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Doctoral Program Admissions FAQ

Thank you for your interest in our doctoral program. Each year, we receive many requests for information about our program, many of which are similar. Therefore, we have compiled a list of the most common questions that potential students pose. These questions are grouped below under general issues that they address. Please review this material to learn more information about our program. If a specific issue is not covered, please let us know and we can address it for you.


For Students Applying or Considering Application

Requirements (SOPHAS, Pitt Public Health, Epidemiology Department)

Do I need to have the admissions prerequisites done before I am accepted/come to the school?
Yes. You will need to have completed the specified pre-requisites before you start your program in the Epidemiology Department.

How much previous work experience is needed for an applicant?
Work experience varies greatly by applicant. Several years of work experience is not required; however, most of our applicants have master’s degrees and/or field experiences to support their applications.

Do I need to have a master's degree to be accepted?
A master’s degree is not required for acceptance; however, most of our applicants have previously completed master’s programs.



GRE/TOEFL & IELTS EXAMS/WES EVALUATIONS

Is the GRE/TOEFL/IELTS/WES required for admission?
The GRE is required for all applicants across all our degree programs; we do not grant GRE waivers. However, the MCAT or DAT can be substituted for the GRE. Scores on the GRE, MCAT, or DAT exam cannot be older than five years.

WES evaluations are required for any degree earned outside of the U.S. A minimum TOEFL score of 550 on the written test or 90 (over 100 is preferred) on the internet test is required for all international students. The minimum IELTS score is Band 7.0 (applicants must take the academic writing and reading modules of the test). The TOEFL/IELTS exam must be taken within two years of your application.

There are 3 circumstances under which the University will waive the TOEFL/IELTS requirement:

  1. Applicant has obtained a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a U.S. accredited institution located in the U.S.
  2. He/she is a citizen of a country in which English is the official language.
  3. An applicant has completed a degree program at an institution outside of the U.S. where the language of instruction was English and where the official national language of the country in which the institution is located is English.
If you do not meet one of these circumstances, then the TOEFL/IELTS is required.

How can I send my GRE/TOEFL/WES scores/evaluation?
To send TOEFL scores, please use the ETS code for SOPHAS (5688) or for the University of Pittsburgh (2927) with no department code. IELTS results must be sent directly to the Office of Student Affairs (copies are not accepted).


GPA Requirements

Is there a minimum GPA requirement?
There is not a minimum GPA requirement, but applicants should have demonstrated academic aptitude at a level that indicates a potential to succeed in a graduate program.


Application Preparation

When are the application deadlines?
Please visit this page to learn more about our application deadlines, which are subject to change. Contact the Admissions Manager, Karrie Lukin with additional questions.

How can I strengthen my application?
Success in a doctoral program of study requires a willingness to learn, academic aptitude, quantitative skills, and independent and critical thinking skills. Applicants should highlight or undertake experiences that can develop their strengths in these areas.

What is the desired structure and ideal length of the Personal Statement?
Personal statements should highlight your experiences and strengths, describe why you want to pursue a doctoral degree, address what your long-term goals are, and provide information to help the admissions committee to understand who you are.

How can I re-submit my CV/Resume/Statement of Purpose?
If you need to submit an updated document for your application, please forward the document to the Admissions Manager, Karrie Lukin.


Application Processing

Why has my application been rejected?
Although you are, no doubt, disappointed with the decision on your application, we appreciate your interest in learning more about the admissions process.

Our admissions process considers the following areas of the application very strongly:  your past academic performance, your GRE scores, your past work experience and its relevance to epidemiology, your letters of reference, and your personal statement and motivation for a career in epidemiology.  These areas are generally viewed equally in the assessment, and no one area is weighted more than another.

Thus, all of the information provided by the applicant in these areas is used to assess the potential for success in our department.  An applicant is considered not only for the ability to succeed academically in coursework in the GSPH, but also for the ability to successfully complete a thesis (MS students), essay (MPH students) or dissertation (doctoral students) in our department. Applicants to the doctoral program are also assessed on their potential to be independent thinkers.

In your circumstance, your application was evaluated as representing an experience where there may be a lower likelihood for achieving success in our department.  Unfortunately, because of our assessment process, it is not possible to pinpoint one reason that underlies such a decision.  The evaluation was based upon how all of the areas fit together, and how they fit into our goals as a department.

Also, please keep in mind that not all departments of epidemiology have a similar philosophy for what they want to achieve in their training programs.  As an example, consider that some departments have very strong research training programs and some have very strong public health practice training programs.  Thus, applications will be viewed differently by different departments, because they have different approaches to training in epidemiology at both the master’s and doctoral level. 

How many students do you accept?
Our doctoral program usually enrolls 10 – 12 new students each academic year.


Research/Areas of Emphasis

What kinds of research opportunities are available in the Epidemiology Department?
There is a wealth of research opportunity in our department. Please visit our Research & Practice web page to learn more about faculty research, training projects, and collaborating partners.

How can I connect with faculty with similar research interests?
If you would like to connect with a faculty member with similar research interests, please visit our Faculty Research web page. You will be able to sort by research area and find faculty whose interests match yours.


Academic Programs

What is the length of the DrPH/PhD programs?
It takes 3-6 years to finish a DrPH/PhD degree program, including the necessary coursework and dissertation research. The exact timeframe will depend upon the level of prior experience of the applicant.

What is the difference between the DrPH and PhD programs?
The DrPH is an advanced professional degree that prepares students to apply theory and research methods in management roles or while conducting applied research. Due to the wide range of ongoing faculty research within the department, students have the ability to select an area of emphasis on which to focus and to conduct research under the mentorship of an epidemiology faculty member. This program prepares students for leadership in research, training, or high-level administration in a public health setting. More information can be found on our DrPH information page.

The PhD program provides students with an advanced level of academic preparation to conduct research, teach, and mentor students. This includes concentrated training in epidemiological concepts and methodology and the completion of a research-based dissertation. Due to the wide range of ongoing faculty research within the department, students have the ability to select an area of emphasis on which to focus and to conduct research under the mentorship of an epidemiology faculty member. More information can be found on our PhD information page.


Practicum

Where have your students done their practica experiences?
The DrPH degree requires a practicum experience; the PhD degree program does not. In our DrPH program, our doctoral students have completed a variety of practica experiences, including projects at the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office, Gateway Health, the Pittsburgh Summer Institute in Applied Public Health, the Department of the Army – Defense Centers for Excellence, and the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program.


For Accepted Students

Student Policies and Procedures

Can I transfer credits from my master’s degree?
Yes, you can transfer credits from a previously-earned master’s degree. You and your advisor should discuss how many credits are appropriate for you to transfer from your previous institution. You cannot transfer more than 24 credits total.


Alumni Careers

What are some post-doctoral positions/careers your alumni are in?
Our students have pursued a variety of careers in many different fields. This is a chart detailing a few of our recent graduates’ current positions.

Public Sector Job Title
Pennsylvania Department of Health Epidemiologist
Allegheny County Health Department Chief Epidemiologist
Epidemic Intelligence Services (CDC-EIS) Officer
Philadelphia Department of Public Health Acute Communicable Disease Program Manager
US Food and Drug Administration, Office of Surveillance and Biometrics Lead Epidemiologist
US Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Analytics and Outreach Infectious Disease Epidemiologist
US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health Director, Division of Policy and Data
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Epidemiologist
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Epidemiology Postdoctoral Fellow
Private Sector Job Title
Pfizer Associate Director of Epidemiology
Merck Epidemiologist
Astra Zeneca Research Scientist
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Epidemiologist
The EMMES Corporation Epidemiologist/Biostatistician
Academics Job Title
University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences Associate Professor and
Epidemiology Program Head
Duke University School of Medicine Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
University of South Florida, Research Center School of Nursing Professor/Executive Director
University of Wisconsin – Madison, Departments of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Population Health Sciences Professor
University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health Faculty
Associate Provost
Research Scientists (aging, bone health, women's health, physical activity, etc.)
Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital Research Scientist
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Cancer Epidemiology Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Yale University School of Medicine Postdoctoral Associate
University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health Epidemiology Postdoctoral Scholar
Wake Forest School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine Postdoctoral Scholar



Funding

Do I need to secure funding before applying?
We look for funding opportunities on your behalf, but not all doctoral applicants are funded. If you do not receive funding, you are expected to pay for your program and other related costs.

Is funding available to support my study? Is funding available to international students?
We understand that funding may be an important factor in your decision to attend our university. Scholarships are available to a limited number of domestic and international students; however, these scholarships cover either partial tuition costs or travel expenses to conferences/meetings/presentations. The Department of Epidemiology offers a limited number of Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) positions for continuing and new doctoral students (international and domestic) seeking funding support. In addition, individual faculty members may offer a GSR position to students. These GSRs cover tuition costs, health insurance, and a small monthly stipend.

The names of accepted applicants are discussed with our faculty to identify possible funding opportunities. Be assured that Epidemiology faculty members carefully evaluate all eligible students for these positions. Generally, GSR appointment offers cannot be guaranteed before the April 15th decision deadline.

Are assistantships, research assistant, or hourly paid positions available?
You may reach out to faculty members in our department to determine if they have any available assistantship or research positions for incoming students. For more information about hourly-paid employment positions both on-campus and off-campus, visit the Pitt Source and UPMC websites.


Academic Advisor Assignment

Do I need to secure my advisor before applying?
You do not need to secure your advisor before applying. Advisors are assigned based on compatible research interests and previous experience.

How are academic advisors assigned?
After you have indicated an interest to attend our program, academic advisors will be determined based on compatible research interests. Information will be sent to you and your permanent academic advisor once everything has been finalized.


International Student Issues

Do I have the appropriate visa?
Please contact our Admissions Manager in the School of Public Health, Karrie Lukin, or the Office of International Services to determine your appropriate visa.

How can I get my I-20 processed/hold removed?
Please contact the Office of International Services regarding the status of your I-20 and to have your academic hold removed, which will enable you to register for classes.
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