Policies and Procedures

Learning at a Distance

Other Questions

Applying to a program

How do I apply to the GEOINT certificate program?
You can apply for the GEOINT certificate program online by going to the official application page for Penn State Online/World Campus. Please be sure to select "Certificate Admission - $65.00"
If I apply as a nondegree non-certificate student to take a class for professional development, can I earn a certificate if I want to continue taking classes?
If you apply as a non-degree, non-certificate student because you want to take just one or two classes for professional development (a $30 application fee instead of a $65 application fee), you can continue to take classes and earn a certificate. However, you will need to apply to that certificate program and pay the fee.
I am an HLS (GEOINT option) student. Will I earn the GEOINT Certificate?
If you want to earn the GEOINT certificate and have it noted on your transcript, you have to apply to that program and pay the application fee. Graduate School rules say that students need to apply and be accepted into every program for which they want to earn a credential.
Can an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score be used instead of the TOEFL in my application?
Applicants who have taken the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) instead of the TOEFL may request that the TOEFL requirement be waived. Waiver requests should include the applicant's IELTS score.
Can I transfer from the Penn State Certificate Program in GIS to the Certificate Program in Geospatial Intelligence?
While you may apply to the GEOINT program at any time, you should note that the courses required for the GEOINT program include only some of those offerered in the GIS program. Therefore, you will still need to complete all of the GEOINT competencies in order to earn the certificate. If you are interested in transferring from the Certificate Program in GIS to the Certificate Program in GEOINT, please contact the Program Manager, Todd Bacastow, at
After I complete the GEOINT certificate, I want to apply to the MGIS program. Will my GEOINT certificate credits apply to the MGIS program?
Yes. Students who are accepted to the MGIS program must successfully complete the Postbaccalaureate Certificate Program in GIS (11 credits), the Postbaccalaureate Certificate Program in Geospatial Intelligence (14 credits), or the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence Applications (11 credits), to satisfy part of the program requirements. See the MGIS Degree Curriculum page for more information.
I am a Penn State graduate student taking classes on campus at University Park. May I take a World Campus course and apply it to program?
First, ask your graduate faculty adviser and/or graduate program officer to confirm that the World Campus course you want will count toward your graduate degree. Second, call the World Campus to register and pay tuition. Students who pursue degrees at campuses other than the World Campus must pay additional tuition to participate in World Campus classes.
Can I develop a customized plan of study for a Certificate?
Yes. You can initiate this process by contacting us at and requesting a time to speak to an advisor about developing a customized plan of study. The following policies apply to Certificates that deviate from the standard set of courses:
  • You must have approval from a program advisor in order to proceed on a specialized plan of study to earn a certificate. Contact for details.
  • GEOG 482 or GEOG 864 must be included in any GIS Certificate plan of study.
  • Only classes listed on our course calendar page ( count toward the Certificate in GIS (e.g. HLS classes do not count).
  • All GEOINT courses except for GEOINT capstone classes will count toward the Certificate in GIS.
  • GEOG 882 must be included in any GEOINT Certificate plan of study.
  • Completing a capstone is required to earn the GEOINT Certificate.
What are the essential skills to successfully complete Geog 883 and Geog 884?
The essential skills to successfully complete Geog 883 and 884 are those provided in:

Students with previous work or academic experience, may have adequate knowledge and skills and, as such, do not to need to complete some or all of these courses.

What is Geog 482I (or what is the Geog 482 Self-Study)?
Geog 482I is a self-study of the Geog 482 content. Since Geog 482 is a two (2) credit course and does not integrate well with the iMPS-HLS curriculum or the current GEOINT certificate, we offer an opportunity for students to complete a self-study of the Geog 482 content and successfully complete the final examination in lieu of completing the course for credit. Please contact your advisor if you are interested in or advised to take the self-study.

Registering for courses

How do I register for a GEOINT course?
Visit our Start Today page for information on how to register for one of our courses.
I don't have a baccalaureate degree. Can I enroll in courses and earn the Certificate of Achievement?
Courses that lead to Penn State's certificate in GEOINT are offered at the 800-level. Penn State's policy is that a student who has not earned a baccalaureate degree, but who has earned at least 60 semester credits from an accredited higher education institution, is eligible to enroll in 800-level courses without being admitted as a degree-seeking undergraduate student. Students who have earned fewer than 60 semester credits may be permitted to enroll in 800-level courses, but only with the consent of an academic adviser or instructor. Furthermore, students without a baccalaureate degree will only be able to transfer academic credits from Penn State to another institution toward a baccalaureate degree, not toward a graduate degree.


A student who has not earned a baccalaureate degree cannot be awarded Penn State's postbaccalaureate certificate in GEOINT.

How do I get an "Access Account Authorization and Acceptance Statement" for my first course registration?
In order to obtain a Penn State Access Account, a unique identification code and password combination that enables you to connect to Penn State computer systems and online courses, you will need to complete an "Access Account Authorization and Acceptance Statement" form. That document is available electronically in PDF format - see


Your Penn State Access Account is charged each semester based upon your total number of credits. See the Tuiton Table ( for more information.

If you have any questions or concerns about your Penn State Access Account, please call World Campus Student Services at 800-252-3592 (or send e-mail to

When will my Penn State Access Account expire?
An information technology (IT) fee, which will provide you with a Penn State Access Account, is assessed when you register for a course in the program. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your Penn State Access Account, please call World Campus Student Services at 800-252-3592 (or send an e-mail to
How many courses can I take at one time?
Data from similar certificate programs, like the Certificate Program in GIS, shows that 80-90 percent of students who enroll in GIS courses complete them successfully. However, the success rate is much lower for students who enroll in two courses during the same quarter. For this reason, we strongly recommend taking only one course at a time. Requests for exceptions should be addressed to the lead faculty member, Todd Bacastow (


What do these courses and programs cost?
Costs to enroll in online GEOINT courses include charges for tuition and an information technology fee payable each semester. Many GEOINT courses require that you purchase textbooks and related instructional materials (such as CD-ROMs or software). These items are not included in tuition, but must be purchased separately.


Do I need to pay the information technology fee?
The information technology fee entitles you to a Penn State Access Account, which you will need in order to access to your online GIS courses.


The information technology fee is assessed each semester and is automatically added to your semester bill in LionPATH.

Does World Campus bill students or offer payment plans?
Information about payment plans is available here: payment plan options.
Can I get financial aid?
Master’s degree and Certificate students (with the exception of those in the Programming & Web Map Development Certificate) are eligible for Federal Financial Aid. Detailed information on how to apply for aid and criteria for receiving aid for Certificate and Master's students can be found at

Additionally information can be offered by a Distance Education adviser at 800-252-3592 or by visiting

I need a receipt for reimbursement. How can I get one?
Please contact the World Campus and request that a receipt be sent to you:


Penn State World Campus
128 Outreach Building
University Park, PA 16802-3601
Phone: 800-252-3592
Fax: 814-865-3290

My employer will pay for my tuition and information technology fee. What do I need to provide so that World Campus will invoice my employer?
You will need to provide the World Campus with a tuition assistance form from your employer which includes the course name and/or course number, amount your employer authorizes the World Campus to bill (including information technology fee, if applicable), a billing address, and a signature from an authorized employer representative. You need to provide a new tuition assistance form for each semester’s registration. We will process your registration once we have your payment information.
Are additional materials required for completing my course? If so, how do I obtain them?
Many GEOINT courses require that you purchase textbooks and related instructional materials (such as CD-ROMs or software). These items are not included in tuition, but must be purchased separately. Specific information regarding what materials are required for a given course and how to obtain them will be provided when you register. (That information is also part of each course's online syllabus.)


Course textbooks may be purchased from MBS Direct, an online bookstore located in Columbia, Missouri. Textbooks may be available from other vendors as well, but if you purchase your materials from a source other than MBS Direct, please check carefully prior to your purchase to ascertain that you are obtaining the exact edition and ISBN number of the text required for successful course completion.

Many courses require use of Esri's ArcInfo software package. This software will be mailed to you free of charge after you join the program. Detailed information can be found in the How do I obtain the Esri software section below.

A side-benefit of being a PSU student, you can purchase a wide range of computer hardware and software products at educational prices from Penn State's Computer Store at

Time Frame

Do I have to complete a course within a certain amount of time?
Yes, GEOINT courses have specific start and end dates. Assignments must be completed at certain times. See your course syllabus for specific dates.
What happens if I need to take time off from my GEOINT studies?
Students who take an entire spring term or an entire fall term off will need to apply to resume studies. Taking the summer term off is fine. Students who take off more than one year will need additional documentation for the Graduate School during the resume studies process. Go to to start the resume studies process. Please make sure you pick the term in which you will be taking your next class when completing the resume application. Let us know at if you need any assistance.

Graduate students in the MPS in Homeland Security Master's Program are allowed up to five years from the date of admission to complete all requirements for a degree.

What if I need more time to complete a course?
Penn State allows instructors to temporarily defer grades for students who were unable to complete course assignments on schedule due to circumstances beyond their control.
To request a deferred grade ("DF"), submit your request in writing to your instructor by e-mail. If your request for a deferred grade is approved by your instructor, you will have until the end of the deferral period to complete your assignments. At that time, the temporary grade of "F" must be changed, either to an appropriate grade if assignments were completed, or to an "F." Your instructor will give you the dates of the deferral period.
After completion of my final course in the certificate program, when will I receive my certificate?
There is nothing you need to do (apart from completing the class requirements) in order to receive your certificate. You will receive your certificate 4-6 weeks after the semester ends. Certificates are sent three times a year, so if you finish in the Spring 1 or Fall 1 term, it won't be sent until 4-6 weeks following the end of that semester. If you have met the certificate requirements and have not received your certificate 6 weeks after the semester, please email

Technology Requirements

Important Note:

ArcGIS is a commercial software package that is restricted to personal use by the student. It is unlawful for anyone to use this software package without the appropriate commercial license from Esri to generate personal or corporate profit or revenue.

Important note:

ArcGIS is a commercial software package that is restricted to personal use by the student. It is unlawful for anyone to use this software package without the appropriate commercial license from Esri to generate personal or corporate profit or revenue.

Do these courses require high speed Internet access?
Yes, courses in this program requires high speed Internet access to access course content, activities, assignments, and communication tools.
What kind of computer and software do I need to successfully complete these courses?
For technical specifications for our programs and courses, please see Technical Requirements.
What if I need help using the Internet to access my online course materials?
The World Campus Help Desk is available to help you online or by telephone (800-252-3592 or 814-865-0047, weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to midnight, EST and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., EST).
How do I obtain the Esri software that is required for many of the courses?

You should check the Software Requirements section of the course description in order to determine which software is required.

For classes that require Esri software, as a registered Penn State student you have access to the free Student Trial edition of the required version and extensions.

Please follow the instructions on this page to download ArcGIS Pro and/or ArcMap:

Students are allowed 2 installation support calls with a student license. You can call into the Esri support team at 888-377-4575, option 2.

If you have any questions about requesting software, please contact us at

Which software will I need to install?
Different classes will require different types of software. You'll hear from your instructor about how to access and download software for specific classes. As long as you continue taking classes in our program you will get all of the software you need free of charge.
Can I run ArcGIS on an Apple Computer?
You can, although it's not supported by Esri. There are two options. One is to dual boot your Mac to Windows when you want to run Esri software. Boot Camp (from Apple) allows you to do this. At boot you choose to start the Mac OS or Windows. The second method is to use virtualization software such as VMware Fusion or Parallels. These two packages allow you to run an alternate operating system while booted into the Mac OS. More information on using ArcGIS on a Mac can be found here.
How do I have my Penn State email forwarded to an external email address?
Please note that Penn State will use your Penn State email account (i.e., to keep in touch with you. To have mail forwarded from your Penn State account to another mail server, please visit

Penn State Policies and Procedures

What is accreditation, and why is it important?
Accreditation is a national system of monitoring the quality of credits you receive from an institution of higher education. Because Penn State is accredited by the Middle States Association, our courses are accepted for transfer by most other colleges and universities. If there is a specific program you are enrolled in at another institution and you are hoping to transfer this course into it, you should check first with the other institution to make sure the credits will transfer.
Can I transfer credits earned from another institution?
A maximum of 3 credits of high-quality graduate work completed at an accredited institution may be applied toward the Certificate of Achievement in GEOINT. 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 GEOINT Program.

Students should direct requests for credit transfers to the GEOINT Program Manager Todd Bacastow ( 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 manager and the Graduate School.

Transfer credits are typically counted as elective credits. Students who request that a required Penn State course be waived in lieu of a comparable course completed at another institution will be asked to complete a comprehensive project assignment that demonstrates their mastery of the learning objectives associated with the Penn State course. This is necessary because each Penn State course depends upon knowledge and skills learned in preceding courses. Mastery projects will be administered by course instructors.
Do these courses appear as correspondence courses on my transcript?
No distinction is made on your official Penn State transcript that your courses were completed at a distance. The credits that you receive are exactly the same as those awarded to on-campus students. Penn State values distance education as highly as it does resident instruction.
Can I drop a course once I've begun?
Yes, it is possible to drop a course. Procedures vary slightly depending on your student status and the course timeframe. For specific World Campus procedures regarding dropping a course, please see "Dropping a Course." Please also see the Tuition Adjustment Schedule.
How will I find out my final course grade?
Upon completion of the course, your instructor will send you an unofficial notice of your final course grade through the course e-mail system (i.e. ANGEL).Your official course grade will be available through the University's LionPATH system approximately four weeks later.


Directions for accessing grades in LionPATH:

  1. Visit
  2. Click on the "Students" link in the left-hand menu
  3. Log in with your Penn State Access Account user ID and password (the same one you use to log in to our course)
  4. Click on the "Grades" link in the left-hand menu--Select the appropriate semester for which you want to retrieve grades, then click on the "Display grades" button

Unofficial "advising" transcripts can also be viewed through LionPATH (select "Transcripts" from the LionPATH menu). Official transcripts can also be ordered through that same link.

What grade do I need to earn for a course to count toward the certificate program?
As these are graduate level programs, our courses follow the university's gradute level grading system in terms of acceptable grades. If transferring credits, the grades must meet the requirements of the program in which the courses are being transferred into.
Can I earn multiple Certificates?
Yes. Only 20% of the credit hours earned may overlap between multiple certificates – therefore 80% must be unique to each certificate. For example, if you want to earn the GIS (11 cr) and GEOINT (13 cr) certificates, you'll need to earn at least 20 credits. You should follow these steps in order to earn multiple certificates:


  • Please email and 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.
What is considered satisfactory academic performance in a Certificate program?
Students in our Certificate programs must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. In the event of unsatisfactory performance, our programs follow the Graduate School policy governing Unsatisfactory Scholarship (GCAC-803).

Learning at a Distance

How will this be different from taking courses on campus?
While it is true that your distance education courses will take place in a different kind of environment than a typical face-to-face course, in many ways your courses will be similar to on-campus instruction, with an instructor, other students, and course materials. But the courses themselves allow more flexibility than face-to-face classes.
How will I interact with my instructor and other students?
You will be part of a group (or cohort) of students in this course, all starting and ending the course at the same time. We use a variety of means to bring students and instructors together, including:


  • paper-based letters ("surface mail")
  • telephone (one-on-one and conference calls)
  • e-mail
  • online discussion forums and chat space
  • a Web conferencing system that enables us to interact with one another in real-time using voice, text, and even video.
How quickly should I expect responses from my instructor?
When you take a course in a traditional face-to-face classroom, you can ask a question of your professor and receive an instant response. In online courses, you can still ask questions of your instructors with ease through telephone, e-mail, online discussion forums, or other means--but unless the communication takes place in real time, the response probably won't be immediate! Instructors are not sitting next to their telephones or computers, waiting for questions to come through. However, they are available on a regular basis and are able to respond to their students in a timely manner. As a distance education student, you simply need to become familiar with your instructor's schedule and availability so that you can know when to expect responses to your questions and feedback on your work.

Other Questions

What do I do if I have a question that isn't answered in this FAQ?
If your question is about the content of the course, you should contact your course instructor. If your question is about World Campus policies or procedures, you should contact a distance education staff member by calling 800-252-3592 or by e-mailing