Parthenon frieze detail

Prospective students


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, known for its distinctive blend of philological rigor and theoretical adventurousness.  We offer two graduate programs, in Classics and Classical Archaeology.  For other related programs, such as “The Group” (Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology or AHMA), see the section entitled “Related Programs” below.

We typically have about 30 enrolled graduate students; when students with classical specialties in (e.g.) Comparative Literature and AHMA are taken into account, the number increases to about 35. In recent years students have come to Berkeley from a wide range of institutions in the US (public and private, colleges and universities) and beyond (e.g., Canada, the UK, Italy).  At present the graduate body is fairly evenly divided between women and men.


The Graduate Program in Classics provides a thorough preparation in the fundamentals of classical scholarship while encouraging intellectual inquiry and the development of original research according to the capacity and interests of the individual student. The Ph.D. program is designed to be completed in 6–8 years: 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 two one-semester proseminars (normally taken in the first two years):  an introduction to the tools of philology  (introducing such topics as palaeography, papyrology, textual criticism, and epigraphy) and an introduction (tailored to Classics) to literary and cultural theory.  In addition, students take courses in at least three different sub-fields (e.g., literature, philosophy, history, archaeology/art history).  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.

Classical Archaeology

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.

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.

Where/When To Submit Your Application

Applications are submitted electronically through the Graduate Division's online application website at The online application is available in early Fall.

The application deadline for Fall 2021 admission is Monday, December 15, 2020.

Admissions Criteria

Applications are read by an Admissions Committee of 4-6 faculty members, including the Graduate Advisor, representing a variety of specialties and interests. We look for the following (different committee members weight these elements differently):

(a) 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 each language, 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 include: extensive reading in one or both languages; reading knowledge of modern languages (particularly German and/or French or Italian); courses in disciplines relevant to Classical Studies such as ancient history and archaeology; course in adjacent areas such as literary theory and methodology.

(c) 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.  Students who have done less well in other fields and then performed well upon discovering Classics are not necessarily at a disadvantage because of the earlier record.

(d) (for international applicants) competence in written and spoken English. International applicants should 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.

The Application

In addition to your transcript(s) and (if required) TOEFL score, which will provide us with the information listed above under "criteria," you will need to provide:

(a) letters of recommendation; a minimum of three is required. The most useful letters are written by faculty who know you well, admire your work, and can be specific about your 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.

(b) statement of purpose. The committee would like to receive a clearly written statement explaining why you are interested in graduate work in Classics, what kinds of research questions you have found most engaging, and where your eventual specialization may lie. Please do not rehearse accomplishments that appear elsewhere in your application; tell us why you want to spend a portion of your life studying Classics—and why in our department in particular. The statement of purpose is also the appropriate place for you to address and explain any weaknesses in the dossier.

(c) personal statement.  This is where you can tell us anything about yourself and hour experience that it would be helpful for us to know.

(d) 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.)  This sample should show you at your best and give us an idea of the kind of writing and thinking you are capable of.

(e) Greek and Latin reading lists.  Please list works read in Greek and Latin (not in translation), specifying which sections you have read or roughly how much of the work you have read, e.g., Aeneid 1 and 4, Sophocles OT (entire); Greek lyric (selections in Campbell).

Financial Support

The Department is usually able to fund three to five entering students each year.  We are committed to equity in funding and (so far as this is within our control) offer the same level of support to all students in the program, whether they are teaching or on fellowship.

Our support package comprises two initial years of fellowship, 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. Students who are accepted with an offer of funding can count on being 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 six 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.


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.

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).

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.


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.

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.

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.


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 quite 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

For More Information

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