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Engineering Design Certificate Program

Surveys completed by Penn State engineering show that more than half of the respondents have design responsibilities, and the number is rising. The Certificate in Engineering Design is for those students who enjoy engineering design and who want to have an edge in getting their first job.  It emphasizes:

  • powerful new design methods that have application in most fields of engineering;
  • new interdisciplinary applications of design such as design for sustainability, innovative design, design for human variability, global design, and effective design; 
  • interdisciplinary integrated design involving two or more distinct fields of knowledge. 

Engineering students in different majors have required design courses in their majors already. This design certificate is a measure of adding at least 9 credits of interdisciplinary design courses and/or project experiences beyond those that are required, some or all of which might be in the major of the student.


A minimum of 13 credits is required for completion of the certificate with no fewer than 6 credits at the 400-, or 500- level. These credits may be obtained with courses and independent study for certified design work on projects that are consistent with learning outcomes of the certificate. Up to three credits may be obtained through a pre-approved coop experience that is primarily design work. One credit is allowed for the portfolio development in EDSGN 485.

It is understood that students in different majors have required design courses already and that such requirements vary somewhat by major. This design certificate is a measure of adding at least 9 credits of interdisciplinary design courses and/ or project experiences beyond those that are required, some or all of which might be in the major of the student. Further, it is important that these additional qualifying courses and experiences are interdisciplinary in nature. Only three credits are allowed for required courses and this includes EDSGN 100 to recognize the importance both of lower level design courses, and of studying design methods systematically. In general, capstone design courses are already required and often very discipline specific, so they are assumed rather than recognized by this certificate.  

A certificate is to be awarded to students who complete all requirements. For entrance into the certificate program, students must be at least 4th semester standing. The GPA considered for admission will be consistent with, or equivalent to, the GPA required for entrance to any major in the student’s department. To continue in the program, students must earn a B grade or better in each qualifying course or independent study or pursue a replacement option.  


Students wishing to complete the Certificate in Engineering Design must prepare an application indicating how they plan to meet the certificate’s requirements and must submit this application to the certificate coordinator. Students are highly encouraged to submit the application as soon as possible once they have made the decision to complete the certificate.

The program is not limited to undergraduate students in the College of Engineering. Interested graduate students as well as students in engineering programs outside the College of Engineering will be eligible. Each applicant will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with approval from both the student’s department and the coordinator for the Engineering Design Certificate.


Approved Design Courses

Examples of such courses are given below, but this list will also grow with student requests.

  • AERSP 403 Design of Air Transport Systems
  • ABE 467 Design of Stormwater and Erosion Control Facilities
  • AE 470 Residential Building Design and Construction
  • BIOE 419 Artificial Organs
  • CE 410W Sustainable Residential Subdivision Design
  • Any 400-level or 500-level EDSGN course [some 500-level courses admit exceptional undergraduates]
  • Resident Instruction 
  • Continuing Education 
  • ESC 481 Elements of Nano/Micro-Electromechanical Systems Processing and Design
  • IE 466 Concurrent Engineering
  • STS /PHIL 233 Design and the Ethics of Technology

Portfolio Requirements

Students can receive the Certificate in Engineering Design in a wide variety of ways. Taking particular courses and participating in specific design projects or internships and coops in design will define who they are in terms of design experience. Also, design represents an important set of productivity skills used in professional work. A portfolio is a professional document that can demonstrate this well and assist the students both in getting jobs in engineering design and in defining the students as design professionals with certain training, accomplishments and experiences by the time they graduate. Students may claim one credit of 496 in any engineering department for completion of the portfolio requirement.

Each student must prepare and submit a portfolio to the coordinator for the Certificate in Engineering Design. The portfolio will consist of two parts. The first is an electronic portfolio such as the University’s e-Portfolio. This is representative of the student’s best work and can include materials in formats that are not amenable to hard copies (i.e., animations, movies, some CAD work, etc.). Second, the student will prepare a summary paper-based portfolio that would be appropriate for job or internship interviews and other forums. A folio layout of 11˝×17˝ paper printed on both sides and folded in half is acceptable, but other formats will be considered.

In both the summary brochure format and the complete e-form, the portfolio must contain the student’s best work and convey the following:

  • Clear identification and contact information for the student with links (or URLs) to his or her e-Portfolio, online resume, the department of major, and the College of Engineering or college in which he or she is pursuing an engineering degree
  • The training received and experiences obtained in engineering design
  • The major accomplishments of the projects on which the student worked
  • The design competencies of the student 
  • The brochure format and the e-portfolio must look professional, since both are designed for professional use


Charlie Cox
Assistant Teaching Professor

Faculty Openings


The School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) delivers effective engineering education and unrivaled research opportunities through active, collaborative, project-based, and professionally oriented classroom experiences. SEDTAPP offers a variety of programs that partner faculty, students, and industry in the study of real-life engineering problems. Our programs teach students to solve real-life problems with innovative solutions. 

School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs

213 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2952