Frequently Asked Questions

Admissions & Financial Aid 

What makes for a strong application?

We’re seeking highly motivated students with clear professional goals. It’s crucial to explain clearly why our programs are a match for your academic interests, and why one of our degrees is necessary to help you fulfill your career ambitions.

Strong writing skills are essential. Use your essays to demonstrate your ability to write analytically at a graduate level. Highlight relevant internships and work experience on your résumé. The admission process is holistic; your academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores (if included), work experience, essays, and other factors are all considered together.

Do you require work experience?

Although working in a relevant field is always beneficial to your application, we do not require a minimum number of years of work experience for most programs. Current undergraduates with no full-time work experience should, however, demonstrate a clear commitment to public service through internships, volunteer work, campus activities, and part-time jobs.

Approximately 20 percent of our students enter graduate school immediately after receiving their bachelor’s degrees; about 80 percent have had some full-time, post-baccalaureate work experience.

Please note that the mid-career accelerated Master of Public Policy and Management program does require work experience.  

Is there a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement?

Undergraduate transcripts are an important factor in the admissions decision, but they are not the only factor. To be competitive for admission, students should have at least a 3.2 overall average. To be competitive for merit scholarships, applicants normally need at least a 3.5. The admissions committee also considers the GPA within the major, the GPA within the last two years, any extenuating circumstances, the length of time since graduating from college, the rigor of the undergraduate program, and other factors.

Because our admissions process is holistic, applicants with weaker GPAs can be considered for admission if they have exceptionally strong credentials in other areas, such as work experience.

Do you require the GRE or GMAT?

The GRE is optional for all master’s degree applicants and doctoral applicants. If you’re applying for a master’s program, you may submit your GRE or GMAT score as supplemental material, but this is not required. If you’re applying to the PhD program, you may submit a GMAT score as supplemental material, but this is not required.

What is your TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test score requirement?

International applicants are required to take one of three tests (the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test) to demonstrate their English language proficiency. The minimum TOEFL score required for admission is 80 on the Internet-based test, although 90 or above is strongly preferred. The minimum IELTS score required for admission is 6.5 (overall, and in each of the subsections). The minimum Duolingo English Test score required for admission is 115. 

Am I required to take statistics or economics before applying?

Undergraduate courses in statistics and economics are not required for admission, but it’s a good idea to take both. Students with a background in these subjects can sometimes place out of a required course during their graduate studies, and can perform better in advanced quantitative courses.

Can I apply to the PhD program if I do not already have a master's degree?

Our PhD program is very selective, and successful applicants normally have at least a master’s degree.

Can I be interviewed as part of my application?

We do not interview applicants, but you are welcome to visit the campus and meet with an advisor anytime.

How can I arrange a campus visit?

Please contact the Office of Student Services at 412-648-7640 or

Do I have to apply to a specific program?

Yes, you must declare your intended degree or major on your application. If you’re admitted to the MPA, MID, or MPIA program, you may change to a different major within one of those three programs at any time after you are enrolled. You may not, however, change to the MPPM or PhD program.

If I am admitted, can I defer my enrollment?

Admitted students may defer their enrollment for either one semester or one year, as long as they request a deferral in writing and submit an enrollment deposit by the stated deadline. Scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid cannot be deferred.

May I request an application fee waiver?

We offer an application fee for veterans and active-duty servicemembers of the U.S. military, returned Peace Corps volunteers, AmeriCorps volunteers, City Year alumni, Catholic Volunteer Network alumni, Truman Scholars, Pickering Fellows, McNair Fellows, Coro Fellows, Payne Fellows, and Rangel Fellows. If you are affiliated with these organizations, please contact the admissions team at 412-648-7640 or before submitting your application to request a waiver.  

Who is eligible to be admitted as a non-degree student?

Applicants to the non-degree program must have a bachelor’s degree and are held to the same admissions standards as anyone applying to a degree program. In most cases, only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible. International students may not apply as non-degree students unless they are participating in one of Pitt's exchange partnerships with foreign universities.

Non-degree students are typically admitted for only one semester, to take a specific class or classes. Most often, they are graduate students at other universities who want to transfer their Pitt credits to their home schools. Some non-degree students take classes for professional training or for personal enrichment. If you’re a non-degree application, you should explain in your essays what courses your intend to take and for what purpose.

The non-degree program is not appropriate for students who are trying to improve their credentials so that they may apply to one of our degree programs. Students who are not yet qualified for a degree program would not be admitted to the non-degree program. If you are a non-degree student who wishes to enter a degree program, you must submit a new application.

If I am not admitted this application cycle, may I reapply for a future term?

Yes, you may reapply for a future term. To improve your chances of being accepted, it is to your benefit to improve your profile before reapplying — for example, by gaining relevant work or volunteer experience, by taking additional undergraduate-level classes at a local university, and the like.

Joint Degrees

How do I apply to a joint degree program?

You must submit separate applications to the School of Public and International Affairs and to the other school. See the Joint Degree page for more information.

I'm already admitted to GSPIA or to one of GSPIA's joint-degree partner schools. Is it too late to apply to the joint degree program?

No, it’s not too late. If you’re currently enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, Katz Graduate School of Business, School of Social Work, or School of Information Science, you may apply to GSPIA before you complete your first 24 credits. If you’re a current Pitt Law student, you may apply to GSPIA before you complete your second year of law school. If you’re a current GSPIA student, you may apply to our joint-degree partner schools before you complete your first 24 credits.

Is it possible to do a joint-degree program part time?

No, we require all joint-degree students to be full time.


Can I transfer credits from another graduate school?

Yes, we accept transfer credits. PhD students may transfer up to 30 credits from another institution (or 36 credits if they hold a master’s degree from GSPIA). MPIA, MPA, and MID students may transfer up to 12 credits. MPPM students may transfer up to 6 credits. Courses transferred must be graduate level and must be comparable to courses offered at GSPIA, with a final grade of B or better. The assistant dean makes the final decision on transferability of credits.

Can I pursue my graduate degree part time?

All of our master’s degrees can be done part time, but the PhD program must be done full time.

Can I change from full-time to part-time status (or vice versa) after I am admitted?

Yes, you may change your full-time or part-time status at any time. Be aware that this move may affect your eligibility for need-based federal loans. Also, if you were offered a merit scholarship as a full-time student, you will lose the scholarship by going part time.

Can I pursue a double-major?

The University of Pittsburgh does not allow students to double major at the graduate level. However, students are able minor in any fields that are offered as majors.

What is the relationship between GSPIA and UCIS?

GSPIA and the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) are distinct units of the University of Pittsburgh, but they cooperate very closely. While GSPIA offers degree programs, UCIS offers certificate programs in African Studies, Asian Studies, European Studies, East European Studies, Latin American Studies, and Global Studies. All GSPIA students are eligible to pursue those certificates as a complement to their GSPIA degrees. UCIS does not offer stand-alone degree programs; its programs simply complement academic programs at other Pitt schools. Visit UCIS for more information.

Are there any benefits to completing a master's degree at GSPIA if I want to pursue a PhD at GSPIA?

GSPIA master’s students may apply to GSPIA’s doctoral program. Admission to the doctoral program is very selective, and GSPIA graduates are held to the same admission standards as all other applicants. If you are admitted, you may apply 36 of your master’s credits to the PhD program.

Financial Aid

What is the cost of graduate tuition?

Visit the Office of Institutional Research for up-to-date tuition rates. Note that there are different tuition rates for Pennsylvania residents and non-residents.

What kinds of financial aid are available to doctoral students?

Most students who are accepted to our doctoral program are awarded four years of funding. This allows you to complete your required coursework and your doctoral dissertation. Typically, students receive graduate student assistantships (GSAs) and/or teaching assistantships (TAs), which provide salary, tuition, fees, and medical insurance. If you have an assistantship, you’re required to work 20 hours per week as assigned by the associate dean.

Assistantships will be renewed each academic year if you are in good academic standing and making normal progress in achieving your doctoral milestones.

What kinds of financial aid are available to master's degree students?

Most merit awards at the master’s level are in the form of scholarships, which do not require you to work in exchange for funding. If you’re a full-time master’s student who applies for the fall term, you are automatically considered for merit scholarships, as long as your application is received by the February 1 deadline. There is no separate application required for merit scholarships; decisions are made based on the strength of your application.

Is there a tuition discount for government employees?

MPPM students who are employed full time by a government agency (including federal, state, county, and municipal governments and school districts), receive a 20 percent tuition discount. Only MPPM students are eligible for this funding.

Are part-time students eligible for funding?

Part-time students are not eligible for merit scholarships, with the exception of part-time MPPM students who receive a 20 percent discount (described above) if they are government employees.

What kinds of need-based aid are available?

U.S. citizens and permanent residents may be eligible to apply for federal need-based aid (such as the Federal Direct Stafford Loan) through the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Admission & Financial Aid. Contact OAFA with specific questions.

Does the University of Pittsburgh offer FLAS fellowships?

Yes. U.S. citizens and permanent residents who plan to study a foreign language at GSPIA may be eligible for a Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship, which covers full tuition and provides a living stipend. This highly competitive award is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, and available only at select universities nationwide. Several of the University’s area studies programs offer the FLAS because they have been designated as National Resource Centers by the U.S. government. Our internal application deadline for the fellowship is January 15; any student or prospective student interested in applying for a FLAS fellowship should contact the admissions office at 412-648-7640 or