PhD in Human Genetics, GC Focus

The Genetic Counseling Graduate Program at the University of Pittsburgh has offered a PhD in Human Genetics with a focus in genetic counseling since 1995. This degree provides genetic counselors interested in obtaining an advanced degree the opportunity to pursue a PhD customized to their interests and career goals. The PhD program consists of a combination of course work and original research, which usually allows attainment of the degree within 2-3 years after the master’s degree. 



Individuals who have competed a masters in genetic counseling program accredited by the ACGC are eligible to apply to the PhD program. There is no minimum work experience required for admission. Interested candidates who did not receive their master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh can apply to the program through SOPHAS, the centralized application service for graduate schools of public health. For more information, please see our How To Apply page. 

Genetic counselors who obtained their master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh can apply by submitting the following to the Pitt Public Health Office of Student Affairs:

  • An updated “Statement of Purpose and Objectives,” explaining your motivation and reasons for applying to the PhD program. 
  • Two local letters of recommendation, from mentors/professors who are familiar with your recent academic and research performance. 

For further admissions requirements, please reference the Student Handbook.



A minimum total of 72 credits is required for the program. The curriculum is customized based on the student’s previous coursework, research interests, and career goals. 

After completion of the first year of the PhD program, the student will take the PhD Qualifying Examination, which assesses the breadth of knowledge of the discipline, the student’s achievement during the first year of graduate study, and the student’s potential to apply research methods independently. The Qualifying Examination is an oral examination in which the student presents a critical analysis of a published paper from the contemporary peer-reviewed literature. 

After a student has completed his or her coursework and decided on a dissertation topic, the PhD Comprehensive Examination is administered. The Comprehensive Examination consists of the written dissertation research proposal submitted to the student’s PhD Comprehensive Committee, followed by an oral exam about the proposed research.


Financial Aid

Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) positions provide both tuition and stipend support. Most full-time students in the PhD program eventually obtain financial support as a GSR. Admission to the program does not guarantee financial aid, however. 


For More Information

Please contact Dr. Robin Grubs and Dr. Andrea Durst for additional information on the PhD program with a focus in genetic counseling. Additional information may also be found in the Student Handbook.