General Studies Certificate Program | Penn Foster College

General Studies Undergraduate Certificate

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General Studies Certificate Program

The Online Undergraduate Certificate in General Studies is a great way to begin your college education and build the foundation for your new career path. Unlike sitting in crowded lecture halls, online learning allows you to study in your own home, and at the pace that’s right for you. You’ll complete two required online general education courses and three electives at an average rate of just $79 per credit and there’s no application fee. So you can save money and begin learning something new today.

You may also be able to get transfer credit at other colleges or universities for each of the courses you successfully complete with Penn Foster and this could allow you to complete your college degree at a more affordable price. The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated and recommended college credit for all of the courses in Penn Foster College’s Undergraduate Certificate in General Studies program. More than 2,000 higher education institutions consider ACE credit recommendations for incoming transfer students. Of course, neither ACE CREDIT nor any other form of recommendation or accreditation can guarantee that a learning institution will accept Penn Foster credits as transfer credits. Every institution makes its own decision about transfer credits.

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The Undergraduate Certificate in General Studies Program prepares students to continue their education in an associate or bachelor's degree program.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts, natural sciences, and social sciences
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills

Course 1

Basic Skills Assessment

All applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

CSC104 Computer Applications 3 credits

This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice. You will navigate popular software tools such as Windows® and Microsoft® Office.


  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize data.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.

Course 2

Science Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

SCI110-Earth Science

This course will allow you to learn about planet Earth and the various aspects of the environment.


  • Describe specific characteristics of Earth.
  • Describe different types of rocks and minerals.
  • Discuss the various components of our solar system.
  • Explain the components of weather and climates.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Earth Science


SCI120-Introduction to Biology

This course will allow you to explore the origin of life and the relationships among all living things.


  • Explain how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Essentials of Biology



This course will allow you to develop a healthier lifestyle by making smarter nutritional decisions.


  • Explain the various components of nutrition as a science.
  • Describe nutrition from a global viewpoint.
  • Understand the importance of water and exercise.
  • Identify the basics of human growth and aging.
  • Discuss food safety procedures.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Personal Nutrition


Course 3

Social Science Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

SSC105-World Civilizations

This course will help you understand the importance of studying history as it relates to the individual and society as a whole.


  • Discuss the major events of the sixteenth through twentieth centuries.
  • Explain the consequences of events and the trends that they cause.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Understanding World Societies, A Brief History: Volume 2: Since 1450


SSC125-Introduction to Sociology

This course is designed to introduce you to social structure and social interaction through groups, networks, and organizations. Study politics, the economy, population, social movements, technology, and social change.


  • Describe deviance, crime, and social control.
  • Discuss the effects of stratification, racial and ethnic inequality, sex, gender, and sexuality.
  • Examine the role of health, family, education, and religion in human behavior.

SSC130-Essentials of Psychology

This course will introduce you to the relationship between biology and behavior. You will learn about human development throughout the life span.


  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Discuss consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Explain how community influences behavior.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Psychology and Your Life


Course 4

Arts and Humanities Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

HUM102 - Art Appreciation

In this course, you will gain an understanding of artistic media, historical periods and artistic movements, the roles of the artist and the viewer, and the principles of art criticism.


  • Define the language, visual elements, and principles of design of art
  • Identify two-dimensional media
  • Identify three-dimensional media
  • Explain the evolution of art from ancient Mediterranean cultures through eighteenth century Europe
  • Identify features and popular examples of art throughout the history of African, Asian, Pacific, and American cultures
  • Compare the genres of the Modern and Postmodern eras of art from around the world

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Living with Art, 11th Edition


HUM104 - Music Appreciation

In this course, you'll understand how to appreciate music by learning about the roles of the composer and the listener, the principles of music theory and instrumentation, musically significant historical periods, and varying styles of music.


  • Identify the building blocks of music a composer can use to create a piece, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, form, and timbre
  • Explain the evolution of Western music through history, from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century
  • Differentiate between the music of the baroque era and the musical styles of previous time periods
  • Recognize the major characteristics of classical music, including form, melody, and instrumentation
  • Discuss the musical trends and innovations that occurred during the romantic era
  • Trace the evolution of American popular music in the twentieth century
  • Recognize the influence of world music on modern Western composition

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Experience Music, Fourth Edition


ENG115 - Introduction to Literature 

This course will allow you to develop your critical thinking skills and broaden your knowledge of literature.


  • Identify themes and forms of literature.
  • Define the main genres of literature—poetry, fiction, and drama.

Course 5

ENG100 English Composition 3 credits

This course will allow you to polish and enhance your writing skills.


  • Effectively use free writing and brainstorming.
  • Perfect your ability to edit and revise your writing.
  • Apply techniques for getting the reader’s attention.
  • Write descriptive essays, first-person narratives, reflective essays, persuasive essays, and effective thesis statements.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Textbook: Successful College Writing
  • Supplement:The Little, Brown Essential Handbook

Proctored Exam

Exam information

This assessment will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the program. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft, Windows, Excel, and PowerPoint are registered trademarks and Word is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a General Studies sample lesson, click here.

Undergraduate Certificate Program Details

Penn Foster College’s Online General Studies certificate program awards graduates 15 credits for successfully completing five courses, including two required courses and three electives. Computer Applications and English Composition are required, and you choose one elective within each of the following categories:

Remember, this certificate program is not a degree program; a student does not receive a degree upon completion of the program.

Online General Studies Degree

The Undergraduate Certificate in General Studies will help you prepare for many college degrees you choose to pursue, whether you start that program a few months or a few years from now. If you are looking to save money on the cost of college, or you are trying to figure out whether college is right for you without making a large financial commitment, our online general education courses are designed for you.

Here are a few qualities that successful students have in common:

  • Independent: You are self-motivated and work well on your own.
  • Detail oriented: It’s important to have a sharp eye and check things twice.
  • Patient: You understand that good work takes time, and you work well despite obstacles.

I enjoyed very much the ability to become part of the Penn Foster group. The instructors were extremely helpful and kind. They were always there when I needed help or just plain needed advice.

- Ashley L., Penn Foster College Graduate

After earning my degree I received a pay increase and a promotion to a supervisor position. The instructors are superb, helpful, and are there with you every step of the way. Also, the student services representatives are courteous and understanding; they are there to answer any questions you may have. After each assignment I completed, the staff of Penn Foster always had encouraging statements that helped me to stay on course. Congrats to Penn Foster College on being the best and bringing the best out of me.

- Shawn C., Penn Foster College Graduate

Having a degree will increase my chances of being put at the top of the promotion list. I suggest Penn Foster programs all of the time to my coworkers. I am in the military, and Penn Foster is a very military-friendly school. I got all of my materials shipped to me while I was overseas for deployment.

- Amy G., Penn Foster College Graduate

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Books and learning aids
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Undergraduate Certificate in General Studies academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

What are post-graduation education options for General Studies students?

The General Studies Undergraduate Certificate Program is designed for adults looking to earn college-level credits. The 15 credits earned in this program may be used to meet general education requirements in Penn Foster College degree programs and may also be accepted for transfer at another university. However, transfer credit is not guaranteed. Each institution makes its own decision on accepting transfer credits so you should check with any institutions where you think you may want to apply.

Can students who take individual courses (such as Art Appreciation) transfer those credits to the Penn Foster College General Studies Undergraduate Certificate?


More FAQs >

¹ The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated and recommended college credit for many Penn Foster College courses. However, neither this recommendation nor any other form of accreditation or endorsement guarantees that any learning institution will accept credits from any other school as transfer credits.

Completion of this program may assist students who have previous academic or work related experience improve their chances for promotion or entry-level employment. But neither completion of this program, nor receiving a college degree, does not typically guarantee a graduate a job or a promotion.

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