Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree Requirements
The Doctor of Philosophy degree in the School of Education is a research-intensive training model that prepares students to be nationally competitive for research careers in both academic and non-academic institutions
Admissions requirements include the GRE for both national and international applicants. International students require a minimum of 100 or higher TOEFL composite score with sub-scores of 21 or higher or 7.0 IELTS with sub-scores of 6.0 or higher. After screening, a small group of applicants will be interviewed prior to a final decision. Only applicants committed to full-time study will be considered (except in unusual circumstances where the applicant works in a setting where research opportunities are available such as a research assistant on a funded project at a research institute).
The students are admitted into one of the following areas of concentration:
Plan of Studies
Prior to advancement to the formal stage called Doctoral Study, the student, in consultation with the academic advisor, must complete a plan of studies that conforms to program requirements. The plan of studies, approved by the academic advisor, the program coordinator, and department is filed in the Office of Admissions and Enrollment Services.
PhD students are required to file a Plan of Studies during the first year in the program. In formulating the doctoral Plan of Studies, both the student and the academic advisor must pay close attention to these School of Education requirements as well as requirements specific to the particular program or department in which the degree specialization is taken. It is the responsibility of the student to learn particular requirements from the academic advisor. The completion of requirements for the doctorate must be satisfied through registration at the University of Pittsburgh.
Courses approved for transfer credit must be listed individually on the plan of studies. Also, when a student plan of studies lists directed study credits, a directed study agreement form must be completed, signed by both the student and faculty supervisor, and submitted for each directed study at the time of registration. Forms are available from the department.
Any changes in the plan of studies must be approved by the academic advisor and the program coordinator, conform to program requirements, and be filed with the Office of Admissions and Enrollment Services. At the time of graduation, completed courses must comply with the approved plan of studies.
The PhD degree requires a minimum of 90 credits in a degree program beyond the baccalaureate, distributed as follows: a minimum of 72 course credits (including transfer credits) and a minimum of 18 dissertation credits. Doctoral-level courses are numbered in the 3000 series, but courses numbered in the 2000 series may also be appropriate for doctoral study if approved on a plan of studies. Generally, courses numbered below 2000 do not meet the minimum requirements for doctoral study. Exceptions require the approval of the program or department. No lower-level undergraduate course (numbered 0001-0999) may be applied toward a doctoral degree. Department and program websites list specific degree requirements.
Acceptance of Transfer Credits
PhD students apply a maximum of 30 post-baccalaureate credits for transfer from other institutions in keeping with University-wide requirements (see Acceptance of Transfer Credits). Both applicants for admission and continuing University of Pittsburgh doctoral students seeking acceptance of transfer credits toward a doctoral degree must submit their transcripts with a completed “Course Credits Accepted” form, available on the School of Education website. When approved, transfer credits must appear on the student’s Plan of Studies. The registrar, after notification of acceptance of transfer credits, will enter the individual transfer credits on the student’s transcript. Grades (and quality points) are not recorded for credits accepted by transfer.
Each course transferred must meet the following conditions:
- The course grade must be at least B or its equivalent.
- The course must be judged relevant to a student’s doctoral Plan of Studies by the program or department.
- The course must be approved for equivalent graduate degrees at the accredited institution, extension, or off-campus center of other institutions at which the course was taken.
The completion of requirements for the doctorate must be satisfied through registration at the University of Pittsburgh. However, under certain circumstances, a student may earn in an accredited graduate institution other than the University of Pittsburgh a limited number of credits toward a doctoral degree.
Doctoral students desiring to take courses at another institution following admission to the University of Pittsburgh should review the course descriptions and receive approval from their academic advisors and program or department prior to registering for those courses if they wish to ensure that these credits will be acceptable for transfer.
PhD students are required to be enrolled for full-time study, including involvement in research activities.
PhD students are required to complete a minimum of nine credits in an academic discipline outside of education. This requirement may be met in one of three ways:
- For a student who does not have a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent number of credits to that for a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate academic discipline, a minimum of 18 credits must be taken outside the School of Education in one field or in an interdisciplinary concentration (e.g., Latin American studies or psycholinguistics) as approved by the program or department. No more than 6 of these credits may be used to satisfy research methodology requirements.
- For a student who has a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent number of credits for a bachelor’s degree in an academic discipline, a minimum of 9 credits must be taken outside the School of Education in one field or in an interdisciplinary concentration as approved by the program or department. None of the 9 credits may be used to satisfy research methodology requirements.
- For a student who has a master’s degree or an equivalent number of credits toward a master’s degree in a relevant academic discipline outside of education, no additional credits outside the School of Education need to be taken.
PhD students are required to complete a supervised research experience that results in a written report of the experience. Enrollment for six credits of supervised research, internship, practicum, or directed study is required.
Statute of Limitations
From the student’s initial registration for doctoral study at the University of Pittsburgh, all requirements for the PhD must be completed within a period of 10 years (or 8 years if the student has received credit for a master’s degree appropriate to the field of study).
Under certain conditions, the dean/associate dean may grant an extension of a student’s statute of limitations.
Doctoral Preliminary Evaluation
Each doctoral student is required to take a preliminary evaluation designed to assess the breadth of the student’s knowledge of the discipline, the student’s achievement during the initial phase of graduate study, and the student’s potential to apply research methods independently. The preliminary evaluation is administered by the program or department to which the student has been admitted. Procedures of administration are available from the program or department.
Advancement to Doctoral Study
To advance to doctoral study, a student must:
- be admitted to full graduate status;
- have completed at least 15 post-master’s graduate credits at the University of Pittsburgh;
- have earned a GPA of at least 3.30 (transfer credits not considered) in post-master’s graduate study at the University of Pittsburgh;
- have a Plan of Studies approved by the academic advisor and the program coordinator on file in the Office of Admissions and Enrollment Services; and
- have passed the doctoral preliminary evaluation.
After advancement to doctoral study, each doctoral student is required to take a comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination is constructed, administered, and scored by the department or program to which the student has been admitted. Procedures and schedules of administration are available from the department or program.
A student must be registered in the term during which the comprehensive examination is taken. In no case may the student be graduated in the same term in which the comprehensive examination is taken. After the comprehensive examination is passed, the student has the remaining time specified by the statute of limitations to complete all remaining doctoral degree requirements. Satisfactory completion of the doctoral comprehensive examination requirement is part of the demonstration of doctoral competency.
Ordinarily, students do not register for dissertation credits until they have passed the comprehensive examination.
Each doctoral student is required to demonstrate doctoral competency by satisfactorily completing the supervised research requirement and doctoral comprehensive examination. The form certifying that a student has demonstrated doctoral competency is initiated by the student’s academic advisor, signed by the academic advisor, the program coordinator, and the department chairperson, and then sent to the Office of Admissions and Enrollment Services. The dean/associate dean notifies the student that doctoral competency has been demonstrated.
For the PhD student, the doctoral committee consists of the research advisor and at least three other members, including one member from another department outside the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh or from an appropriate graduate program outside education at another academic institution.
The research advisor and a majority of the total committee must be full or adjunct members of the graduate faculty of the University of Pittsburgh. Current graduate faculty membership may be found on the University’s Institutional Research website.
The program faculty, the department chairperson, and the dean/associate dean must approve membership on and subsequent changes in the doctoral committee. After the program has approved the doctoral committee, the research advisor initiates the “Proposed Doctoral Committee” form to obtain the signatures of the program coordinator, the department chairperson, and the dean/associate dean. The dean/associate dean must give final approval of the doctoral committee before the overview examination may be scheduled.
The dissertation overview is a written proposal and must be presented to the doctoral committee for approval after doctoral competency has been demonstrated. The dissertation overview includes three components: the final version of the statement of problem of practice, review of supporting scholarship and professional knowledge, and applied inquiry plan. The Applied Inquiry Plan guides the development of the Dissertation in Practice. Students develop a potential solution to their problem of practice, such as an intervention or policy change and a plan to study the implementation and predicted outcomes OR collect and analyze data to identify underlying causes and associated factors related to their problem of practice.
The Overview Examination
The overview examination is conducted by the doctoral committee, is chaired by the research advisor, and is open to any faculty member of the graduate faculty of the University wishing to attend. Although any faculty member may participate in the examination, only members of the doctoral committee may be present during the final deliberation and vote on approving the overview. Each member of the doctoral committee must sign the overview form and vote on approving the overview. The committee must unanimously approve the overview in order for the student to be advanced to doctoral candidacy.
Students should review the information detailed under Dissertation and Abstract and Final Oral Examination for University-wide regulations regarding dissertations and dissertation defenses. School of Education-specific rules follow:
The Dissertation Defense
The same rules apply here as detailed under The Overview Examination above.
Vote on the Dissertation Defense
Each member of the doctoral committee must sign the dissertation defense form and vote to pass or fail the student on the dissertation defense. If the decision of the committee is not unanimous, the case is referred to the dean/associate dean for resolution.
Submission Requirements and Fees
For general information concerning preparation of the dissertation, refer to the ETD website.
At least one week prior to the end of the term, the dissertation is submitted in final form to the Office of Admissions and Enrollment Services along with the following materials:
- Signed dissertation defense form
- Signed ETD approval form
- Two copies of the dissertation abstract initialed by the research advisor
- Completed ProQuest Agreement forms
- Completed Survey of Earned Doctorate form
- Receipt from the Student Payment Center for payment of the dissertation processing fee
- Two copies of the title page
Information concerning requirements for preparing the abstract, the forms to be completed, and the amount of the fees to be paid is available in the Office of Admissions and Enrollment Services. The dissertation and abstract will be examined there to see that they are prepared in an acceptable form and style. For dissertation preparation style information refer to the ETD Format Guidelines. Questions not answered in these documents regarding form and/or style will be referred to the dean/associate dean for review and final decision.