PhD F.A.Q.

About the GTU

The GTU is both a consortium of schools, institutes and centers and a degree-granting institution. Through the combined resources of eight member seminaries in close geographical proximity, students have access to the expertise of 126 full-time faculty members offering a wide range of courses. It is an ecumenical and interfaith union of resources brought together in a spirit of commitment and cooperation. The GTU also has one of the most comprehensive theological libraries in the country.

The GTU consortially confers the academic degrees of Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy, and Doctor of Theology. Each of the eight member schools offers professional degrees such as the Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, and Doctor of Ministry.

GTU students and faculty represent the rich tapestry of American and Global religious traditions. Our member schools and faculty resources represent a range of Roman Catholic orders and Protestant denominations as well as Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Orthodox studies. Individuals come to the GTU with diverse denominational, faith, and spiritual ties, including Episcopal/Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ, Unitarian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Swedenborgian, Hindu, Seventh Day Adventist, Mormon, and others.

There are 125 students in the MA program, and there are 1,110 students enrolled in all of the degree programs offered by all of the member schools.

No! We have students ranging in age from 21 to 81. If you have been out of school for any considerable length of time, you may consider taking a class as a Special Student to facilitate your immersion back into an academic atmosphere.

The GTU is a private institution, separate and independent of UC Berkeley. Nevertheless, we have an important “casual” cooperative relationship with UCB, allowing cross-registration in courses and library borrowing privileges at the University. UC Berkeley is just a block away from the GTU library and near six of the member schools.

The member schools of the Graduate Theological Union are:

  • American Baptist Seminary of the West
  • Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Episcopal)
  • Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology
  • Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
  • Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
  • Pacific School of Religion (Multi-denominational)
  • San Francisco Theological Seminary (Presbyterian)
  • Starr King School for the Ministry (Unitarian Universalist)

Academic Centers

  • Center for Islamic Studies
  • Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies
  • Mira and Ajay Shingal Center for Dharma Studies
  • Sikh Studies Initiative

Affiliates and Institutes

  • Center for Arts, Religion, & Education
  • Center for Swedenborgian Studies
  • Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
  • Institute of Buddhist Studies
  • New College Berkeley
  • Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute
  • School of Applied Theology

The GTU does not offer any distance education or internet programs, although from time to time some member schools offer such opportunities.

The MA is designed for full time study, and we understand there are life circumstances that require some students to attend part time. During the MA program part time study must be approved by the Dean of the school of affiliation and the GTU Dean. Financial aid awards will be reduced in correspondence with the reduction in tuition.

Yes, we encourage prospective students to visit and acquaint themselves with our programs and facilities. The GTU Admissions Office can arrange for you to visit our the campus and meet faculty and students. To schedule a visit, click here. The GTU member schools can arrange for you to visit as well. The GTU also hosts Prospective Student events, usually on a Saturday in October and in April. 

The Application Process

Doctoral applications must be submitted by December 15 for consideration for the following fall. Paper applications must be postmarked by December 15; online applications must be transmitted by the 15th.

International students applying from a country in which English is not the official language must submit a TOEFL score from within the last two years. Applicants to the M.A. program are expected to have a TOEFL score of at least 79 (internet) 213 (computer) or 550 (paper).

If you are admitted to the GTU MA. program you will need to certify sufficient financial resources to be granted the documentation necessary to secure a student visa. See the International Student information page for more details.

What are your goals and plans for doctoral study? What are your intellectual interests? A critical factor in the admissions process is the “fit” between the student and the proposed concentration. A concentration represents a distinctive methodology or approach to scholarship in addition to being a field of study or discipline. Read the descriptions of the concentrations carefully and study the type of research and teaching being done by the faculty listed. It is helpful to have a well-considered, succinct, and specific topic outlined as you study this material. It may also be important to communicate with the faculty, and the GTU admissions office is happy to facilitate that process.

You must resubmit all materials, including transcripts and GRE or TOEFL scores, when you apply to another GTU program.

You should submit an academic paper of no more than 20 pages in length, the more recent the better. While the paper does not necessarily have to be directly connected to your specific research proposal, it should demonstrate your ability to do scholarly work in that field. If you are submitting a part of a thesis, provide a brief statement that explains the context of the whole document.

Yes. MA and Doctoral applicants who have completed a bachelor’s degree at a school or university where English is the language of instruction must submit scores from the general Graduate Record Exam (GRE) taken within the last five years. This requirement cannot be waived, unless you have a Ph.D. in a humanities field. Applicants are generally expected to have a GRE verbal score of at least 150 unless there are extenuating circumstances. International students are required to submit TOEFL scores instead of the GRE. Official GRE or TOEFL scores must be sent to the Admissions office.  

The GTU typically requires a master’s level degree (MA, MTS, ThM., MDiv, etc) in theology, religious studies, or a closely related discipline, but if your Master's degree is closely related to your field of study going forward, we encourage you to inquire.  Your task in applying will be to demonstrate that your previous education has prepared you to undertake the program you are proposing. If you have questions about whether your degree would qualify, please call or e-mail the GTU admissions office.

Faculty profiles are available on the GTU website, and those of our member schools. Most faculty welcome inquiries and questions from prospective students.

No, the MA and PhD are two wholly separate programs, each requiring a distinct application process. An MA or MDiv is required for the doctoral program; admission to the MA does not guarantee admission to the doctoral program.

It is crucial to have references that can attest to your ability to do scholarly work at the doctoral level. If you have not been in school for some time or for some other reason are unable to obtain recommendations from persons whom you have studied with, try to obtain recommendations from personal or professional acquaintances who have scholarly credentials and can comment on your academic abilities for graduate work.

Program, Finance, Teaching

Most students are seeking a teaching position in a seminary, college, or university. The market for teaching jobs at the college and university level is quite competitive. Recent GTU graduates across fields have succeeded in getting their first academic positions at seminaries and small liberal arts colleges. The GTU doctoral program emphasizes interdisciplinary work as a way to help student prepare for teaching in a number of disciplines. Students are also encouraged to participate in professional organizations such as the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and others, to present papers and meet colleagues in the field. Some students pursue doctoral work for positions with the Church, religious organizations, or in educational administration, writing, or publishing.

Tuition for the doctoral program is set for two different levels. The first two years, or the residency/course work period, have a tuition charge. After the two years of residence, the student moves to what is called a continuing fee, when costs decrease. See the Tuition & Fees page for more information.

The Bay Area is one of the country’s most beautiful places to live, and it also has one of the most competitive housing markets. There are many helpful resources to assist you, beginning with those listed on the housing page of this web site. Students who affiliate with a member school can sometimes find housing through that connection. It is wise to begin the search for housing early before relocating.

A doctoral program is a difficult and demanding task, requiring a large commitment of time and resources. The majority of students who undertake a doctoral program at the GTU complete that program. The average length of time for completion of the PhD or ThD degree at GTU is 5 to 7 years. The national average for a doctoral program in the humanities is more than 8 years.

The GTU offers a comprehensive program of financial aid for its doctoral students. Merit-based scholarshipsand awards are offered each year to incoming students, as are tuition grants, loans and work study opportunities. Teaching and research fellowships are also available through the Dean’s Office and member schools. Funding for all students is an institutional priority at the GTU. All applicants are encouraged to apply. See the Financial Aid section for more information.

If you would like to take a class you may do so as an “Unclassified” or “Special Student.” If you intend to apply to the doctoral program in the future, apply through the GTU admissions office. For more information see the Other Study Options page.