The Higher Education Program at Penn State offers course work leading to a Graduate Certificate in Institutional Research. The 15-credit program, designed to provide students with the skills that support institutional planning, assessment and policy formation, has been created for in-career professionals, graduate students, institutional researchers, and persons employed in related fields

The courses that make up the certificate can be either taken exclusively online, or students may choose to enroll in elective courses that are offered on Penn State's University Park campus. The program provides considerable flexibility in the choice of courses as well as in the time taken to complete the certificate program. In addition, individual online courses will be open to those seeking to upgrade their skills without wishing to complete the certificate.

Advisement will be provided via distance by program faculty based upon a program of study form completed by the student.

Click Here To Find Other Certificate Programs

The IR Certificate program consists of 15 credits of required and elective course work. Whether acquired through course work or practical experience, a working knowledge of basic statistics is a prerequisite. The Penn State World Campus offers Applied Statistics (STAT 500) to fulfill this requirement. Students needing STAT 500 must plan on a 18-credit program to earn the certificate. The statistics requirement will be determined following the student's initial advising session.

There are two required courses: Foundations and Fundamentals of Institutional Research (HIED 801) and Designing Institutional Research Studies (HIED 830); however, credit may be given for appropriate academic and research experience. All other courses are elective, and 3 of the 15 credits may be transferred from other institutions. Advisement will be provided via distance by program faculty based on a proposed program of study developed by the student.

Required Courses

  • Foundations and Fundamentals of Institutional Research (HIED 801, 3 credits)
    This is a graduate level course that aims to provide students with an overview of the institutional research profession. The course is designed to examine the diversity of the IR office organization and staffing, to acquaint students with the major IR functions including overview of national data sets, planning and budgeting, enrollment management, faculty studies and instructional analysis,  accreditation, effectiveness, and student outcomes assessment; and to give students experience in using SPSS software, making PowerPoint presentations, and effective reporting on selected IR topics.

  • Designing Institutional Research Studies (HIED 830, 3 credits)
    This course acquaints students with best practices and necessary skills in quantitative and qualitative research design including sampling and basic measurement issues, research methods, survey research, interviews, focus groups, and selecting appropriate statistical tools. [The Research Design residential course (HIED 585) also meets this requirement.]

Elective On-Line Courses

  • Administration in Higher Education (HIED 842, 3 credits)
    Philosophy of administration; principles of scientific management and their application in colleges and universities; case studies of administrative problems.

  • Higher Education Students and Clientele (HIED 846, 3 credits)
    Characteristics of higher postsecondary education students and other clientele; changes during postsecondary education years and during college; educational challenges and responses.

  • Planning and Resource Management Studies (HIED 810, 3 credits)
    This course provides students with a working knowledge of strategic planning models and budgeting structures and processes. Planning and budgeting skills are important components in institutional decision support. The course provides students with tools and skills in environmental scanning, revenue forecasting, expenditure controls, and bench marking.

  • Assessing Student Outcomes and Evaluating Academic Programs (HIED 840, 3 credits)
    This course pulls together the many threads that add up to educational effectiveness: Evaluating academic programs and curricula, assessing student learning outcomes, coping with accountability and performance reporting requirements, responding to the demands of both regional and disciplinary/vocational accreditation bodies. The course will acquaint students with strategies and instruments for conducting outcomes studies of programs, students, and alumni alike. Assessment topics include studies of students' basic skills, general education, knowledge in the major, personal growth, and alumni outcomes.

  • Analyzing Faculty Workload, Performance, and Compensation (HIED 850, 3 credits)
    This course provides researchers with the skills and the analytical issues associated with analyzing faculty workload and performance in teaching, scholarship, and outreach. Topics include an overview of needed local and existing national databases, measuring faculty workload, evaluating faculty research productivity, using student ratings of instruction, providing support for academic program reviews, conducting salary studies, addressing issues of equity/diversity, and assessing faculty satisfaction, turnover, and flow.

  • Conducting Enrollment Management Studies (HIED 860, 3 credits)
    This course provides students with a working knowledge of enrollment management processes and skills. The instructional material covers three stages of enrollment management. At the most basic level enrollment management includes attracting, admitting, and enrolling students. Necessary tools at this first level include admissions marketing, predictive modeling, and the impact of financial aid on student enrollment behavior. At the second level lies those activities that surround the new student experience – orientation, advisement, curricular access, student support services, and remedial work where needed. These activities are designed to ensure the student’s successful introduction and integration into the institution, as well as the student’s retention through the first year. At the third level, enrollment management focuses on student success (persistence, academic achievement, graduation, and employment). Analytical studies of student retention, time to degree, graduation rates, and enrollment forecasting are central IR tasks.

Note: A Penn State Access Account (user id and password) is required for all World Campus credit courses. Please visit The World Campus website to download the Access Account Acceptance and Authorization Statement, complete it, and return to the World Campus address provided.

There are different procedures to follow depending on whether you have been registered for courses previously. Please review carefully the three options below to determine which category applies to you. If you are a Penn State resident instruction student in Higher Education or another academic program (other than Institutional Research), telephone the World Campus at 800-252-3592 for registration instructions.

Registration instructions for World Campus students currently enrolled as an IR student: Visit the University Schedule of Classes to find the course schedule number and additional information about the class. Select the appropriate semester to search, then select World Campus under "Campus Location" and "HI ED" for "Course Abbreviation/Name." This will bring up a list of HI ED courses from which to select. Once you determine the course you will enroll in, you can register online by using LionPATH.

Registration instructions for students who are not currently enrolled but were previously enrolled as an IR student: Please c please send an e-mail to

Please note that processing a Graduate Non-degree Application does not reflect or guarantee that you are admitted into the IR Certificate Program. To apply for admission to the Graduate Certificate Program in Institutional Research, please follow the directions located here.

If you have any problems registering for the IR Courses, please first call the World Campus at 800-252-3592 (toll free within the US) or +1-814-865-5403 (international calls) and request help. If you continue to need assistance, please send an e-mail to