Information for Prospective Applicants for Graduate Study in Classics or Classical Archaeology

Jump to:

The University of California, Berkeley, is regarded by many as the premier public university in the world, and its Department of Classics has been for some time recognized as one of the outstanding departments in the field. This page provides introductory information for those considering graduate study in Classics or Classical Archaeology. For other related programs, such as “The Group” (Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology), “Comparative Literature,” etc., see the section entitled “Related Programs” below.

[top]

PROGRAMS OF STUDY

Two graduate programs are available in the Department: Classics and Classical Archaeology.

The Graduate Program in Classics is designed to give a thorough preparation in the fundamentals of classical scholarship and to encourage intellectual inquiry and the development of original research according to the capacity and interests of the individual student. The holder of a Berkeley Ph.D. 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, undergraduate courses in classical culture and literature in translation, and graduate courses in at least one area in the language of special emphasis and/or in an area common to both languages.

The Ph.D. program in Classics is designed to be completed in 6–8 years by a normally-prepared student: 2 years attaining the M.A., 2–3 years completing preliminary Ph.D. requirements, and 2–3 years writing a dissertation. Students who enter with an M.A. normally need 2 or 2 1/2 years to complete preliminary requirements and a total of 4 or 5 years to complete the Ph.D.

The program requires coursework distributed over at least three of the six fields of ancient literature, philosophy, history, archaeology/art history, papyrology/epigraphy/palaeography, and linguistics. Every student normally takes a one-semester proseminar introducing such topics as bibliography, palaeography, papyrology, textual criticism and editorial technique, and the history of scholarship, along with introductions to disciplines such as epigraphy and archaeology, and also a one-semester proseminar in literary and cultural theory entitled "Approaches to Classical Literature." At the Ph.D. level there are translation exams in both Greek and Latin, and a prose composition requirement in both languages (met by course-work or exam). A reading knowledge of German and French or Italian must also be demonstrated. Upon completion of these preliminary requirements, the student takes an oral qualifying exam; the writing of the dissertation follows.

Students who enter without the M.A. are required to obtain the Berkeley M.A. with an emphasis in either Latin or Greek. The emphasis determines the area of the M.A. exams in translation, literature, and history and the language in which competence in prose composition must be shown, but students will normally be doing some work in the other language as well, in preparation for the Ph.D. Coursework done at the M.A. level fulfills requirements for the Ph.D. as well.

The Graduate Program in Classical Archaeology is intended to ensure that its students are fully competent in Greek and Latin and have a good understanding of historical method as well as a thorough training, including experience in fieldwork, in Greek and Roman archaeology. The holder of a Ph.D. should be qualified either for a major museum post or for university teaching (up to senior undergraduate level in the ancient languages and in ancient history, and at all levels from elementary to graduate in large areas of ancient archaeology and art history).

The program is designed to be completed in 6-9 years (including time spent abroad): 2-3 years attaining the M.A., 2-3 years completing preliminary Ph.D. requirements, and 2-3 years writing a dissertation.

The Ph.D. program in Classical Archaeology requires coursework in Art History and Classical Archaeology, satisfaction of requirements in ancient languages and in ancient history by either coursework or examination, and a written general exam followed by the oral qualifying examination. A reading knowledge of German and French or Italian must also be demonstrated. The writing of the dissertation follows. Every student shall, if possible, spend at least one year as a regular student of either the American Academy in Rome or the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

Students who enter without the M.A. are required to obtain the Berkeley M.A. in Classical Archaeology. This degree requires coursework, demonstration of a reading knowledge of one modern foreign language, and the writing of a short M.A. dissertation. Coursework done at the M.A. level fulfills requirements for the Ph.D. as well.  Every student normally takes a one-semester proseminar introducing key topics and methods of the field.

[top]

RELATED PROGRAMS

The interdisciplinary Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology offers degrees with major and minor fields drawn from Near Eastern history, art and archaeology, Greek history, Roman history, classical art and archaeology, epigraphy, ancient law, and religion. Applicants are expected to have sufficient language training to undertake advanced work in at least one ancient language.

The Department of Comparative Literature has a strong classical component. Students of literature and literary theory may study Greek and/or Latin literature as a major or minor element of their program.

For information about either of the above, please write to the Graduate Advisor of the relevant program.

For specialization in Ancient Philosophy, there is a joint program involving faculty and courses in the Departments of Classics and Philosophy. Students who may wish to pursue this option should apply to either Classics or Philosophy, as appropriate, and will receive a Ph.D. in Classics or a Ph.D. in Philosophy.

[top]

APPLICATION AND CRITERIA FOR ADMISSION

Applications are submitted electronically through the Graduate Division's online application website at http://www.grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/grad_app.shtml. The online application is available in early Fall.

The application deadline for Fall 2020 admission is Monday, December 16, 2019

Competition for admission to graduate study at Berkeley is extremely keen. In recent years there have been from 60-80 applicants per year, and the Department’s admission quota has been around 12 to 16 admits, with the expectation that three to five 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.  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 read by an Admissions Committee of five or six faculty members, including the Graduate Advisor. 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.

(a) 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. Applicants in Classical Archaeology are expected to meet the same minimum standards of preparation as those in Classics.

An applicant with an M.A. 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 M.A. students and not against students with only a B.A.

(b) general preparation. Elements of additional preparation which reflect favorably on an applicant include: courses in Greek or Latin composition; especially extensive reading in one or both languages; reading knowledge of modern languages (particularly German and/or French or Italian); 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. Successful applicants in recent years have usually offered a junior/senior GPA in the range of 3.6 to 4.0, with many above 3.8. Students who have done less well in other fields earlier in their undergraduate education and then performed well upon discovering Classics are not necessarily at a disadvantage because of the earlier record.

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. If possible, recommenders should make comparisons with other students they know have applied to or enrolled at Berkeley. 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.  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.

5. Writing sample. The Committee finds it helpful for candidates to submit a sample of scholarly writing, such as a paper written for a course or a portion of a senior honors thesis. (A candidate who wishes to submit an entire honors thesis should submit a summary with the application and indicate its most representative sections.) Writing samples are submitted as part of the online application.

6. International applicants should also submit a TOEFL score unless their undergraduate or previous graduate work has been carried out at an institution where the language of instruction is English.

[top]

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

The Department is usually able to fund three to five entering students each year. Our support package comprises two initial years of fellowship support, a third year of mandatory teaching (“Graduate Student Instructorship”), and thereafter a mix of GSIship and departmental and university fellowship. In the third year and beyond, summer support comes as a mix of summers of fellowship stipend and summers of GSIship (summer GSIship is typically a five- or six-week assignment in the Intensive Greek and Latin Workshops). Students who are accepted with an offer of funding are supported throughout their time in the program (up to eight years), so long as they are making satisfactory progress.

Most students entering without the MA complete the PhD program in six to eight years; the current typical distribution for a seven-year degree is seven or eight semesters of fellowship and six or seven of teaching. Because the demand for fellowship and GSIship varies from one year to the next, it is impossible to say in precisely which semesters after the third year a student will be supported by one as opposed to the other, but the department makes it a high priority to create equity between all of our students in the distribution of fellowship and teaching semesters over the course of their time in the program.

Students at the dissertation stage receive two semesters of fellowship support (the “Dissertation Completion Fellowship”) from Graduate Division; these semesters must be used before the end of the eighth year, and a condition of accepting them is that recipients can no longer receive fellowship from the university beyond the eighth year, although they may still hold GSIship. Our students also have had excellent success in applying to campus-wide and external funding sources such as the Ratliff Fellowship in Classical Antiquity, the dissertation fellowships of the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the Mabelle McLeod Lewis Fellowship.

Students who decide to enroll at Berkeley without any initial support should be aware that they can only count on receiving two years of funding: one in the form of the mandatory GSIship (usually in the third year), the other in the form of the Dissertation Completion Fellowship (contingent on advancement to candidacy before the eighth year). While GSIships do sometimes become available, the Department can only commit to supporting those students who were offered funding packages upon entering the program. Students contemplating enrolling without an offer of funding from the department should consult with the Head Graduate Advisor.

[top]

STUDENT DIVERSITY

The Berkeley campus has a commitment to increasing the diversity of its graduate student population. The Department of Classics strongly encourages applications from members of underrepresented groups (such as U.S. citizens or residents of African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, or Native American descent).

[top]

STUDENT BODY

The Berkeley undergraduate body (about 23,000 students) is characterized by diversity of ethnic background: there is no majority group. Most of the undergraduates are from California, but most other states and many nations of the world are also represented. The University of California is the highest tier in the state’s system of public higher education, and undergraduate admission to the Berkeley campus is extremely competitive. The experience of teaching an undergraduate class at Berkeley is apt to be quite different, in positive and invigorating ways, from that at many other institutions.

The graduate body (about 10,000 students) is also diverse, and represents a much wider range of national and international places of origin. Within the Department, the nominal size of the enrolled graduate student body is about 32, but when students studying abroad or working on dissertations while employed elsewhere or not enrolled are included, the community normally has a size of about 40 members. When students with classical specialties in Comparative Literature and Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology are taken into account, the classical community may be reckoned at 50-60 graduate students. In recent years new graduate students have come to Berkeley from Amherst, Austin, Brown, Chicago, Colgate, Columbia, Florida, Harvard, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Smith, Stanford, St. John’s College, Swarthmore, UCLA, UCSD, Vassar, Washington, Williams, Yale, as well as Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Australia and Sweden. At present the graduate body is almost evenly divided between women and men.

[top]

LOCATION

The Berkeley campus is a lovely park-like setting enhanced by glades, plazas, and a wide variety of architecture, including some graceful examples of the Beaux Arts style. The campus is surrounded on three sides by residential and commercial neighborhoods of the city of Berkeley, a lively part of the conurbation that stretches along the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay. The fourth side rises into the Berkeley hills and a regional park. The climate is temperate year-round, with a pleasant alternation of cooling fog and bright sunny skies and an even level of moderate to low humidity. Severe smog is rare in the San Francisco Bay and especially rare near Berkeley, which lies directly exposed to the Pacific winds entering the Golden Gate.

Public transportation serving the campus area is good. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system operates trains that provide direct access to downtown Oakland (which is adjacent to Berkeley on the south) and under the bay to San Francisco. Buses provide access from the campus area to many intermediate destinations. Most of the cultural and recreational resources of the Bay Area are thus accessible by public transit. These include, apart from the museums, theaters, sports arenas, and concert halls of Oakland and San Francisco, the local resources of the campus, which offers a wide range of athletic and cultural events and facilities (many either free or discounted for students), and of the city, noted for its abundance of fine ethnic restaurants, its bookstores, cinemas, repertory theater, and its unparalleled range of musical offerings. There is an excellent network of hiking, bicycling and horseback-riding paths in the East Bay hills.

The housing market is tight and relatively expensive, but with adequate time and help from the campus housing service new students do find suitable lodgings to start with, and once established in the area many graduate students seek houses to share in small groups and otherwise take advantage of the graduate student network.

The local airports are Oakland International (which is slightly closer) and San Francisco International (which boasts more non-stop flights and more international flights). Both are well served by public transportation.

[top]

TEACHING

Students are required to act as Graduate Student Instructors (the formal title of a teaching assistant) for two semesters, usually in the third year in the program. GSIship is also an important source of financial support for students beyond the third year, after which students are supported by a mix of semesters of fellowship and semesters of GSIship. Teaching experience is an essential part of graduate education, and significant and broad preparation in teaching has been a major advantage for our PhDs when they go on the job market. There are two kinds of teaching roles beginning GSIs are likely to receive in a given semester. One is as the instructor of a first-year Latin section; in teaching one of these, the GSI takes responsibility for all presentation of the material, development of exams, and tutorial work outside of class, though with the guidance of a faculty member. The other is as discussion section leader in one of the Department’s lower-division lecture courses such as “Introduction to Greek Civilization” or “The Classic Myths”; in these assignments, GSIs coordinate closely with the faculty member teaching the course in conducting discussion sections, developing assignments, and grading and commenting on exams and papers. All first-time GSIs take the department’s semester-long pedagogy seminar, which covers both language and section teaching. More advanced GSIs may be able to teach introductory Greek, intermediate language courses, and lower-division lecture courses in epic or tragedy.

The Department also offers summer courses, including introductory literature and culture courses and the Summer Language Workshops in both Greek and Latin. These are usually staffed entirely by graduate students.

[top]

ACADEMIC RESOURCES

The Berkeley Library possesses one of the largest collections in North America and is old enough to have an excellent historical coverage of books and periodicals in the field of classical studies. The center of activity for most graduate students is the Art History/Classics Library, located on the third floor of Doe Library. This includes a seminar classroom, two rooms of bookshelves and study-tables, and a hallway study area with computers and printer. The Classics rooms contain a reserve collection of the most commonly used Classics and Classical Archaeology texts, periodicals, and reference materials. Students also have access to numerous other library services and branches, such the Graduate Service and the Bancroft Library (rare books, manuscripts, some Tebtunis papyri, etc.).

The Department is located on the seventh floor of Dwinelle Hall. Its facilities include faculty, staff, and GSI offices; a graduate student lounge; a multi-use lounge shared with the Department of Rhetoric; the Nemea archive room; a conference room; and copy and mail rooms.

Three research centers associated with the Department provide many opportunities to graduate students.

The Sara Aleshire Center for the Study of Greek Epigraphy has a research collection and funding for graduate students and faculty to pursue studies in Greek epigraphy.

The Center for the Tebtunis Papyri offers opportunities for training in papyrology and publication opportunities, as well as graduate student research assistantships and financial support for attending conferences related to papyrology and for participating in excavations in Egypt.
The Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology, which consists of the Nemea Excavation Archives, housed in 7125 Dwinelle Hall, and the Nemea Archaeological Center in Nemea, Greece, promotes teaching, research, and public service centered on the University of California excavations at Nemea, Greece and its surrounding region.

The Department also owns an extensive study collection of ancient coins, most of which are the gift of Henry Lindgren.

[top]

FOREIGN TRAVEL AND FIELD WORK

Opportunities for archaeological field-work and post-excavation study experience are readily available. The Department is a sponsor of the Nemea Center Research Program and Excavations, in addition to annual seasons of research, publication preparation, and small-scale test digs under the direction of Prof. Kim Shelton, of the Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology. Prof. Shelton also directs excavation and study in Mycenae at Petsas House. Material from both sites are also available for dissertation research.

Prof. Ted Peña has ongoing projects in Italy, including Pompeii. The Center for Tebtunis Papyri has sent students to participate in digs at Umm-El-Breigat (Tebtunis) and Soknopaiou Nesos in Egypt. Students have also gained experience at Dhiban, Jordan (under Prof. Ben Porter of Near Eastern Studies), and at Morgantina (Sicily) and Butrint (Albania), and often gain positions in the year-long or summer programs at the American School of Classical Studies and the American Academy in Rome.

[top]

PLACEMENT

The academic job market for PhDs in Classics, as for the humanities in general, is very challenging. In the face of that, Berkeley candidates have continued to do well on the job market in the past decade. PhDs since 2010 hold tenured and tenure-track positions at the American University of Rome, Brown University (x2), Cornell University, Florida State University, Gettysburg College, Grand Valley State University, Harvard University (x2), Indiana University, Kalamazoo College, Princeton University, the University of Chicago, UCLA, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Williams College.

The Department's placement committee holds a job search orientation meeting every fall, provides advice on all aspects of the job search, reads and gives feedback on draft application materials, and organizes mock interviews and practice job talks. The Department provides a travel subvention for each candidate to attend one joint meeting of the Society for Classical Studies and Archaeological Institute of America.

[top]

For more information, contact:

  • Professor Dylan Sailor, Graduate Advisor (dsailor [at] berkeley.edu),
  • Professor Ellen Oliensis, Department Chair (tel. 510-642-9207; eolien [at] berkeley.edu),
  • Cassandra Dunn, Student Services Adviser (tel. 510-642-3672; cassandrajj [at] berkeley.edu).

The Department's mailing address is University of California, Department of Classics, 7233 Dwinelle Hall, #2520, Berkeley, CA 94720-2520.