undergraduate section

Public & Professional Writing Certificate

We offer an 18-credit undergraduate certificate that is open to students across schools at the University of Pittsburgh.

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.

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).

You can apply using any of these methods:

·      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
, 4200 Fifth Ave., 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.

What are the academic requirements for the PPW Certificate?

To earn the PPW Certificate, you must complete six approved courses (18 credits). Students must maintain a "B" QPA in the courses required by the certificate. Under some circumstances, the director may waive this requirement for a course. Email ppw@pitt.edu.

You must take at least one of these courses:

ENGCMP 0400 or
Written Professional Communication or
Written Professional Communication: Topics in Diversity
ENGCMP 0410 Writing for the Legal Professions
ENGCMP 0420 Writing for the Public

You also need at least two 1000-level courses from the below list. The remaining nine credits can come from the 400-, 500-, 600-, or 1000-level ENGCMP courses listed on this page.

ENGCMP 0450 Research Writing
ENGCMP 0510 Narratives of the Workplace
ENGCMP 0515 Persuasive Writing in Advertising
ENGCMP 0520 Integrating Writing and Design
ENGCMP 0521 Writing with Data
ENGCMP 0530 Writing for the Sciences
ENGCMP 0535 Writing in the Health Science Professions
ENGCMP 0550 Topics in Public and Professional Writing
ENGCMP 0560 Writing Arguments
ENGCMP 0570 Topics in Black Rhetoric and Public Writing
ENGCMP 0600 Introduction to Technical Writing
ENGCMP 0610 Composing Digital Media
ENGCMP 0641 Writing for Change
ENGCMP 1099 The Language of Policy and Power
ENGCMP 1100 Language of Business & Industry
ENGCMP 1101 Language of Science and Technology
ENGCMP 1102 Language of Medicine
ENGCMP 1103 Public Relations Writing
ENGCMP 1104 Creative Corporate Writing
ENGCMP 1111 Professional Writing in Global Contexts
ENGCMP 1112 Professional Uses of Social Media
ENGCMP 1120 History and Ethics of Advertising and Public Relations
ENGCMP 1130 Projects in Digital Composition
ENGCMP 1151 Professional Editing in Context
ENGCMP 1250 Advanced Topics in Public and Professional Writing
ENGCMP 1270 Projects in Black Rhetoric
ENGCMP 1400 Grant Writing
ENGCMP 1401 Writing for Fundraising and Development
ENGCMP 1410 Advanced Research and Documentary Writing
ENGCMP 1420 Writing Proposals for Business
ENGCMP 1900 Internship: Public and Professional Writing
ENGCMP 1902 Independent Study in PPW
ENGCMP 1903 Service-Learning Seminar in PPW
ENGCMP 1906 Professional Experience: Writing, Editing, or PR

Some other courses offered by the English department may be eligible. Check with the director about specific courses.

For CBA students only, we will count BUSORG 1101 Fundamentals of Business Communication toward the PPW Certificate. If you want to count BUSORG 1101 toward the Certificate, please don't take ENGCMP 0400 as well, since they are similar in focus.

Note for CGS students: You can't count one course for two different credentials, so if you are pursuing the CGS major in Media and Professional Communication and you would also like to complete the PPW certificate, you will have to take 6 courses beyond what you are taking for your major.

You can read short generic descriptions of the PPW Certificate courses >

How do I petition for other courses to count?

Students may petition for courses in other departments or courses taken at other colleges to count toward the certificate. Up to six credits may be accepted, provided the student can show that the course work was equivalent to the kind of work done in our courses. Good candidates for eligibility include courses in which professional discourse is a key concern and courses in which the content is in part directed toward writing (rather than being simply a course with a discrete writing component).

Please download the petition form (you'll need a pdf reader like Acrobat), complete it, attach materials, and email it ppw@pitt.edu or send it to Public and Professional Writing Certificate, Department of English, University of Pittsburgh, 526 Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15260

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

For general questions: Jean Grace, Director, PPW Program, 412-624-5661, jgrace@pitt.edu or Megan Kappel, Assistant Director kappel@pitt.edu

Our general mailbox is ppw@pitt.edu.