Is the University of Pittsburgh a Good School? (An IN-DEPTH Analysis)

Pennsylvania is home to many of the most respected universities in the United States and the world. As a matter of fact, this state features all types of colleges for people of any background.

In particular, the University of Pittsburgh has been one of the big names for quite a long time. But is it really that good? Let’s find out:

In short, the University of Pittsburgh meets the criteria to be considered a good university, as it has a solid reputation in fields like Engineering and Health Sciences. Furthermore, the school registers high student satisfaction levels and has been recovering positions in the national rankings.

However, there are many different factors that come into play when choosing a college. In order to determine if this university is a good fit for you, it is important to be well informed and evaluate every important variable.

And that’s what we are about to do in this article. We’ll start off by taking a quick overview of Pitt. After that, we’ll analyze the key factors that may influence your decision, such as reputation, student satisfaction, class size, student expenses, and even the salaries that graduates are likely to earn.

So if that sounds interesting to you, let’s dive right in!

Overview of the University of Pittsburgh.

With over 230 years of existence, the University of Pittsburgh was originally located in a humble log cabin. But over time, it evolved to become one of the most important research institutions in the state of Pennsylvania.

Nowadays, it offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs across 16 schools and colleges. In addition, Pitt is classified as an R1 university, meaning that it takes part in a very high level of research activity.

Popular, majors include Psychology, Biology, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science programs. However, the University of Pittsburgh has an especially strong reputation in the field of health sciences. In fact, its contributions in this discipline are outstanding.

It was at this university where Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine, one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in history. Furthermore, magnetic resonance imaging is now possible thanks to the work of Paul Lauterbur, who graduated from Pitt in 1962 and received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contribution.

Finally, the University of Pittsburgh is a member of the Association of American Universities, a selective group of world-class universities looking to maintain a strong system of academic research.

Prestige and Rankings.

When it comes to reputation, we can get an idea of how the University of Pittsburgh has performed by checking out the latest college rankings, which are published on a yearly basis.

Rankings are a useful tool if you want to take a glance at a school’s prestige. And while your choice shouldn’t be based entirely on these numbers, they are still a good starting point in the decision-making process.

In the following table you can see which position Pitt holds in 2022, according to the most reliable publications:

U.S. News59
Times Higher Education83

However, looking at these simple numbers is not really that helpful. They only show you the school’s performance at this moment, causing you to miss the forest for the trees.

Besides, rankings tend to vary depending on the methodology used by the company, meaning that a school that does well in one ranking may have a very different result in another one.

In fact, that’s exacly the problem here. There is a difference of 24 spots between both rankings!

So in order to address this issue, we’ll take the average of the last years and visualize the historical trend. The main goal is to evaluate the school from a more unbiased point of view.

Below is a graph with the average rank for the University of Pittsburgh over time:

University of Pittsburgh average national rankings
Average rankings calculated with data from US News and Times Higher Education

Now you have a wider view of what’s going on. Every chart tells you a story. And what we can see here is that the University of Pittsburgh has been gradually losing positions in the national rankings.

Back in 2017, Pitt registered an average rank of 61. This was followed by a gradual decline every year, hitting a low point at 77.5. However, the university showed some recovery in 2022 and now its average position went up to 71.

In summary, it is a fact that Pitt has been losing positions to other colleges in recent years. Nonetheless, it is still ranking among the top 100 universities in the United States and it’s starting to show some signs of recovery.

By tracking the university’s position in the national rankings we were able to see how it has performed as the years go by. And even though U.S. News and Times Higher Education give very different ratings, we managed to get a more accurate view by plotting the average position and analyzing it.

What we just did is a more effective approach to evaluating a school’s performance over a given period.

In the next part of the post, we’ll use a similar method to assess how satisfied students are at Pitt. So keep reading because this will be important.

Student Satisfaction.

If you’ve been doing your research for a while, chances are you’ve visited other sites to read reviews from other students. And while internet reviews may be useful at first glance, the truth is that they are often contradictory and you might end up more confused after reading many of them.

Besides, there are several disadvantages to this approach. Just to name a few:

  1. There is no way to verify that online reviews were written by actual students.
  2. Fake reviews are a common practice and they are often hard to detect.
  3. Star ratings can be easily manipulated to artificially improve or damage a school’s reputation.

The above mentioned are just some of the reasons why you should take reviews with a big grain of salt.

But don’t worry. If you’re wondering if there is a more reliable way to gauge student satisfaction, the answer is yes. We achieve that by analyzing retention rates, and that’s what we are going to do in this section!

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, let me give you some context on retention rates and their importance.

Retention Rates: What Are They and Why Should You Care?

A retention rate is simply the percentage of first-time students who remained at the same school for their sophomore year. It is one of the most accurate parameters to measure student satisfaction because of the following reasons:

  1. It’s calculated with actual data from real students.
  2. The data is reported to the National Center for Education Statistics and it’s hard to manipulate. Any attempt to falsify this information could have serious consequences for the school.

Even if this is the first time you hear about this concept, there are solid arguments why you should pay close attention to it.

A student will be more encouraged to keep studying at the same university if his freshman experience was positive. Accordingly, the higher the retention rate is, the better expectations you can have for your first college year.

On the other hand, a bad first-year experience will induce more students to drop out or transfer to another college, causing the retention rate to decrease. Therefore, this is something to keep in mind before you make your final decision.

There are, of course, other factors that may lead students to drop out, such as personal problems or lack of money. However, colleges that take good care of their freshmen indeed hold high retention rates throughout the years.

Retention Rate at Pitt.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the University of Pittsburgh has a retention rate of 93.43%.

The following chart illustrates how this variable has changed over the years at this institution. I want you to take a look at it carefully. What can you notice?

University of Pittsburgh graduation rate line graph
Retention rates calculated with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

First of all, it is a fact that this parameter has remained incredibly high. And maintaining a retention rate above 90% is not an easy task. But besides remaining at such a high level, we can also see that it has shown some increase with respect to previous years.

In 2013, the University of Pittsburgh had a 90.87% retention rate. Over the next years it experienced some important changes, hitting new peaks above 92%.

Finally, the university’s retention rate kept gradually going up and registered its highest-ever value in 2020, when it increased to 93.43%.

The data for 2021 has not been released yet, but it could be above 93% once again.

This is a clear and undeniable indicator that new undergraduate students are highly satisfied with their experience at the University of Pittsburgh. The odds of dropping out after the first year are low, and freshmen find a good environment to keep studying at this university.

Graduation Rates: What You Need to Know.

In the previous section, we analyzed how satisfied students are after their freshman year.

But now it’s time to answer an equally important question: how many undergrads actually finish their studies?

We can find the answer to that question by simply looking at the graduation rate of the school, which is the percentage of students who completed their program.

A high graduation rate is a very positive signal, as it reveals that all the time, effort, and resources you spend at this school will be probably worth it.

On the contrary, low graduation rates may suggest that students don’t get academic support along the way or they just feel disappointed over time. So this is also something that you’ll want to take into account.

Graduation Rate at Pitt.

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the University of Pittsburgh registered the following graduation rates:

TimeGraduation rate
6 years82.38%
4 years65.01%
Graduation rates calculated with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

In the following plot you’ll visualize the 6-year graduation rate over time. In other words, the proportion of students who completed their program within 6 years after enrolling:

University of Pittsburgh graduation rate line graph
Graduation rates calculated with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

As the graph shows, this parameter is slowly going up over time.

As of 2013, the University of Pittsburgh registered a graduation rate of 78.65%. However, it showed a gradual increase over the next years, reaching its highest-ever value at 82.38% in 2020.

In summary, the 6-year graduation rate at this university grew by 3.73 percent points between 2013 and 2020. And it will probably remain at a similar level in 2022.

This consistent growth clearly indicates that the University of Pitsburgh provides the right conditions for students to advance and graduate within a reasonable time.

Outcomes 8 Years After Attending.

We can dive a little bit deeper and find out the proportion of students that dropped out or transferred from Pitt. For this purpose, take a look at the following doughnut chart:

From this chart, you can tell that within 8 years of entry, 83% of the students had already graduated, while 14% transferred to another college. Probably the most interesting fact is that only 3% of the students dropped out, which is a very small proportion of the entering class.

Class Size / Student-to-Faculty-Ratio.

Class size is another factor that could define whether or not this school is a good fit for you. If you prioritize being able to interact with your professors regularly and receiving more personal attention, you’ll want to find a college with a low student-to-faculty ratio.

This parameter tells you how many students there are at a college for every faculty member. Thus, a lower value typically indicates that classes are more reduced and personalized.

On the other hand, a higher student-to-faculty ratio isn’t necessarily something negative. It all boils down to the type of experience you are looking for. Some people feel comfortable in larger classes, while some others don’t.

What Is the Student-to-Faculty Ratio at Pitt?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the University of Pittsburgh has a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1, meaning that there are 14 students for every faculty member.

This number has not changed at all in recent years, as shown in the following table:

CycleStudent-to-faculty Ratio
2020 – 202114:1
2019 – 202014:1
2018 – 201914:1
2017 – 201814:1
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

It is important to point out that you should not take this parameter literally. In other words, a 14:1 ratio doesn’t mean that most classes at Pitt will have 14 students. In many cases it can be way more than that, since not all faculty members are teachers.

Unfortunately, the University of Pittsburgh doesn’t publish its average class size. But according to U.S. News42.7% of its classes have fewer than 20 students, while 40.4% register between 20 and 49 students.

Keep in mind that class size is not set in stone, and it does vary across different courses and majors.

Estimated Student Expenses.

Paying for college is one of the main concerns that will have an impact on your final choice. So in order to make an informed decision, the first step is to get familiar with the expenses you’ll have to cover.

The following table contains the reported Cost of attendance (COA) for the University of Pittsburgh. The COA is a quick estimation of the amounts you would spend annually without receiving any kind of aid. This includes tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, and other expenses:

Tuition and fees$19,718$33,746
Room and board$11,250$11,250
Books and supplies$755$755
Other expenses$2,686$2,686
Total cost of attendance$34,409$48,437
Source: College Navigator. National Center for Education Statistics

This cost can be significantly lower if you are awarded financial aid. For that reason, we’ll dedicate this whole section to take an in-depth look into the questions that matter to you.

Is the school getting more expensive? What’s the average amount that students receive in grants or scholarships?

These are some of the key questions that we will respond in the next paragraphs. So stay tuned.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid.

In this part of the post, we will see how the amount of aid compares to the cost of attendance. Ideally, if the cost of attendance is going up, we want the amount of aid to be growing at the same or even at a higher rate.

But before we get in more detail, I want to make something clear:

This section is only intended to provide a general picture of how the cost and the amount of aid have performed.

All of the numbers presented here are estimates reported by the school. However, every person has a different background, and in case you are eligible for financial aid, the amount will strongly vary depending on your circumstances.

If you need a more accurate estimation based on your personal case, please refer to Pitt’s net price calculator.

Having said that, let’s take a look at the chart:

University of Pittsburgh cost of attendance and financial aid line graph
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

As the graph shows, in-state students haven’t seen any important changes in the cost of attendance. However, this is not the case for out-of-state students, as the price they pay keeps rising steadily.

Part of this increase is already expectable, as inflation consistently drives up prices. Nonetheless, there are many factors that define the cost of attendance. Consequently, the change in price from one year to another can easily be above inflation.

During the 5-year period we are analyzing, the cost of attendance grew by 11.19% for out-of-state students. At the same time, it only increased by 4.38% for in-state students, which is just a marginal change over the whole period.

On the other hand, the average amount of grant aid for freshmen grew at a faster rate. In 2014-2015 it was standing at $10,899, and after five years it reached $13,657, which is an increase of 25.30%.

The fact that the amount of aid experienced faster growth is a highly positive signal. However we still need to know more details before we can draw any conclusion. And that’s the topic of our next section.

Percentage of First-Year Students Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid.

So far, we know how the annual cost and financial aid have varied over the last years at Pitt. But now it’s time to find out if there are enough freshmen receiving this benefit.

In the chart below, you’ll see the percentage of new students that have been awarded aid during the last cycles. What can you notice?

University of Pittsburgh percent of first-time students receiving grant or scholarship aid
Percentages calculated with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

The graph clearly shows that the percentage of students receiving aid is reaching higher values over time.

Back in the 2013-2014 cycle, 52.06% of the entering class at Pitt received grant or scholarship aid. And after a couple of years nothing important happened; this value kept fluctuating between 51% and 54%.

However, everything changed in 2019, when this variable surged and reached a new peak.

As of 2019-2020, which is the last cycle reported, 62.78% of new students received grant or scholarship aid. This is an increase of 10.51 points in just 2 years.

This could indicate that the odds of being awarded aid as a new student are now higher than ever. But remember, if you need an estimation based on your situation, head over to Pitt’s net price calculator.

Bottom Line.

To summarize, in this section we analyzed the environment that students face when it comes to paying for college. Our key findings are listed below:

  • The cost of attendance for in-state students hasn’t shown any important changes.
  • Regarding out-of-state students, they have seen more noticeable changes in the annual cost. But the increase hasn’t been so abrupt.
  • The average amount of grant or scholarship aid has grown at a faster rate than the cost of attendance.
  • In addition, the percentage of students receiving this type of aid rose dramatically in the last year.

Expected Salaries.

Now we are getting to the final part of our analysis. And we cannot end this post without talking about about salaries. Even though people usually find it hard to bring up this topic, it is something you are probably interested in.

Hence the next question is, how much can you expect to earn after graduation?

The answer to this question is variable, as it depends on the major you selected, as well as the job offers available when you graduate. But the good news is that the U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of the typical salaries that graduates earn in the third year after graduation.

This piece of information is highly valuable for the following reasons:

  • It is calculated using data from actual Pitt graduates.
  • It corresponds to the early stage of their career. At this point, you probably care more about your starting salary than you do about your late career income.

There are other sites like Payscale or Glassdoor that upload their own estimates. And while that information may be reliable as well, it is not as in-depth as the data that the government provides.

Salary Table.

The table below contains the median annual income for University of Pittsburgh alumni 3 years within graduation, according to the U.S. Department of Education:

ProgramMedian earnings
Applied Mathematics$69,331
Biological Sciences$36,079
Chemical Engineering$78,240
Civil Engineering$69,999
Computer Engineering$73,094
Computer Science$76,432
Economics $55,443
Electrical Engineering$76,191
Industrial Engineering$77,896
Information Science$65,130
Mechanical Engineering$73,675
Political Science$38,417
Median salaries three years after graduation. To see the full list visit: College Scorecard. US Department of Education.

As the table shows, Chemical Engineering graduates are the top earners during the first stage of their career, with a median income of $78,240.

Other engineering disciplines have also seen competitive annual earnings. Their median salaries are $77,896 for Industrial Engineering, $76,191 for Electrical Engineering, and $73,675 for Mechanical Engineering.

Another interesting fact is that Information Science, Bioengineering, and Applied Mathematics graduates have registered median salaries above $60,000. This is especially appealing considering the fact that these majors are not so popular at this school.

If your program doesn’t appear on the list, you can visit Pitt’s page on College Scorecard to check if the information is available.


So there you have it. Needless to say, this post was meant to be strongly data-driven. Rather than relying on other people’s opinions, we took a logical approach intended to provide a more accurate picture of the school.

After analyzing the most important variables, a story emerged from the data and we managed to evaluate the school’s performance from different angles.

The following are some of our key takeaways:

  • The University of Pittsburgh lost some positions in the national rankings in recent years. But it started to show some signs of recovery in 2022.
  • First-year students are highly satisfied, as we could tell by tracking the retention rate over time.
  • The university keeps improving its graduation rate. Meaning that more students are finding the right environment to advance and complete their program.
  • Only 3% of the students dropped out.
  • The cost of attendance for in-state students hasn’t shown any important change in the last years.
  • On the other hand, the cost for out-of-state students has seen some increase, but it hasn’t been so abrupt.
  • In addition, the average amount of aid has been rising at a faster rate.
  • The percentage of students reveiving grant or scholarship aid is getting higher as well. More than 60% of new students at Pitt received this benefit in the last year.
  • Overall the University of Pittsburgh satisfied the criteria to be considered a good university.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is University of Pittsburgh known for?

The University of Pittsburgh is quite popular in disciplines like Psychology, Biology, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science. However, the it has an especially strong reputation in the field of health sciences. In fact, the polio vaccine was developed at this university.

Is the University of Pittsburgh a party school?

The Univeristy of Pittsburgh cannot be considered a party school on its own. It does offer a good environment for students who are into partying. However, it is still far from being ranked as a top party school in the U.S.

What are the most popular majors at the University of Pittsburgh?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the most popular majors by the number of graduates are Psychology (372), Biological Sciences  (271), Nursing (261), Computer Science (226), Neuroscience (189), Mechanical Engineering (184), and Finance  (182)

How many students does the University of Pittsburgh have?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the University of Pittsburgh has a population of 32,277 students, out of which 23,157 are undergrads, while 9,120 are pursuing graduate studies.

Is the University of Pittsburgh a D1 school?

Pitt is part of the Atlantic Coast and Eastern College Athletic Conferences in the NCAA Division I. The Pittsburgh Panthers represent the school in different sports, including baseball, basketball, football, soccer, swimming, wrestling, and others.