University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The program of studies which leads to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Classics at Berkeley is designed to give a thorough preparation in the fundamentals of classical scholarship while encouraging the pursuit of intellectual inquiry and the development of original research, according to the capacity and interests of the individual student. Every student must satisfy the examination and course requirements before being advanced to candidacy to write a dissertation. These requirements are intended to ensure that all classical scholars attain at least a minimum level of specific skills and all-around competence in ancient and modern languages, history, literature, the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, the fundamental techniques of scholarship, and in the ability to sustain informed and penetrating discussion. The dissertation is intended to demonstrate the student’s ability to make a successfully independent and original contribution to research.

In addition, the program has a practical professional aim. The holder of a UC Berkeley PhD in Classics should be able to teach any lower division course in Greek or Latin, any upper division course in the language of special emphasis, and graduate courses in at least one area in the language of special emphasis and/or in an area common to both languages. This is the minimal aim, but we encourage our scholars to go beyond it.

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Admission to the University

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. The Graduate Division hosts a complete list of graduate academic programs, departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application and steps to take to apply can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Admission to the Program

Competition for admission to graduate study at Berkeley is extremely keen. In recent years there have been from 50-70 applicants per year, and the department’s admission quota has been around 12 admits, with the expectation that 4 to 5 new students will enroll each fall. While some applicants are denied admission for lack of adequate preparation or for undistinguished academic records, a substantial number each year who are judged capable of doing good graduate work at Berkeley are denied admission through a process of competitive ranking, based on a holistic review of the files. The department's policy is to try to limit enrollment to the number of students who can be fully supported through a normal graduate career.

Applicants are judged by an admissions committee of 5 to 7 faculty members, including the graduate adviser. The committee represents a variety of specialties and interests, and different members assign somewhat different weights to the various criteria for admission, which include the following:

  1. Preparation: In Greek and Latin. Whether the applicant has a major in Greek or Latin or classical languages or some other subject, the committee is looking for, as a minimum, language preparation more or less equivalent to what is received in the undergraduate major at Berkeley itself. This includes a full year of introductory language study, three additional semesters in central authors or texts of each language (e.g., Homer [3-4 books], Plato [a short dialogue], Greek drama [1 complete play], Vergil [3-4 books], Republican prose [40-50 pages], Horace [30 poems]) plus two additional semesters of more advanced reading in either Greek or Latin. In practice, a student with two years of study in the weaker language is usually considered marginally prepared. An applicant with an MA is expected to offer substantially stronger preparation in at least one of the two languages, since the committee will be judging such an applicant against a real or notional pool of other MA students and not against students with only a BA. Elements of additional preparation which reflect favorably on an applicant include: especially extensive reading in one or both languages; reading knowledge of modern languages (particularly German and/or French or Italian); experience in research and writing, such as that provided by a senior thesis; courses in ancient history, classical civilization, ancient and world literature in translation, philosophy, art history, archaeology, anthropology, and other disciplines that are helpful to the broad range of classical studies.
  2. Academic Distinction: The committee considers overall GPA, GPA in junior and senior years, and GPA in classics courses, with emphasis on the last two and especially on the last. A student who has floundered in other fields earlier in his or her undergraduate education and then performed well upon discovering classics is not necessarily at a disadvantage because of the earlier record, although the committee is duly impressed by candidates who have been able to achieve excellence in many disciplines. **Applicants who were earning their undergraduate degrees or MAs in spring 2020 - Classics admissions committees will review applications with special consideration of the Covid-19 situation.**
    The department has had many students from overseas and in evaluating academic distinction makes every effort to make appropriate allowances for the differences in grading and examination systems. Successful applicants from Great Britain usually have a first class or a high second class degree.
  3. Letters of Recommendation: A minimum of three letters of recommendation is required. The Committee values letters that are frank and specific as to the applicant’s achievement and promise. The contacts for letters of recommendation will be entered by you during the online application process. Recommenders will be contacted via email to submit their recommendation online.
  4. GRE Scores: The Department of Classics no longer requires GRE scores with applications for admission.
  5. Statement of Purpose: The committee appreciates clearly-written and cogent statements of purpose explaining why applicants are interested in graduate work in classics, what they hope to accomplish, and where their eventual specialization may lie. The statement of purpose is also the appropriate place for the applicant to address and explain any particular weaknesses in the dossier.
  6. Writing Sample: A sample of scholarly writing (such as a paper written for a course or a portion of a senior honors thesis) offers the committee important insight into the candidate’s interpretative skills and suitability for advanced work in Classics.  Where possible, the most useful writing sample is one that represents the applicant’s scholarly interests as well as abilities in analysis and argumentation.

Doctoral Degree Requirements


Courses Required
CLASSIC 200Proseminar4
CLASSIC 203Approaches to Classical Literature4
Elective Seminars (40 units in 200 series; 200, 250, 260, not counted):
5 Electives Letter-graded A- or Higher
5 Electives in minimum of three out of six specified fields (with 2 electives minimum in one of six specified fields)
Greek Subjects (4 units must be CLASSIC 201A, CLASSIC 201B, OR CLASSIC 250)16
Latin Subjects (4 units must be CLASSIC 202A, CLASSIC 202B, OR CLASSIC 260)
CLASSIC 375Teaching of Classics: Methods and Problems3


Literature and Culture:





Contact Information

Department of Classics

3413 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-4218

Fax: 510-643-2959

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Department Chair

Dylan Sailor

Graduate Student Advisor

Kristen Brooks

3411 Dwinelle

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