Skip to main content
Applications are being accepted for the fall 2019 semester. Apply online

The Ph.D. in community engagement is a unique social lab designed for working professionals who want to improve their effectiveness as leaders while gaining a broad understanding of public policy, program development, community psychology and best practices in leadership and engagement. 

The community engagement program prepares leaders for outreach and partnership work in civic, business and community organizations. This 54-credit program requires two years of coursework - attending class one night per week - plus the dissertation.

Ph.D. students volunteer at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

Ph.D. students volunteer at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

Program Details

The Ph.D. program is comprised of four blocks of study:

  • Block 1: Community Engagement core (15 credit hours);
  • Block 2: Research and Practicum core (18 credit hours);
  • Block 3: Proseminars/Electives (choose 6 credit hours) and;
  • Block 4: Dissertation core (15 credit hours).

Fall 2018 tuition rate: The cost per credit in the Ph.D. in community engagement program is $880 ($855 tuition + $25 technology fee)

The following options can help you afford your Ph.D.:

Learn more about tuition and fees

* With its already affordable cost, the Ph.D. program is not eligible for tuition discount programs.

What the Ph.D. in community engagement program offers:

  • Gain a broad understanding of public policy, program development, community psychology and best practices in leadership and engagement.
  • Be prepared to conduct research and build partnerships with civic, business and community organizations. 
  • In this unique social lab, engage with communities as part of the coursework.
  • Work with the Luma Institute, using human-centered design thinking for the greater good.
  • Be part of a small student cohort from diverse sectors. 

Upon completion of your Ph.D. in community engagement, you will be able to:

  • Explore sociological, business, communication and environmental factors that contribute to a community’s success.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply ethical leadership principles to community-based issues.
  • Demonstrate the ability to utilize public policy to bring about social change.
  • Develop and evaluate programs for use in business, government or nonprofit sectors.
  • Explore the psychological and sociological factors that impact communities.
  • Utilize theory and research to guide community change and progress.

In this active doctoral program, work closely with community partners on research and hands-on projects. Examples of the partners and projects our doctoral students have worked with include:


  • Allegheny Conference on Community Development
  • Allegheny County
  • City of Pittsburgh
  • Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
  • Luma Institute
  • POISE Foundation


Take a look at our three-year program schedule. Courses in the Ph.D. program run year-round and are divided into eight-week sessions. Students will typically take one course each eight weeks, earning you 18 credits per year for a total of 54 credits.

Most courses are offered in the evening, allowing working professionals to balance family, personal and career commitments while finishing all required courses - as well as a dissertation - in three to four years, depending on timing of dissertation work.

Residency Requirements

Residency is met by completing three consecutive semesters of study in the program with a minimum of six hours of course work per semester. Summer, fall and spring semesters are counted toward residency.

Work with Diverse Faculty

Learn from faculty with a range of scholarly expertise and leadership abilities in this interdisciplinary program.

Faculty & staff
Pictured is Heather Starr Fiedler
  • Chair, Department of Community Engagement
  • Professor of multimedia 
  • Director, Wood Street Communications

Who Should Apply

Individuals in leadership positions, in particular nonprofit leaders, social change activists and people involved in the national service-learning movement.

Learn More

View the Ph.D. in community engagement flier for more details about the program.

For additional information, contact Dayna Coleman, admissions counselor, at or 412-392-3807.