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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Undergraduate Catalog 
  Jun 16, 2024
2018-2019 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Public Service, BA

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The undergraduate major in public service is offered by the Pitt Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. It is designed to prepare students for a broad range of careers that are focused on the resolution of public problems or the delivery of public services. These careers range from those in the local government and community arena to the metropolitan region and state arena to national and international settings. Potential employers include local, state, and federal governments; nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations at the local, regional, national, and international level; private firms engaged in working with governments; and private corporations with an active public service culture.

The major serves students who are interested in public issues as concerned and interested citizens and prepares them for a wide range of graduate programs related to public policy and management.

Major Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 120 credits for the Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in public service. Of this total, students must take 33 credits (11 courses) in public service; one course in statistics(STAT 0200 - BASIC APPLIED STATISTICS  or an equivalent course); and six credits (two courses) in a related field such as political science, economics, psychology, sociology, or another field approved by an academic advisor. The remaining credits required for the degree are outlined in the General Education Requirements section on this page.

Concentration Areas (18 credits)

Choose one of the three concentration areas below:

Self-Designed Concentration

Courses that meet the special program needs of the student may be selected from the courses offered in public service or in a related area or department. A written plan for completing the self-designed concentration must be approved by the College of General Studies Academic Affairs Committee. The proposed plan of studies should be unique and not offered at Pitt in another facet such as another major, certificate or minor.


Five-year accelerated program for Pitt undergraduates

High-achieving University of Pittsburgh juniors (and in some cases, first-term seniors) in the College of General Studies may apply early to the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). If admitted, they may enroll at GSPIA in what normally would have been their senior year, allowing them to complete both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in a total of five years. Special eligibility requirements apply. Pitt undergraduates interested in this program should contact GSPIA at 412-648-7640.

Please note: 

This major requires that you complete an internship at a facility external to the University, and this facility may or will require a criminal background check, an Act 33/34 clearance, and perhaps a drug screen to determine whether you are qualified to participate in the internship. Additionally, in order to become licensed or employed, many states will inquire as to whether the applicant has been convicted of a misdemeanor, a felony, or a felonious or illegal act associated with alcohol and/or substance abuse.

Students interested in a minor, rather than a major, in public service should check with their academic advisor. 

Requirements subject to change. Check with an academic advisor before registering.

General Education Requirements

General Education Requirements (GERs) provide you with an opportunity to discover interests you never knew you had, all while earning credits toward graduation. And, no matter what your future holds, be it a career or grad school, GERs prepare you by emphasizing skills employers want (like critical thinking, problem solving, written and oral communication) and giving you the opportunity to become more aware of our increasingly diverse and interconnected world.  

The College of General Studies provides a liberal arts and pre-professional education for undergraduate students that is grounded in scholarly excellence. Pitt offers you the knowledge, understanding, analytical tools, and communication skills you need to become perceptive, reflective, and intellectually self-conscious citizens within a diverse and rapidly changing world. GERs are at the core of our education.

Our General Education Requirements changed for students entering as of Fall 2018 (2191) term. See the CGS General Education Requirements for Fall 2018 and afterward here or visit:


College of General Studies students can select courses to satisfy their general education requirements that have been approved by the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.  A FULL LISTING OF COURSES APPROVED TO SATISFY THE GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS BY THE DIETRICH SCHOOL (continuously updated) can be found here:

Non-Dietrich School courses that can be taken by CGS students to satisfy the general education requirements can be found here:

Writing (9 credits)

Written communication is central to almost all disciplines and professions. Developing written proficiency is a lifelong process, and it is especially important that undergraduate education accelerates and directs that process toward the achievement of writing skills that will provide a base appropriate for professional or graduate education or for professional employment.

Introductory Composition Course (3 credits)

Students are required to take the college-level introductory composition course ENGCMP 0200  Seminar in Composition (SC). Students are exempted from this course if they earned a 660 on the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section and a 5 on the Advanced Placement Exam. Given the importance of establishing a sound foundation for a student’s writing, all students are required to pass SC with a grade of C- or better by the time they have completed 24 credits in enrollment. (Students who do not have a 560 on the SAT or a 24 or above on the ACT might also be required to take the skill-development course ENGCMP 0150  Workshop in Composition before enrolling in SC.)

Two Writing Intensive Courses (6 credits if not overlapped with other General Education requirements)

Writing intensive courses (W-Courses) are designed to teach writing within a discipline through writing assignments that are distributed across the entire term. In these courses, students will produce at least 20 - 24 pages of written work.  A significant portion of this work should be substantially revised in response to instructor feedback and class discussion.  All students must complete two courses that are designated as ‘W-Courses’, or one W-Course and a second English composition course.  Students should satisfy one of these requirements by taking a W-Course in their major if it is available.  Students may not transfer credits in to satisfy this requirement. W-courses can be overlapped with other General Education courses, except for Professional Communication.

College Algebra (3 credits)

Mastering college-level algebra is required for all students. These skills are foundational for student success in other general education courses. 

Students are exempt from having to take Algebra with a 620 SAT Math or 27 ACT Math.  Students who do not meet these criteria must earn a C- or higher in MATH 0020 , MATH 0025 , MATH 0031 CS 0004 , or CS 0007 . Given the importance of establishing a sound foundation in mathematics, all students are required to satisfy the Algebra requirement by the time they have completed 30 credits in enrollment.

Quantitative and Formal Reasoning (3 credits)

All students are required to take and pass with a grade of C- or better at least one course in university-level mathematics (other than trigonometry) for which algebra is a prerequisite, or an approved course in statistics or mathematical or formal logic.

A C- or better is needed in a course that satisfies this requirement.  Students who qualify for placement in an upper-level course in mathematics on a proficiency placement test are exempt.

Diversity (3 credits)

Diversity courses focus centrally and intensively on issues of diversity, and do so in a manner that promotes understanding of difference. They provide students with analytical skills with which to understand structural inequities and the knowledge to be able to participate more effectively in our increasingly diverse and multicultural society. The courses may address, though not be limited to, such issues as race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religious difference, and/or economic disparity. 

All students must complete one course that is designated as a Diversity course but may take this course within their major field of study, if available.  Diversity courses may also be courses that fulfill other General Education Requirements. (3 credits if not overlapped with another General Education course)

Language/Communication (6-10 credits)

All students are required to take a sequence of two courses that provide them with advanced study of a second language other than English, or the ability to develop their skills in oral and professional communication.  Students choose one of the following options below:

Option 1: A Sequence of Two Courses in a Second Language (6-10 credits)

Students complete with a grade of C- or better two terms of university-level study in a second language other than English. Exemptions will be granted to students who can demonstrate elementary proficiency in a second language through one of the following:

  1. Having completed three years of high school study of a second language with a grade of B or better in each course;
  2. Passing a special proficiency examination;
  3. Transferring credits for two terms or more of approved university-level instruction in a second language with grades of C or better;
  4. Having a native language other than English.

Option 2: A Sequence of Two Courses in Oral and Professional Communication (6 credits)

These classes advance the skills of the student to perform effectively in workplace environments or the public by communicating ideas and concepts and/or introduce students to theories that analyze and explain effective communication in these settings.  Students must complete one of the following with a grade of C- or better: COMMRC 0520  or COMMRC 0500 .  Students select a second class from a list of approved courses.

Humanities and Arts, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences (27 credits)

Each student is required to take nine courses in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences as distributed below.  Such courses allow students to pursue their own interests while they explore diverse views of a broad range of human cultures, modes of thought, and bodies of knowledge. The courses that fulfill these requirements are truly courses in the disciplines that draw on the unique resources of a research university.

One course in Literature (3 credits)

By studying a range of literary and other texts in this course, students will be introduced to the techniques and methods of textual analysis and will develop critical perspectives on a variety of forms of cultural expression.

One course in the Arts (3 credits)

This course introduces students to modes of analysis appropriate to music, theater, or the visual and plastic arts. It may take the form of a survey, the study of a genre or period, or may focus on a particular artist.

One course in Creative Work (3 credits)

In this course, students are expected to produce some form of creative work, and they will also be trained in the techniques and modes of its production.  The course could be situated in theater, studio arts, writing, visual arts (including photography, film), music, and dance; or it may be a course that engages in innovative or original work in relation to written, oral, or visual material, new media, social media, and other contemporary forms of communication and representation.

One course in Philosophical Thinking or Ethics (3 credits)

This course will emphasize close and critical reading of theories about knowledge, reality, humanity, and values. Courses could focus on human nature; scientific reasoning; theories of cognition and consciousness; human/social rights; competing systems of belief; morality; concepts of freedom; theories of justice; social obligations/constraints; or ethics, including applied or professional ethics.

One course in Social Sciences (3 credits)

A course that treats topics considered of significant importance in the social or behavioral sciences (including social psychology). Courses will introduce students to the subject matter and methodology of a particular discipline and will involve them in the modes of investigation, analysis, and judgment characteristically applied by practitioners.

One course in Historical Analysis (3 credits)

In this course, students will develop skills and methods by which to understand significant cultural, social, economic, or political accounts of the past. The course may focus on pivotal moments of change, or important transitions over longer periods of time. Courses could explore developments in science, technology, literature, or art, and the ideas around them, or examine critical historical shifts by analyzing various data or cultural forms.

Three courses in the Natural Sciences (9 credits)

These will be courses that introduce students to scientific principles and concepts rather than offering a simple codification of facts in a discipline or a history of a discipline. The courses may be interdisciplinary, and no more than two courses may have the same primary departmental sponsor.

Global Awareness and Cultural Understanding (9 credits)

Each student must complete three courses as distributed below:

One course in Global Issues (3 credits)

This course will examine significant issues that are global in scale. Courses could address, for example: globalization; the global and cultural impact of climate change/sustainability; the effects of and resistances to colonialism; or worldwide issues related to health, gender, ethnicity, race, technology, labor, law or the economy.

One course in a Specific Geographic Region (3 credits)

This course will be an in depth study and analysis of a particular region or locality outside the United States.

One course in Cross-Cultural Awareness (3 credits)

This course, through cross-cultural perspective, will promote knowledge of and reflection upon the cultures of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, or the indigenous peoples of the world past and present.  Students will develop an understanding of cultures, traditions, and societies that differ substantially from those that prevail in North America and Europe.

Overlapping of General Education Courses

  • Courses taken for general education requirements can also be applied to major requirements, when applicable.
  • Diversity courses are allowed to overlap with other general education requirements.
  • Writing (‘W’) courses are allowed to overlap with other general education requirements except for the Professional Communication requirement.
  • Students may overlap the second course in their language sequence, taken at the college level, with the Geographic Region requirement, except for American Sign Language. This does not apply to students who satisfy the Language requirement through high school study, a proficiency examination, or native proficiency.

Specialized Study (the Major) (30-36 credits)

The baccalaureate degree, in addition to providing certain skills and broad exposure to the major bodies of knowledge, also allows the opportunity to specialize in a particular field, providing depth of experience essential for vocational competence or further graduate study. An outline of each major may be obtained at the CGS information display in 1400 Wesley W. Posvar Hall or on the CGS Web site,

Students admitted to CGS can choose from the following majors. The majors indicated by asterisks are also available by combining Saturday and CGS Online courses.

  • Administration of justice*
  • Dental hygiene (for licensed dental hygienists)
  • Health services (BA and BS)
  • Humanities*
  • Legal studies
  • Media and professional communications
  • Natural sciences
  • Public service
  • Social sciences*

Students who want a major in an arts and sciences field can begin in CGS and transfer to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences after completing 12 credits including the mathematics and seminar in composition requirements. Admission is determined by the Dietrich School.


Any credits not used specifically to satisfy the previous requirements are considered electives. Electives can be taken in a wide variety of subjects to complement, reinforce, or add further breadth to the chosen program of study or to help meet the requirements of a minor or certificate program. Students may have no more than 18 credits in professional courses, such as administration of justice, business, education, engineering, information science, public service, and social work, as electives.

Preparation for Professional Programs

Prerequisite courses for the following programs may be taken through CGS prior to applying to another Pitt school.

• Business • Education • Engineering • Health and Rehabilitation Sciences • Information Science • Nursing • Pharmacy • Social Work

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