PhD Certificate

University of Pittsburgh doctoral students in any school and department may apply to pursue a certificate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. The Certificate is awarded and recorded on doctoral student transcripts in conjunction with completion of the appropriate advanced degree. PhD students may apply for either a Master's Graduate Certificate or a PhD Graduate Certificate from GSWS.

A PhD Certificate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies is designed to provide an intellectual foundation for students who are writing dissertations on topics involving gender and sexuality.  It also provides a valuable credential for Pitt graduate students attesting to their expertise in these interdisciplinary fields of study. Many colleges and universities appreciate job candidates who have experience in interdiscipinary research and teaching, and many other kinds of employers value the kinds of multi-dimensional analysis and problem-solving that are fundamental to gender and sexuality studies. Students often report that the Certificate was a major asset in their job search.

We urge students considering the certificate program to enroll in GSWS2252, "Theories of Gender and Sexuality," as early as possible. The course is offered regularly and is open to all graduate students at Pitt.  It is designed to be a foundational course for certificate students and a guide to current scholarly conversations in gender and sexuality studies for any student whose research will involve these fields.

Graduate Certificate students may apply for our student research funds, participate in our summer publications workshop, and apply for the GSWS Teaching Fellow position, which offers the opportunity to teach a core undergraduate course in gender and sexuality studies.  

How to Apply for the PhD Certificate

To apply to the PhD Graduate Certificate Program, each student must submit to the Graduate Advisor for the program (Dr. Laura Lovett, the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Application for Admission to the Certificate Program and the PhD Coursework Advising Form. Students should schedule a virtual or in-person advising meeting with the Director at the point of application.  Students wishing to graduate with a certificate must apply for the certificate at least one semester in advance of their graduation. Although we hope that as many students as possible who join the certificate program will earn this credential, there is no penalty for applying to the certificate program and then failing to complete the certificate. It is also possible for students to switch between the PhD and Master's Certificate Programs if their plans change after their initial application.

Students must discuss their program of study with the Director at the point of applying to the Graduate Certificate Program. They are urged to remain in contact with the advisor during their course of study. 

PhD Certificate Requirements

The PhD CERTIFICATE consists of six courses (18 credits) and completion of a research paper supervised by a GSWS-affiliated faculty member.


The six courses counted toward the certificate must be graduate-level courses offered by or cross-listed with GSWS. At least three must be outside the candidate’s major discipline. Students can petition to count graduate courses with a substantial gender, sexuality, or women’s studies component that were not officially cross-listed with GSWS.

No more than one course may be a directed study.  Consult the Program Director to be sure that a directed study in another department will count toward the certificate's requirements.  A directed study for this purpose must be supervised by a member of the graduate faculty affiliated with GSWS.

Students may petition the Program Director to count up to one course about gender and sexuality taken at another institution toward the Certificate. [Note:  this provision reflects a recent change in the Dietrich School policy from the previous limit of two transferred courses.]

GSWS 2252 ("Theories of Gender and Sexuality"), offered regularly, is required and counts as one of three courses outside the candidate's major discipline.

At least one other course (3 credits) besides 2252 must be an interdisciplinary GSWS course (with a GSWS number), other than Independent Reading or Directed Study, taken at Pitt.

To count for the certificate, all courses must be passed with a grade of B or higher.

Research Paper

Students must complete a research paper to be read and approved by the GSWS-affiliated faculty member (as registered on the GSWS list of affiliated faculty members) who has sponsored the paper. The sponsoring faculty member is typically a faculty member who taught the course for which the paper was written, but any GSWS-affiliated faculty member who is competent to assess the paper may play this role.  In order to fulfill this requirement, students must submit a digital version of the research paper plus the digital signature page attesting to the faculty sponsor's approval of the research paper to the Program Director before the deadline for the student's graduation.

The research paper should be chosen to highlight the contributions of this interdisciplinary certificate program to the student’s intellectual repertoire. It must be a paper suitable in length, ambition, and scope for publication as a scholarly article. It should be neither an uncritical review of research nor a survey of GSWS studies.  Rather, it should be a sustained piece of advanced work, prepared under the supervision of a GSWS-affiliated faculty sponsor. The paper may be written explicitly for the certificate requirement or written to satisfy a course or degree requirement. In its content and scope, it must integrate theories, ideas, and implications from several areas of interest within gender/sexuality/women’s studies. It may take the form of empirical research, a critical review of empirical research with a substantial agenda of theoretical or empirical direction for the field, a sustained critical essay, a journal article intended for publication, a multi-media or hyper-media project, or other form approved by the Director of the Program. The paper should make an innovative contribution to knowledge in a disciplinary or interdisciplinary context.

 If the paper is a section or chapter of a dissertation, the faculty sponsor must be a member of the committee supervising the dissertation. An abstract and table of contents or other contextualizing documents must be submitted as well when the research paper and signature page are turned in to GSWS.

Graduation Procedures

1)  Be sure that you have applied to the certificate program at least one semseter in advance of graduation.  See above:  "How to Apply for the PhD Certificate."  Please note that applying to earn the Certificate and applying to graduate with the Certificate are two separate processes. 

2)  Apply for graduation through the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, regardless of the graduate school in which you are enrolled.  If you are a student based in DSAS, be sure that you indicate on the graduation paperwork that you intend to graduate with a GSWS PhD Certificate as well as with your PhD and any other degrees or certificates you have earned.  DSAS Graduation information can be found at

3)  Submit your research paper (plus supporting materials described above, if it is a chapter of your dissertation); the signature page signed by your faculty sponsor; and the PhD Coursework Advising Form attesting to your having fulfilled all coursework requirements with a grade of B or higher to the GSWS Program Director by the appropriate deadline:

    July 15 for August graduation
    November 15 for December graduation
    March 15 for April graduation