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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  May 24, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

School of Nursing

The School of Nursing was established as an independent school of the University by action of the Board of Trustees in April 1939 and was opened in September of the same year. The University conferred the degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing Education for the first time in August 1939. The University conferred the first Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees in February 1942.

The first Master’s degree was awarded in 1944, and the first Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1957. The first Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree was awarded in 2008


The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, founded in 1939, is one of the oldest programs in baccalaureate and doctoral education in nursing in the United States. As one of the nation’s distinguished schools of nursing, the resources of the School constitute an invaluable asset for the intellectual, scientific, and economic enrichment of health care in Pennsylvania, the nation, and throughout the world.

The School of Nursing’s mission is to:

  • provide high-quality undergraduate education in nursing;
  • maintain and develop superior graduate programs in nursing that respond to the needs of health care in general and nursing in particular within Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world;
  • engage in research and other scholarly activities that advance learning through the extension of the frontiers of knowledge in health care;
  • cooperate with health care, governmental, and related institutions to transfer knowledge in health sciences and health care;
  • offer continuing education programs adapted to the professional upgrading and career advancement interests and needs of nurses in Pennsylvania; and
  • make available to local communities and public agencies the expertise of the School of Nursing in ways that are consistent with the primary teaching and research functions and contribute to the intellectual and economic development in health care within the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

Contact Information

University of Pittsburgh
School of Nursing
Student Affairs & Alumni Relations Office
240 Victoria Building
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
412-624-4586 or 1-888-747-0794

Master’s Program Admission Process and Admission Criteria

Applications are available online at Admission criteria are described on the school’s Web site ( Complete applications will be reviewed and interviews (face to face or virtually will be conducted prior to an admission decision. The application deadlines are as follows: Fall Term admission June 15, Spring Term admission October 1, and Summer Term admission March 1. International students are advised to apply by the February 15 deadline. Applicants must apply online at Nursing Online Application.

Applications to the Master Program in nursing are reviewed by the faculty in the applicant’s Major/Area of Concentration. Applicants must meet the criteria listed below. Qualified applicants are considered without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or a veteran of the Vietnam era.

Applicants must have:

  • A baccalaureate degree in nursing from an ACEN, NLN, ACICS, or CCNE accredited program.
  • Current RN license in U.S. state/territory or locale where student will complete clinical requirements.
  • A GPA of 3.0 or higher in the undergraduate degree.
  • A pre-admission interview. If the applicant resides at a great distance, a virtual interview may be conducted.
  • Official scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The GRE may be waived if the GPA is 3.5 or higher.
  • Pre-requisite statistics course with a grade of B- or better.
  • Three letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant’s capacity and potential for master’s study from each of the following (these can be uploaded into the Nursing Online Application): the director or a faculty member from the most recent academic program attended (if applicant has been a nursing student in the last 5 years), a recent employer, and a person who can speak to the applicant’s professional work.
  • A typed essay (500-word minimum) stating your philosophy of nursing, reasons for wanting to study in a particular area of concentration, what you expect from the master’s program, and your future career goals


Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Admission Process and Admission Criteria

Application Instructions

Pitt Nursing accepts applications for admission to all areas of the DNP  Program via NursingCAS.  Each applicant must complete and submit the following:


  1. Completed application form.

  2. A non-refundable application fee.

  3. Complete official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate education.

  4. Admission test scores if applicable.

  5. Three letters of professional recommendation indicating the reviewer’s support of the student’s ability to successfully complete a demanding graduate level academic and clinical program. At least one recommendation should come from a current or recent direct supervisor. These letters will be submitted by the reviewer through NursingCAS.

  6. Personal essay addressing the questions:

a. Share life experiences that have influenced your interest in progressing your nursing career.

b. Describe a time when you advocated for an individual from a disadvantaged group in a healthcare setting.

c. Describe how your personal strengths, experiences, & abilities will contribute to your success in nursing school and your career in nursing (community service, leadership experience, healthcare experience).

d. Explain the academic challenges, successes, or obstacles in your life that have affected your ability to achieve your goals. How did you respond to the situation?

e. Why did you choose your area of concentration?

f. What are your expectations for the program?

g. What are your expectations for the program?

    7. Completion of the Experience Survey.

    8. Current CV or resume.


All completed applications are to be submitted to Student Affairs and Alumni Relations who will forward them to the Area of Concentration Coordinator or Program Director for review and appropriate action. DNP admission decisions are the responsibility of the DNP Admissions Committee.

DNP Admissions Committee chair presents a summary of admission decisions to the DNP Council including the number and status of students offered admission.

Student Affairs and Alumni Relations will notify applicants of the admission decision. Applicants who do not qualify for admission to full graduate status may be considered for provisional status except for international applicants.

Admission Criteria

You may apply to the DNP program at various points in your educational career. The school offers both BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP pathways; your choice will depend upon which degrees you previously earned and which majors/concentrations you select.

Students, who are currently enrolled in their last term of a BSN program, may apply to the BSN to DNP focus areas, which do not require clinical experience beyond the BSN educational experiences. If offered admission, it would be contingent on the student’s (1) successful completion of the BSN and (2) obtainment of the RN license.

BSN-prepared students, who are currently enrolled in their last term of an MSN or MS program in a related focus, may apply to the MSN to DNP pathway. If offered admission, it would be contingent on the student’s (1) successful completion of the MSN or MS in a related focus and (2) fulfillment of all admission criteria.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing admits a FALL COHORT ONLY to all DNP Program majors/concentration except the Nurse Anesthesia BSN to DNP major, which admits a SPRING TERM COHORT only. The application deadlines for all areas are February 15th and May 1st. International students are advised to apply by the February 15th deadline. Complete applications received by February 15th will be reviewed and an admission decision will be made by June 1. Complete application received by the May 15th deadline will be reviewed and admission decisions made by June 30th.

Applicants must apply online at NursingCAS.

Admission to the DNP Program

The DNP Program admits BSN graduates and, advanced practice nurses and nursing administrators who have completed a graduate  degree in nursing from a CCNE, ACICS, NLN, or ACEN accredited program in nursing.*
* BSN graduates with a master’s in other areas may be considered for admission.


  • Current RN license in U.S. state/territory or locale where student will complete clinical requirements
  • ≥ 3.0 GPA in BSN (from ACEN, NLN, ACICS, or CCNE accredited program
  • Pre-requisite statistics course with a grade B or better
  • Clinical experience  for select focus areas ** required or preferred for selected majors and concentrations


  • Current RN license in U.S. state/territory or locale where student will complete clinical requirements
  • ≥ 3.0 GPA in MSN from an accredited program or master’s in related field (must have BSN from an accredited program)
  • Pre-requisite statistics course with a grade B or better
  • Clinical experience for select focus areas**
  • Nurse Anesthesia MSN to DNP (additional requirements)
          1) current Nurse Anesthetist certification in US state/territory or locale where student will complete the DNP Scholarly Project 
          2) Minimum of 3.0 GPA in MSN or MS in Nurse Anesthesia from an accredited program

**Clinical Experience for Select Focus Areas

  • Neonatal NP: Equivalent of 2 years full time (within last 5 years) nursing experience in the care of critically ill newborns, infants, and children in critical care inpatient settings (preferably Level III NICU). Students may enroll in pre-clinical courses while obtaining practice experience
  • Health Systems Executive Leadership: 2 years of management experience preferred.
  • Nurse Anesthesia BSN to DNP:  Minimum 1 year full-time ICU/critical care nursing experience (within last 5 years) by start of program (may apply if employed in ICU/critical care and will have required experience before admission term). Taking the GRE is optional but may be considered supplemental information in the holistic admission process.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Admission Process and Admission Criteria

The PhD program follows a FALL TERM ONLY COHORT ADMISSIONS process. Applications to the PhD program are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year and will receive an admission decision usually within 4-6 weeks of receiving completed application materials. Application decisions will be communicated electronically (by e-mail). Applicants must apply online at NursingCas. The School offers BSN-PhD and MSN-PhD options, and a dual DNP/PhD option. Applicants are expected to be RNs. The School of Nursing also offers a currently matriculating BSN to PhD option, in which a student who has not yet completed the BSN can be admitted conditionally into the PhD program pending successful completion of their BSN. Interested applicants should contact the Student Affairs & Alumni Relations Office at 412-624-4586 for further information.

Admission to the PhD Program

Admission to the PhD program is assessed through interviews, references, standardized testing, an essay that provides a written statement of goals, and a second sample of writing ability. Documentation of academic success is required.

The doctoral faculty strongly recommends that students develop knowledge of and experience with word processing, database management, and computerized literature searches prior to applying to the PhD program.

Length of Program

The post-master’s full-time curriculum (MSN to PhD) is comprised of 48 credits minimum, and students may complete the program in a minimum time of approximately two and a half years depending on the nature and complexity of research for the dissertation. Twenty-four credits are granted from the prior master’s program. For prior courses taken, an evaluation of the content of a course taken elsewhere must be approved by the Director of the PhD Program to determine its comparability with the coursework at the University of Pittsburgh. Students entering the MSN to PhD program will work with their academic advisor to conduct a gap analysis to review prior research-related coursework to determine if additional research core coursework is needed beyond that specified in the MSN to PhD curriculum plan. The part-time student may complete the program in three to four years. The statute of limitations for completion of the MSN to PhD track is eight consecutive calendar years from the first term of registration for credits that are in the required curriculum plan for the doctoral degree.

The BSN to PhD program requires 72 credits minimum. Students admitted to the BSN to PhD track are expected to enroll full-time, and the program can be completed in a minimum of three years, depending on the complexity of research for dissertation. Students are also encouraged to consider obtaining a simultaneous master’s degree such as the Clinical Nurse Leader. The statute of limitations for completion of the BSN to PhD track is 10 consecutive calendar years from the first term of registration for credits that are in the required curriculum plan for the doctoral degree.

For more information, see Policy 208.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program prepares nurse scholars who will discover and extend scientific knowledge that advances the science and practice of nursing and contributes to other disciplines. Graduates can assume leadership roles within research teams, health care systems, industry, and schools of nursing in academic institutions.

The PhD program of study provides a coherent series of courses, seminars, and discussions designed to develop in the student a mature understanding of content, methods, and values of the discipline of nursing and its relation to other fields. The curriculum includes courses in the philosophical underpinnings and theoretical foundations for research, and research design, measurement and intervention development. Courses also include advanced statistics, advanced quantitative methods, the responsibilities and activities of scientists, and the art and science of teaching and learning. Students work closely with research faculty members from nursing and other disciplines. Each student also participates in two mentored research experiences. The first is the Apprenticeship Practica, wherein students affiliate with a mentor’s established research team over time to explore the scientific literature, develop, plan, and implement an apprenticeship research project, and disseminate findings. This experience allows for the opportunity to acquire individualized and tangible research skills within a mentored application environment, which is additive to and precedes the dissertation experience. The second mentored research experience is the students’ development and implementation of their independent dissertation project, culminating in dissertation defense. Students prepare and submit applications for competitive research funding.

Admission of Students from Other Countries (MSN, DNP, and PhD)

Students from other countries applying to the School of Nursing should apply using the same admissions process and admissions criteria described above. The application should be completed in English and be accompanied by official academic credentials with notarized English translations. Applicants must successfully complete the TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo English Test (DET) if English is a second language. Applicants must also have a professional nursing license. The following links specify the licensure requirement for the MSN, DNP, and PhD programs. Applicants who need to apply for a professional nursing license are encouraged to visit the Pennsylvania State Board website which contains information for internationally educated nurses applying to take the NCLEX-RN examination.

Insurance and Health Care Requirements

All admitted students are required to submit a School of Nursing Initial Health Form with documentation of health insurance; and Act 33, 34 and 73 clearances prior to beginning their program of study. Once enrolled, students must submit the School of Nursing’s Annual Health Form with verification of health insurance each year and have an annual influenza vaccination (unless a requested exemption is submitted and approved). Individual students must meet additional health requirements of clinical agencies such as drug testing. Current CPR certification is required prior to enrollment in all clinical courses. Students are required to carry health insurance for the duration of their study, which will cover payment for treatment and follow-up procedures related to injury or medical problems incurred during graduate study. The University of Pittsburgh makes insurance programs available to graduate students (see: All students admitted with full or provisional status are automatically enrolled in a University liability insurance policy annually which only covers a student acting within the scope of their duties as a student in the School of Nursing.

Financial Assistance

The sources of awards and aid may include: professional nurse traineeships, graduate student assistant positions, graduate student researcher positions, teaching assistant positions, teaching fellow positions, school scholarships, pre- and postdoctoral training grant fellowships, federal Stafford Loans, private loans, and emergency aid.

Academic Policies

All students in the School of Nursing are governed by School of Nursing and University policies. Therefore, it is essential that students regularly review and familiarize themselves with those policies, both general and graduate. Question about policies should be directed to the academic advisor or to their respective program, major or area of concentration director/coordinator. Policies of particular importance deal with admission criteria, registration processes, transfer of credits, clinical requirements, acceptable academic status, warning and probation, readmission, requirements for degree completion, academic integrity, unsafe clinical performance, and impaired clinical performance.


Each new student who is admitted to the graduate program is assigned a faculty advisor from the specific program, major or area of concentration to which the student is admitted. The faculty advisor provides initial orientation to the school, the University, and the program requirements. Each student is required to meet with their advisor prior to course selection and enrollment for each term. It is also recommended that they meet with their advisor at least one other time each term to review their academic progress and any other time they have questions or concerns about their program of study. The advisor is actively involved if there are academic concerns.

Students also can use the staff in the Student Affairs & Alumni Relations Office in the School of Nursing to obtain information about sources of financial aid, scholarships, school policies, registration, course availability, University resources, and community resources for help with personal problems. An online general orientation program is mandatory for all new students.

General Degree Requirements

To earn the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), the student must demonstrate satisfactory academic achievement in required coursework prescribed by the curriculum with an overall academic achievement of a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.00. Successful completion of a comprehensive examination is also required for the MSN, BSN to DNP and PhD in nursing. The DNP requires successful completion of a DNP project and the PhD requires successful defense of a dissertation.

Application for Graduation

Each candidate for graduation must file an official Application for Graduation in the Nursing Student Affairs & Alumni Relations Office at least three months before the degree is to be completed. A fee will be assessed after the deadline for application. All students must be registered for at least one credit during the 12 months prior to graduation and must be registered for at least one credit in the term in which they take their comprehensive examination. International students must be registered according to the conditions of their visa.

Major and Degree Options

The School of Nursing offers the following graduate degrees:

  • The Master of Science in Nursing with majors and areas of concentration in the following areas:
    • Nurse Practitioner
      • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner* (no longer accepting applications as of December 2018)
    • Nurse Specialty Role
      • Clinical Nurse Leader
      • Nursing Informatics
      • School Nursing

*not currently accepting applications

  • The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
    • MSN to DNP Options
      • Nurse Practitioner
        • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
        • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
        • Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner
        • Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
        • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
        • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
        • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
      • Clinical Nurse Specialist
        • Adult-Gerontology (CNS)
      • Nurse Specialty Role
        • Health Systems Executive Leadership
      • Nurse Anesthesia
    • BSN to DNP Options
      • Nurse Practitioner
        • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
        • Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
        • Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner
        • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
        • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
        • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
      • Clinical Nurse Specialist
        • Adult-Gerontology (CNS)
      • Nurse Anesthesia
      • Nurse-Midwife
  • The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing (including the BSN to PhD and MSN to PhD options.) 
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Dual program in these areas of Doctor of Nursing Practice concentrations
    • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist


*not currently accepting applications

Special Academic Opportunities/Programs

The School of Nursing offers a variety of special programs within its master’s and doctoral programs:


Students in the Master’s program, the DNP program and the PhD program have the option of completing a minor in nursing education, nursing informatics, nursing research, nursing administration, and gerontology for nurse practitioners, or health care genetics. The minimum credits required to obtain a minor is 9-12 credits.

Post-Professional Certificates

Post-professional certificates are available in nursing education, school nursing, health care genetics, nursing informatics, and gerontology for nurse practitioners, as well as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, pediatric acute care nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. The certificate options require a minimum of 10 credits; additional credits may be required depending on the certificate program and previous graduate course work. All students admitted to a nurse practitioner certificate program must meet all curriculum requirements of the full graduate degree program, either through previous course work or credits earned during the certificate program. Individual review of transcripts will determine the exact number of credits needed to meet curriculum requirements.

Admission criteria for master’s level certificate programs include:

Evidence of successful completion of MSN, DNP or other relevant first professional degree
Relevant work experience
Three letters of recommendation
Satisfactory interview with program faculty
Current RN license if the certificate program includes clinical experiences.

School of Nursing Faculty

School of Nursing Faculty  

Program and Course Offerings

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