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Graduate Resources and Frequently Asked Questions

Pitt makes programs and resources available to support graduate students throughout their academic journey. Learn more about the University’s resources for research, advising, and academic support on the Graduate Studies Academics page.

Applicants to the Communication graduate program can find instructions for applying and additional admissions information at the Department of Communication’s Apply web page.

For the most current requirements and guidelines, or if you have additional questions, please contact the department’s graduate administrator, Ian Bennett. In your inquiry, please include your full name and phone number.

Common General Questions for Applicants

Do you offer an MA?
We admit students directly into the doctoral program but students who enter without an MA in hand pick up the MA along the way to the PhD.  We do not offer a terminal MA degree.

Do I need to earn an MA before I enroll in the PhD program?
No, generally each year’s incoming PhD class is a mix of students coming from previous master’s and bachelor’s degree programs.

How many applicants are accepted each year?
We currently average about 4 a year.

Will my credits get transferred if I have an MA already?
Our department handles this on an individual basis that depends on whether the MA was in a cognate field related to Communication or if a significant amount of the coursework for the degree in a noncognate field is deemed preparatory for the type of research the student envisions pursuing here at Pitt. If the Admissions Committee approves, the department could apply to the Deans office for credits earned at another approved degree-granting graduate program toward the credit requirement for an advanced degree. Six credits may be transferred toward a master's degree from another master’s program, and up to 30 credits of master's level work can be transferred toward the Ph.D. (with a maximum of 12 additional credits of work beyond the master's level if in a Ph.D. program). 

When I submit my application, do I apply to work directly with a specific faculty member?
Our program admits graduate students to the program in general and then, in consultation with our faculty, each student selects mentors, advisors, and committee members among our different research professors. Applicants should feel free to contact individual faculty members as they think about applying or list specific faculty members that they would like to work with in their application materials. But a student’s admission does not depend on the availability of specific advisor or faculty member.

Common Questions for International Students

What English language test do I need to take and what are the minimum scores I must have?
Our department must comply with the testing practices and minimum scores set by the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Graduate Studies guidelines.

I am non-native English speaker, but I went/currently go to an English-speaking university. Am I required to submit required English language test scores?
You have met the University of Pittsburgh English requirements and are not required to submit English language test scores if:

  • You have received a university degree from an accredited U.S. institution located in the United States (or will receive a degree before you first enroll at the University of Pittsburgh).
  • You have received a university degree from an institution whose language of instruction is English if it is located in a country whose official language is English (or if will receive such a degree before you first enroll at the University of Pittsburgh).
  • Please contact the graduate administrator if you have questions about whether you meet these criteria; however, know that the final decision as to whether you have met the English requirements lies with the Dietrich School of Arts and Science Graduate Dean’s office.

I’m from Puerto Rico. Do I need to submit English language test scores?
As U.S. citizens, natives of Puerto Rico are not required to submit test scores.

The application system won’t let me pay the application fee by credit card without an American zip code – what do I do?
You can put “00000” as your zip code. This will allow you to check out and submit your application.

I applied to your department last year, and my previous test scores still fall within the five-year window of validity. Do I have to send my test scores again?
No, you should not need to re-send previous scores if they are still valid from a previous year. The University of Pittsburgh stores your test scores in a separate system from your application.  The scores should automatically populate to your new application within a few business days of submitting your application. If you do not see them, contact the graduate administrator.

What are the ETS codes for submitting my TOEFL scores to the Pitt Communication Department?
The University of Pittsburgh school code is 2927 (applies to TOEFL).

The most frequently used applicable subject code for our department is:
          Department of Communication: 4599

However, even without these subject codes, your scores can usually be matched to your application through your name and other personal information.

Why aren’t my standardized test scores aren’t showing up on the Liaison GradCAS portal?
The software system that receives your test scores is separate than the system that receives your application. Reports are run regularly so that the two systems can sync, so generally the problem should resolve within a few business days. 

Slight variations in your name or personal information can occasionally prevent synchronization, so if the problem persists, please contact the support team for the Liaison GradCAS site.

Important: IELTS score reports CANNOT be received electronically by our system.

Common Questions about the Application System

I want to apply to the Department of Communication graduate program at Pitt, but the Liaison GradCAS program only has “CommunicationPHD” with a major of Communication Rhetoric, is this the correct one to select?

I applied to your program last year. When I log in to Liaison GradCAS, I see my old application and I can’t submit a new one.
You will need create a new application.

Does your department accept letters of recommendation through Interfolio?
No. All letters must be submitted through the Liaison GradCAS application portal.

The file size of my transcript, writing sample, etc. is too big – how do I upload my document?
The Liaison GradCAS system limits file size to 600 KB, which is often not sufficient, especially for transcripts with images. While an initial file or scan may be too large to upload, there are various ways to resize a file, which often works. If you cannot successfully bring your file size under the limit, please contact Liaison GradCAS for support.

Do I need to send official/sealed transcripts to the department?
While you may certainly send one if you wish, we do not require official/sealed transcripts delivered from your university registrar’s office with your application. We only need a pdf version of your transcript uploaded with your application that shows all your previous and/or current coursework.

If you are admitted to our program and choose to enroll, you will be asked to send official transcripts at that time.

When I look at my submitted application in the Liaison GradCAS viewing portal, it says “incomplete” even though all my documents, test scores, and letters of recommendation have been received. What do I need to do to make sure my application is complete?
The “complete” designation in Liaison GradCAS only occurs after a department administrator has reviewed all the materials associated with your application and manually checked the “complete” box. This process can take time, especially with the large volume of applications received close to the deadline. If you see that all your materials are present in the Liaison GradCAS system, there is no follow up required by you. If you notice missing letters of recommendation, feel free to contact your letter writers. If you notice missing TOEFL or IELTs test scores (if your application requires them) beyond 3-5 business days, please contact the graduate administrator.

If you are applying to more than one program at Pitt, do I have to pay two or more application fees?
No, the University of Pittsburgh only requires you to pay one application fee. Please contact the graduate administrator before you apply for more information.