MA Program FAQ

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 106 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 and Doctor of Philosophy. 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, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Swedenborgian, Hindu, Seventh Day Adventist, Mormon, and others.

There are 113 students in the PhD program, and there are 815 students enrolled in all of the degree programs offered by all of the member schools.

The GTU Common MA is primarily a research-focused, academically oriented degree designed to provide a breadth of knowledge for the advanced study of religion that incorporates an ecumenical design. It is a two-year program that requires certification in a modern foreign language and the writing of a thesis. Most people who pursue this degree would like to teach, research and write. The Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree is a three-to-four-year professional program preparing persons for lay and ordained ministries and pastoral work. Each member seminary offers the MDiv degree designed in accordance with the denominational affiliation of that school. Member schools also offer MTS and proprietary MA degrees that may be more denominationally oriented, or match specific program strengths of that seminary on its own.

The member schools of the Graduate Theological Union are:

  • Berkeley School of Theology (American Baptist Churches USA)
  • Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Episcopal)
  • Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology
  • Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University 
  • Institute of Buddhist Studies
  • Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
  • Pacific School of Religion (Multi-denominational)
  • San Francisco Theological Seminary (Presbyterian)

Academic Centers

  • Center for Arts and Religion
  • Center for Dharma Studies
  • Center for Islamic Studies
  • Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies
  • Center for Theology and Natural Sciences

Affiliates and Institutes

  • Center for Swedenborgian Studies
  • Newbigin House of Studies
  • New College Berkeley
  • Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute
  • Wilmette Institute 

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.

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. 

Please note: in-person campus visits to the GTU are not offered at this time. We are offering virtual visits on our website here.

The Application Process

Your school of affiliation will be your academic “home base” as a community as well as the home of your primary advisor. It is critical that you choose a school of affiliation where you can pursue your stated academic interests. What topics do you want to pursue in depth? Review the fields outlined for the MA program. Find out which faculty are interested in some of the topics you are thinking about. Talk with the Admissions Director at the school/s of affiliation that may interest you. Explore the web sites of the member schools. Finally, some students choose a school of affiliation based on denominational ties. If that is the case, select the field of study offered at the school that best fits your interests.

Applicants are encouraged to submit their applications by the priority deadlines listed below in order to receive consideration for institutional grants. Though applications received after the priority deadline will be considered for admission, financial aid offerings may be limited after the priority deadline. 

Spring 2022 Deadline  November 1st 2021

Fall 2022 Deadline      May 1st 2022

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 program are expected to have a TOEFL score of at least 80 (internet) 213 (computer) or 550 (paper).

There are exemptions to this requirement, these include:

  1. Applicant has completed an undergraduate or graduate level degree in the United States, where the language of instruction is English, and the institution is accredited by one of the United States' regional accrediting agencies.
  2. Applicant has completed at least one year of full-time academic course work  with grades of B or better at an English-speaking graduate institution.

If you are admitted to the GTU 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.

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.

You submit your application, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and test scores to the GTU Admissions Office, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709. The GTU will work in coordination with the member school selected as the school of affiliation to review and make decisions about the application. The GTU maintains your application file. You can also apply online and then submit transcripts and letters by mail.

The GRE requirement is suspended through the Fall 2022 semester. Applications for the PhD program received by the final deadline in 2022 will not be required to present GRE scores for the 2023 application cycle.

International students are required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores instead of the GRE. Official TOEFL or IELTS scores must be sent to the Admissions office.

It is crucial to have references that can attest to your ability to do scholarly work at the graduate level. If you have not been in school for some time, or for some reason you are unable to obtain recommendations from persons with whom you have studied, try to obtain recommendations from personal or professional acquaintances who have scholarly credentials and can attest to your academic abilities. This might be a clergy member with advanced degrees, or a supervisor from your professional endeavors.

Financial Aid, Housing, and Other Options for Study

MA students affiliated with a member school can apply for housing through that school’s housing office. Some member schools have dorm and apartment facilities, and all schools strive to assist students in obtaining housing. The Bay Area has one of the country’s most competitive housing markets, so it is smart to pay attention to this matter if you are relocating to study at the GTU. There are many helpful resources to assist you, beginning with those listed on the housing page of this web site.

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

Requests for part-time enrollment during the tuition phase of the doctoral program may be approved by the Associate Dean of Students on a case-by-case basis due to extenuating personal, medical and/or financial circumstances. The GTU requires that doctoral students be in residence on campus for at least two semesters of coursework, and the expectation is that this residency will be during the first year of the program. Exceptions to this are rare and must be approved by the Associate Dean of Students in consultation with the student’s academic advisor.

MA students receive scholarship and grant support from their member school of affiliation. Students can also apply for loans and work study through the GTU Financial Aid office. Check the financial aid section of this web site for more information.

If you would like to take a class you may do so as an “Unclassified” or “Special Student.” Once you know what class you would like to take, determine which school faculty member is offering the course and sign up through that school. If you are interested in classes in Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, or Hindu Studies, you would sign up through the GTU admissions office. You may also be interested in pursuing a Certificate program, generally a year-long opportunity to take courses to explore an interest. The GTU and many of its member schools offer certificate programs. For information about the Certificate programs at the GTU, go to the Other Study Options page.

The GTU offers classes at different times during the fall and spring semesters, including some night classes. There are also intensive classes offered in the January intersession, and during the Summer Session.