Graduate students enrolled in the Department of Informatics & Networked Systems have the option to participate in practicum, a work experience with a strong academic component, that directly applies to degree requirements. However, students are highly encouraged to pursue a co-op as opposed to a practicum. Any students wishing to do practicum will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Graduate students are eligible to participate in practicum if they:
- Are in the Department of Informatics and Networked Systems (DINS)
- Are in good academic standing (GPA 2.0 or above)
- Have successfully completed at least 18 credits prior to working
- Have not already worked for the employer for co-op credit (positions cannot be converted) and are not able to use the experience as part of the co-op program
- Have not already taken practicum twice (maximum 6 credits per degree)
- Receive approval from their academic advisor by completing an updated plan of study mapping out practicum and required coursework using the Academic Advisement Report tool
- Have submitted a practicum for credit application via Handshake prior to working
- Have an application approved and be enrolled in the practicum course before add/drop ends
Any questions regarding eligibility should be directed to a student’s academic advisor.
Students are expected to:
- Acknowledge they represent the university when they are off-campus and must act in a professional and ethical manner
- Request work authorization if they are on an F-1 visa
- Alert the Manager of Experiential Learning if their duties have drastically changed
- Complete a midpoint and final evaluation, as well as reports, during the semester working
Practicum employers are expected to:
- Provide a relevant work experience with practical skills and training
- Provide a safe, inclusive work environment
- Complete a final evaluation regarding the student’s performance at the end of the experience
Learning agreements for each practicum course (INFSCI 2980, TELCOM 2940) can be found here. Any questions or concerns should be directed to the Manager of Experiential Learning, Emily Bennett, especially if they involve an unsatisfactory or unsafe work environment which needs to be dealt with in a prompt manner.
Securing an Offer
- Practicum positions are typically internships, research, or other field work opportunities with a strong academic component relevant to the student’s field of study
- Students should expect to work between 100-250 hours per term. When a student is taking other courses, the practicum should be limited to less than 20 hours a week. When a student is only registered for practicum, the number of hours per week may approach 40 hours or full-time work
- Positions can be paid or unpaid, but students who are already working in the field are not normally eligible to use the experience as practicum
- Work may not begin until the beginning of the term and should be completed before grades are due
- While the school is responsible for building employer relationships and directing them to post positions on Handshake and the SCI opportunities board, students are responsible for applying and interviewing for positions. Pitt’s Career Center provides 1:1 resume reviews and mock interviews, as well as employer events and workshops (many times in collaboration with SCI). All Pitt and SCI career-related events are posted in Handshake. There are also self-guided career resources on the SCI Career Services site.
Please keep in mind that it can take 3-4 months to secure an opportunity, so students should plan accordingly.
Once a student secures an offer, they must log into Handshake (via the my.pitt.edu portal) and submit an application by completing the following steps:
- Navigate to the Career Center menu in the upper-right corner, click on Experience, and then Request an Experience
- Select the relevant course that matches the declared program major (INFSCI 2980 for Information Science or TELCOM 2940 for Telecommunications) and follow along closely with its related application guide (INFSCI 2982 or TELCOM 2982). Failure to include all the required information will result in the application being paused or declined
- Navigate back to the Experience to upload the offer letter and plan of study after clicking Request Experience
- Immediately notify the practicum site/supervisor that they will be receiving an email from Handshake to complete a form, and if they do not complete third-party forms, email the Manager of Experiential Learning letting them know
- Please review the Course Learning Agreement and Tips for Success pdfs located under Attachments in the side column
The application now goes through a series of approvals: the practicum site (to confirm work details), then the course instructor (to confirm the experience is credit worthy), and then the Manager of Experiential Learning.
Once the practicum application has been approved by the practicum site and course instructor, a permission code email will be sent by the Manager of Experiential Learning, which will be used by the student to enroll in the appropriate course. Be sure to enroll before the experience begins or at the very latest, before add/drop ends.
Students can check the status of their application at any time in Handshake under the Experiences module and are responsible for following up with their approvers if progress isn’t being made after two weeks. Students can direct any questions they may have to the Manager of Experiential Learning, Emily Bennett.
Please note that students requiring work authorization must not begin working until an application is approved, they’re enrolled in the course, and a CPT request is processed and approved through OIS. The request requires proof of course enrollment and an offer letter with all the information listed in ‘How to Apply for CPT, Section #2’ in this document.
The practicum application approval process can take up to a month, so please plan accordingly.
Students should apply to practicum with a secured offer at least one semester before they begin working, since the approval process can take up to a month. At the very latest, the application must be approved, and the student enrolled in the practicum course before add/drop ends.
Please note that students requiring work authorization must allow at least 2 weeks for OIS to process their request for CPT. Students must be enrolled in the course before the request can be reviewed.
Students must be enrolled in the 3-credit course when they are working. Be sure to enroll before the experience begins or at the very latest, before add/drop ends.
While working, students on an F-1 visa must be on approved full-time CPT or pre-completion OPT. Please note that full-time CPT authorization cannot extend beyond 12 months or OPT is negated. Students should discuss their plan to pursue practicum with the Office of International Services (OIS) prior to securing an offer.
Successful completion of the course involves the following:
- Students are responsible for completing a midpoint evaluation, as well as a final evaluation (with related reports)
- Practicum site supervisors are expected to complete a final evaluation for their student supervisee
- Both final (student and practicum site) evaluations and reports must be submitted prior to the end of finals week (regardless of the experience end date) to ensure a ‘Satisfactory’ grade
For a complete list of evaluation questions and report prompts, please view the learning agreement under the relevant course dropdown listed here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to most of your questions can be found in the information listed above, however, here are the most frequently asked questions about practicum:
What is the difference between practicum and co-op?
Practicum is offered through the Department of Informatics and Networked Systems and is a 3-credit practical experience with a strong academic component that must directly apply to degree requirements. It does not have to be paid, and the employer does not have to officially be part of a more formal relationship, like co-op. Graduate students in DINS are highly encouraged to pursue a co-op as opposed to a practicum. Any students wishing to do practicum will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Co-op is an officially recognized program held in conjunction with external industry partners and the university. It provides students with full-time work experience directly related to their field of study. By alternating work and school terms, the program enables students to complement classroom studies with practical experience, technical knowledge, and financial gain. Students must complete at least one semester of full-time work experience and each rotation would only be counted for 1 credit that does not directly apply towards academic degree requirements (meaning this is in addition to your required credits). It’s a structured and documented outside of the classroom experience that is an officially encouraged educational enhancement to a student’s degree program.
Can I switch an experience from a practicum to a co-op or a co-op to a practicum?
No, this determination must be made in advance of any work done for the employer. Once you have committed to a practicum with an employer, your experience with that employer must remain a practicum. If you have committed to a co-op with an employer, your experience with that employer must remain a co-op.
If I’m an international student studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, what work authorization issues do I need to consider?
Practicum must involve a work experience that is related to the degree. Work can be achieved with CPT or pre-completion OPT, but CPT is most common. Six credits of practicum are permitted, however, please note that full-time CPT authorization cannot extend beyond 12 months or OPT is negated. Students should discuss their plan to do practicum with the Office of International Services (OIS) prior to securing an offer.
How can I secure an offer?
While the school is responsible for building employer relationships and directing them to post positions on Handshake and the SCI opportunities board, students are responsible for applying and interviewing for positions. Keep in mind that it can take 3-4 months to secure an opportunity, so students should plan accordingly. Please see ‘Securing an Offer’ above for resources and position requirements.
For More Information
Please direct any questions or concerns to the Manager of Experiential Learning, Emily Bennett.