Doctoral Program Admissions FAQ

Each year we receive many requests for information about our program, many of which are similar. So we’ve compiled a list of the most common questions that potential students pose. These questions are grouped below under general issues that they address. Review this material to learn more about our program. If a specific issue is not covered, let us know and we can address it for you.


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 required for acceptance and most of our applicants have previously completed master’s programs.  In exceptional circumstances, this requirement can be waived.

What are GRE / TOEFL / WES score requirements, and how should my scores be submitted?    

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

For Fall 2022, the GRE is optional for all applicants across all our degree programs. For applicants who choose to submit scores, the MCAT can be substituted for the GRE. Scores on the GRE or MCAT exam cannot be older than five years.

Submit official GRE scores to the Graduate School of Public Health code 4234, with no department code.

TOEFL, IELTS & Duolingo Exams

A minimum TOEFL score of 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 minimum Duolingo English Test score is 115. The TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo exam must be taken within two years of your application.

To send TOEFL scores, please use the ETS code for SOPHAS (5688). IELTS results must be sent directly to the Office of Student Affairs (copies are not accepted). Duolingo English Test scores will be submitted to the University of Pittsburgh - Graduate School of Public Health.

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. Applicant is a citizen of a specific country in which English is the official language.
  3. Applicant has completed a degree program at an institution within a specific country outside of the U.S. where the language of instruction is 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.

World Education Service (WES)

WES evaluations are required for ALL education from outside of the U.S.  Applicants should request WES  evaluations early due to the length of time sometimes required to receive and review transcripts.   Evaluations should be submitted directly to SOPHAS.

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 Office of Student Affairs 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 Student Services Manager and Program Administrator, Lori Smith.

Application Processing

What does the Epidemiology Admissions Committee look for in an application?

Our admissions process considers the following areas of the application very strongly:  your past academic performance, your GRE scores (if submitted), 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 Pitt Public Health, 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.

Because of our assessment process, it is not possible to pinpoint a reason why an applicant may or may not be accepted.Our evaluation is based upon how all of the application components fit together, and how they fit into our goals as a department.

How many students do you accept?

Our doctoral program usually enrolls 10 – 12 new students each academic year.

Research and 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 webpage 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 webpage. You will be able to sort by research area and find faculty whose interests match yours.

Academic Programs

What is the length of the PhD program?

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

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.


Student Policies and Procedures

Can I transfer credits from my master’s degree?

It is possible to 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 may transfer up to 24 credits at the discretion of your academic advisor.

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


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 provide a small monthly stipend.

The applications 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 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.