undergraduate section

Public and Professional Writing

The Composition Program of the English department offers an undergraduate certificate in public and professional writing (PPW). Students who want to develop their writing ability and who are interested in exploring the ways that writing well can enhance their working lives are invited to apply to the PPW Certificate program. Visit our Facebook page for news and updates.

What is public and professional writing?

Writing plays a crucial role in the lives of people after they leave college as they work, volunteer, attend professional schools, and advocate for themselves and others. The PPW Certificate focuses on writing that serves professional goals or the public interest (or both). We invite students from across the University to focus on writing as a way to develop the critical writing, learning, and thinking skills necessary to all sectors of American professional life—private, nonprofit, and government.

Who should consider the PPW Certificate?

Students who know that they will write extensively as professionals in law, medicine, the sciences, social work, public policy, international relations, business, or other fields are good candidates for the PPW Certificate, as are students who are interested in advocacy and activism. Students contemplating graduate work should also find the course of study leading to the PPW Certificate useful. The courses will allow students to work on significant writing projects in a range of venues. Students who have finished the Certificate should have a compelling portfolio of work that they can show to prospective employers.

English majors are likely to find this Certificate very useful, but so are students in the Honors College, Environmental Studies, Communication, Information/Computer Sciences, College of Business Administration, Fine Arts, Engineering, and other fields where excellent writing skills support and advance professional work.

The PPW Certificate offers many opportunities to students who are interested in influencing public policy related to their field or who want to bring together several different fields to impact the policies that shape our daily lives.

What will I learn as I work on the PPW Certificate?

In addition to learning how to use the forms and genres of particular professions or fields, students will consider critical questions in public and professional writing and examine the place and practice of writing in these environments, taking up questions like these:

  • How do professionals in fields like law, medicine, public affairs, science, technology, business, and industry use language to represent to other professions and publics the work they do?
  • How does writing advance the work of nonprofits, shape public opinion, inform public policy, and create change?
  • What ethical responsibilities do writers face when they write for a profession or a public?
  • What are the professional, cultural, and political dynamics that writers navigate?
  • How do these different dynamics challenge and create opportunities for writers?

Students should expect to undertake rigorous intellectual work that will increase their precision as writers, develop their facility with language and style, and deepen their engagement with writing as a form of social action that has consequences in the world.

Are there internship opportunities?

We have a successful internship program for PPW students who are in good academic standing. Internships will be designed to give students a productive, substantive writing experience where they will learn from and contribute to the sponsoring agency, company, or project. Please visit our internship page for more information.

What are the academic requirements for the PPW Certificate?

At least 18 credits are required to complete the PPW Certificate; students must maintain a "B" QPA in the three courses required by the certificate. Students must take ONE of the following core courses:

         ENGCMP 400 Written Professional Communication,

         ENGCMP 410 Writing in the Legal Professions, OR

         ENGCMP 420 Writing for the Public.

After they have completed one of the core courses with at least a "B," students must also complete, with at least a "B," a minimum of TWO approved 1000-level courses (one of which may be a PPW internship) in the composition program.

The remaining nine credits may come from designated intermediate and advanced course offerings in the English department (designated courses are listed online). Students may petition to have a relevant course count toward the PPW Certificate by completing the petition form (PDF).

How do I apply to the PPW Certificate program?

The PPW Certificate program accepts applications to the program at any time during the year. Students must be resident in the certificate program for at least one year before they graduate.

To apply, submit a one- to two-page letter of intent that explains why you want to work on this Certificate, a résumé with your current contact information, and a writing sample of about 10 pages of text (you can include excerpts from several projects or one longer project, and you can include creative, professional, or academic writing).

Email your application packet to ppw@pitt.edu, submit your application materials to Jean Grace's mailbox in 501 CL, or send your application materials via campus or US mail to this address:

Public and Professional Writing Certificate

Department of English

University of Pittsburgh

526 Cathedral of Learning

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

We will respond via email.

How do I have the Certificate noted on my transcript?

As you probably know, the term before you graduate, you have to apply to your school for graduation. In the same way, the term before you graduate, you have to apply to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences for the PPW Certificate. By applying, you are asking the school to verify all your records. Go to 140 Thackeray and complete the necessary paperwork.

The Dietrich School offers the PPW Certificate, so even if you are graduating from another school, you still have to apply for the Certificate through the Dietrich School. The Dietrich School graduation deadline may be significantly earlier than your school's deadline, so please investigate early in the term before you plan to graduate (for example, the deadline for graduation applications may be early November to graduate the following April). The Dietrich School imposes a late fee on students who apply to receive their Certificate after the deadline or after they have graduated. Access the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences academic calendar to find the deadline to apply for graduation.

The Dietrich School will check with the director of the PPW program to verify that you have completed all the requirements. It's fine if you are still finishing your requirements during your last term: we will flag that coursework for the Registrar’s Office so that they can follow up after you get your grade for that course. A couple of months after graduation, the Dietrich School will note the certificate on your transcript.

Whom do I contact if I have questions or need help?

Jean Grace, Director, PPW Program, 412-624-5661, jgrace@pitt.edu

Pam O'Brien, Associate Director, Internship and Outreach Coordinator, redactor7@aol.com

Our general mailbox is ppw@pitt.edu.