Requirements vary among programs and change from time to time. It is therefore essential that students know the current requirements for their program. Information concerning these requirements can be obtained from the program pages.

The following requirements apply to all students, regardless of program.

All students are admitted into programs leading to the PhD degree. One of the milestone requirements for the PhD is completion of a master’s degree or its equivalent.

Master of Science

Following are the requirements for the award of the MS Degree:

  • A minimum of 30 graduate credits (these may include up to six credits for work completed at another institution)
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0
  • A minimum of four courses (12 credits) from the 2000 or 3000 series with no grade lower than a B (3.0)
  • All incomplete grades must be changed to a letter grade or S/N
  • Master’s comprehensive/PhD preliminary exam
  • Master’s final oral examination of thesis
  • Electronic submission of master’s thesis

Note: Students entering with a master’s degree from another institution must have prior courses, as well as their thesis, evaluated by departmental faculty. Students must then complete any remaining program core courses and turn in the card for the master’s comprehensive/PhD preliminary exam to the graduate coordinator.


PhD Degree

Following are the requirements for the award of the PhD Degree:

  • Master’s comprehensive/PhD preliminary exam (also the master’s final oral examination of thesis for students whose programs require the MS degree)
  • PhD comprehensive exam
  • Admission to candidacy for doctoral cegree
  • Final oral examination
  • Approval of dissertation
  • A minimum of 72 graduate credits (including up to 24 credits earned elsewhere - see Arts and Sciences Graduate Bulletin for details)
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0
  • All incomplete grades must be changed to a letter grade or S/N
  • Departmental teaching requirement


Statute of Limitations and Leaves of Absence

MS - Requirements for the MS- should be completed within a period of four consecutive calendar years from the student's initial registration for graduate study.


Comprehensive Examination for the PhD - The exam must be completed at least eight months before the granting of the Ph.D. degree and must be repeated if the Ph.D. degree is not granted within three calendar years after passing the comprehensive examination. Candidates failing the examination may, at the discretion of the faculty, be permitted to repeat the examination at the next scheduled administration, but no further repetitions are allowed.


PhD - Requirements should be fulfilled within a period of ten calendar years from the student's initial registration for graduate study (eight calendar years if the student has received transfer credit for a master’s degree).


Under special conditions, students may be granted a leave of absence. The leave must be approved in advance by the relevant program, the department, and the Dean of Graduate Studies. If approved, the duration of the leave will not count against the total time allowed for the degree being sought. Only one leave of absence is allowed. Readmission following an approved leave of absence is automatic, as long as the original conditions of the leave have been honored. The maximum duration of a leave is one year for students working toward the M.S. degree and two years for students working toward the Ph.D. degree.


Receipt of Degrees

In order to receive a degree, students must be registered for a minimum of one credit or Full Time Dissertation Study (FTDB 3999) in the term in which they graduate. If you are an out-of-state student, it is less expensive to register for full time dissertation study (FTDB 3999). If you are considered by Pitt to be an in-state student, it is less expensive to register for one credit of Psychology 3000. If you are unable to register in person, contact the graduate secretary.


Students must also apply for graduation through the A&S Graduate Office. A notice is sent to students at the beginning of each term specifying graduation deadline dates. All incomplete grades, including those not relevant to the degree program, must be accounted for before the degree can be granted. In cases where an unchanged incomplete grade was issued for a course that is not required for the degree, the program chair must write a letter to that effect.


Change of Grade cards must be signed by the instructor, and all grade changes (other than Dissertation Study) that are older than one year must be accompanied by a letter indicating why the change is late. The Psychology Graduate Office will change incomplete grades for Thesis & Dissertation Credits.


Departmental Teaching Requirement

All graduate students must fulfill the departmental teaching requirement before graduating. Students must register for 3 credits of PSY 2970, Teaching of Psychology, which is usually offered in the Fall Term, or the University sponsored teaching course, FACDEV 2200, either prior to or concurrently with teaching.


The following courses will count toward the teaching requirement:

  • Any course for which the student is the sole instructor (1.00 TF)
  • PSY 0035 Research Methods Lab (0.75 TF) or PSY 0423 Cognitive Psych Labs (1.00 TF.) (PSY 0405 Learning & Motivation Lab will not count toward the teaching requirement.)


Students should fulfill the teaching requirement before proposing the dissertation.


Exceptions will be considered under the following circumstances:


The student has entered with the M.S. and can provide syllabi and other materials as proof of prior teaching experience at the college level.

Exceptions must be approved by the Assistant Chair in consultation with the GEC.


The Graduate Student Teaching Review form can be obtained from the Psychology Graduate Office. It can also be downloaded here.


A&S Milestones

In order to obtain the PhD, all students must complete six A&S milestones. These milestones bear some relationship to program requirements, but they do not always map perfectly onto these requirements. It is the student’s responsibility to (a) determine the relationship between his/her program requirements and A&S milestones and (b) provide timely information about the completion of each milestone to the Graduate Administrator. Milestone information must be on file in the A&S Dean’s Office before a degree is granted. A student must be registered in the term in which a milestone is entered on the student's official record.


Note that you should use a separate card or form for each milestone, with the exception of milestones 5 and 6, which can be entered on the same card and turned in at the same time. The two cards (Report on Examinations for Masters Degree, Report on Examinations for Doctoral Degree) and the form (Application for Admission to Candidacy for Doctoral Degree) can be obtained from the Graduate Administrator in 3129 Sennott Square. It is important that you turn in the appropriate card or form to the Graduate Administrator immediately after you complete each milestone.


Milestone # 1

Master’s Comprehensive / PhD Preliminary Exam

This indicates that you have satisfactorily completed the core courses that your program requires. As soon as you finish these, obtain the card from the Graduate Administrator, fill in the relevant information, have your advisor sign the card, and give the card to the Graduate Administrator.


Milestone # 2

Master’s Final Oral Examination of Thesis

This indicates that you have completed your M.S. thesis. You should take this card to your oral examination and have your committee sign it. Then, give it to the Graduate Administrator. Note that if you wish to earn the M.S. you must apply for graduation and submit the ETD (electronic thesis) to the A&S Office of Graduate Studies.


Milestone # 3

Comprehensive Examination for the Ph.D.

This indicates that you have completed the comprehensive examination requirements for your program (this involves a specialty paper in several programs). After you have done so, have your advisor sign the card and give the card to the Graduate Administrator.


Milestone # 4

Admission to Candidacy for Doctoral Degree

This indicates that your Ph.D. committee has accepted your dissertation proposal. The Committee must consist of at least four members of the Graduate Faculty, three from the Psychology Department and one from another department or university. Note that not everyone on the “faculty” is on the “Graduate Faculty.” Please check with the Graduate Administrator when forming your committee to assure that all member requirements are met. The Admission to Candidacy Form must be signed and processed a minimum of eight months prior to your final oral defense. After the form is signed, give it to the Graduate Administrator.


Note: Meetings of the doctoral committee must occur at least once every 12 months from the date the student’s admission to doctoral candidacy is recorded. During these meetings, the committee assesses the student's progress toward the degree and discusses objectives for the following year and a timetable for completing degree requirements. A record of each meeting must be maintained in the student's departmental file. Please make sure that you have an annual meeting and that notes from the meeting are placed in your file in the Graduate Office.


Milestone # 5

Final Oral Examination

This indicates that you have successfully defended your dissertation. You can hold this card until you complete Milestone #6.


Note: All members of your committee must be present at both the Dissertation Proposal meeting and the Dissertation Defense. If a committee member cannot be present, you must obtain the approval of the Dean, A&S Office of Graduate Studies, for that member to participate via conference call.


Milestone # 6

Dissertation Approved

This indicates that all revisions of your dissertation have been completed and approved. After the card is signed by your committee, turn it in to the Graduate Administrator.


Helpful Links


Graduate and Professional Bulletin


Elements of Good Academic Advising