The University of Pittsburgh offers a variety of resources and services to support graduate and professional students.
Graduate Aid Packages
The University of Pittsburgh provides funding to most admitted PhD students for four to five years and has established a variety of opportunities for students to obtain additional funding.
As an example, for the 2017-2018 academic year, support for a teaching assistant appointed in Arts and Sciences — the home of the largest number of Pitt graduate students — is worth approximately $45,970 for an in-state student and $60,660 for an out-of-state student. Over five years, this appointment is worth approximately $229,850 for an in-state student and $303,300 for out-of-state student (in FY18 dollars).
As another example, in 2017-2018 a supported doctoral student in the School of Engineering will receive overall support from the University including: $42,458 (engineering tuition) + $27,000 (stipend) + $4,443 (health insurance) = $73,901. This support is guaranteed for four years if the student remains in good standing.
Stipends at Pitt are generally determined by position (graduate student assistant, teaching assistant, teaching fellows, or graduate student tesearcher) instead of by discipline, and over the past 10 years, they have increased to remain near the median of Association of American Universities public institutions. The typical package of stipends, health insurance, and tuition remission offered to graduate students at Pitt is competitive with that offered by other public research universities.
Pitt has a long tradition of providing students who hold academic appointments a benefits-rich individual health insurance package at no cost. Graduate students are consulted when major changes have been considered. Despite soaring health care costs, copayments per visit in the 2016–17 academic year have been kept at record lows: $5 for primary care physician, $10 for specialist, $10 for urgent care, and $25 for emergency room. Similarly, prescription copayments are modestly priced. This comprehensive coverage includes an unlimited lifetime maximum benefit, no annual deductible, inpatient hospital visits covered at 100 percent, treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, prenatal and postnatal maternity services at no cost, and gender reassignment services.
If this medical plan were available on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, it would be categorized as a platinum-level plan according to federal standards, which is the highest level.
Graduate students who do not hold academic appointments can either purchase this plan or the general student plan, which provides coverage not available in the Marketplace. All students have the option of purchasing family health insurance as well as dental and vision coverage. So while less expensive plans are available, this coverage is unparalleled.
In 2016, Pitt began to provide comprehensive health and security coverage to any graduate student traveling abroad in pursuit of their scholarship and professional development.
Student Health Service on Campus
In addition to the health insurance package, all graduate students have access to the Student Health Service, the Counseling Center, and the University Pharmacy, which provide a wealth of services including: free flu shots, discounted copayments for prescription drugs for students enrolled in Pitt’s Graduate Student Medical Plan, over-the-counter drugs often priced lower than in commercial drug stores, free wellness programs including nutritional counseling and stress management, women’s health care and contraceptive care, LGBTQAI+ health care, and other graduate-student-only groups.
Since fall 2010, the Graduate Student Parental Accommodation Guidelines have helped students who are new parents (including fathers) through childbirth or adoption find academic-personal life balance. These guidelines have provided graduate students with the standing to work with their advisors and faculty to find individualized accommodations that can help them during this life-changing event. During the accommodation period, birth mothers who hold academic appointments will continue to receive their stipend, health insurance, and tuition remission.
Shared Governance and Sense of Community
Pitt works with graduate student groups on campus to continually enhance the services and resources available to graduate students. The Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG) helps to foster a sense of community through annual events including the University-wide orientation (which was expanded in August 2016 to include facilitated workshops), TEDx University of Pittsburgh, Pitt Day in Harrisburg, and many more.
The GPSG coordinates roughly 45 graduate and professional representatives on more than 30 University-wide committees listed here, and through this work, graduate students have a voice in all areas of campus. Some notable accomplishments include:
- Many schools, including the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, the Swanson School of Engineering, the School of Pharmacy, the School of Social Work, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, the School of Dental Medicine (for the DMD students), and the School of Computing and Information, have either designated ombudspersons or individuals serving in this role to assist graduate students in resolving conflicts and problems. Other schools are working to identify ombudspersons.
- The Graduate Student Parental Accommodation Guidelines were developed by the University Council on Graduate Study in consultation with student focus groups in order to help new student parents successfully integrate their academic and personal pursuits.
- In fall 2012, a Dissertation Writing Room for social science and humanities dissertation students was opened in Hillman Library. This dedicated space provides comfortable chairs and individual work spaces with locked drawers in which students can leave their research materials and other belongings. It has also led to the emergence of a student community of dissertation writers that assists and supports each other.
- Graduate (and undergraduate) students on the Provost Advisory Committee for Women’s Concerns collaborate closely with the Department of Parking, Transportation, and Services. As a result, several improvements have been made to the campus shuttles, particularly the SafeRider program, which provides safe transportation during evening and early morning hours.
Developing Teaching Skills
In a highly academic competitive employment environment, the development of good teaching skills is a fundamental asset. Launched in the fall of 2016, the Graduate Student Teaching Initiative at the University Center for Teaching and Learning offers a variety of resources to prepare graduate students to meet their teaching goals and responsibilities from the first day of class through the job search process.
The New Teaching Assistant Orientation introduces the basic information needed for classroom success to graduate students in their first term as a teaching assistant at Pitt. Information, training opportunities, and support are also available throughout the year. Resources and information are available online, and workshops designed to help you obtain and hone practical skills to enhance teaching are offered throughout the year. These workshops are open to all faculty, staff, and students, but are specifically tailored to the needs and experience levels of teaching assistants.
In response to graduate student requests for a program that will allow them to develop and demonstrate their teaching skills and commitment to teaching, the Teaching Center also offers a new TA Services Achievement in Pedagogy Badge program, and a credential in Teaching Beyond Higher Ed: The Art of Public Communication.
As a member of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) Network, Pitt supports a University-wide learning community consisting of a diverse and vibrant group of graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members who together discuss their own teaching-as-research as well as critically examine the work of others in the community and the larger field. Since 2015, Pitt students from nine schools have completed approximately 150 non-degree certificates spanning three levels of accomplishment in teaching-as-research.
Preparing Students for Careers
Through the newly established Center for Doctoral and Postdoctoral Career Development, graduate students can participate in a coordinated, ongoing series of professional development seminars that help students fully utilize a Graduate Student Career Development Plan. The center sponsors an online collection of professional development events and resources crowdsourced from the Pitt community.
The Graduate Studies Office of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences supports professional development and career diversity preparation for graduate students across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. A listing of resources in the Dietrich School and the University offers a starting point to assist Arts and Sciences graduate students in their professional and career development journey. Regular Professional Socialization Fora are tailored to student interests and needs. Recent sessions have addressed: Building Your Own Individual Development Plan, Writing Effective Fellowship Applications, Academic Job Interviews, Author Rights and the Publication Process, and Resources for Graduate Students as Parents. The school also cosponsors a rich array of departmental events, such as panel discussions with doctoral alumni who bring their knowledge and skills to bear on careers within the academy, academic-related positions, government and the public sector, and industry and the nonprofit sector.
The Humanities Center houses the Public Humanities Fellows Program, a new opportunity for Pitt PhD students that launched in the summer term 2017 and was a result of the Year of Humanities. This summer, five Pitt Humanities fellows are working in local institutions — City of Asylum, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy — in positions designed to benefit from both their discipline-specific knowledge and their skills as creative thinkers, researchers, and writers.
In 2012, at the request of students from the Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG) and the Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Organization, Pitt became an institutional subscriber to Versatile PhD. This is an online resource to help humanities, social science, and STEM graduate students prepare for nonacademic careers.
Entrepreneurial graduate students have created new opportunities for themselves to apply their graduate studies, many with support from the Innovation Institute. In 2014, highly motivated graduate students from the Swanson School of Engineering founded a nonprofit consulting organization, Fourth River Solutions, to provide students in the STEM field with experiential learning opportunities to partner with local businesses from the vibrant Pittsburgh startup economy.
For more information, view Pitt's resources for graduate and professional students.