Program FAQs

Questions About the Program

Preparation | Program offerings | Program practices | Finances

FAQs pertaining to the application instructions can be found here.

Preparation FAQs 

Must I be a history major to apply for graduate studies in history? Can someone look over my transcript and tell me what courses I should take?

Most students admitted to our history graduate program have a BA or an MA in history, but we welcome applications from able students who have a historical foundation while majoring in other disciplines. We have admitted students over the years from majors such as American studies, sociology, economics, medieval studies, East Asian studies, Latin American studies, religious studies, philosophy, various sciences (mainly for history of science). The most qualified non-history majors are those who have taken history courses in their area of declared interest. We regret that we do not have the resources to individually advise prospective applicants about their curriculum. Rather, one can get a sense of the kinds of courses taken by a typical history major by visiting our undergraduate website.

Should I start on the foreign language requirements prior to entering the program?

Each field (e.g., Africa or Early Modern Europe) sets its own guidelines for how much language an applicant should already have at time of entry into the program. For most fields there are no hard and fast rules, but it is clearly advantageous for an individual to enter with as much relevant foreign language preparation as possible, so that once in the program s/he can spend less time on language acquisition and more time on history subject matter. The foreign language requirement for graduate students in history varies from one to four languages, depending on the field. Our graduate students aim to fulfill at least one language by the end of the first year.  They must fulfill all required languages before they can take the orals and advance to PhD candidacy (by the end of the third or fourth year, depending on field). Prospective applicants should keep these guideposts in mind when planning their pre-graduate language training.

Further, the reviewers do look favorably upon evidence on an academic transcript that the applicant is capable of handling foreign language courses. A couple of fields have clearly defined their language prerequisites for entry into the program. For example, applicants hoping to enter the field of Medieval history should already have Latin at the intermediate-level upon entry. Applicants to Ancient Greece or Rome should have Ancient Greek and Latin – at least two years of one of these ancient languages and three years of the other. For more information about the language requirements, see the appropriate field guide(s) in the Program Guide.

Are there special or additional application requirements for international students?

Please refer to Minimum Degree Requirements and Required Records of Academic Work on the Graduate Division website.

On what criteria will my history application be reviewed and by whom?

The department considers all components of an applicant file and in general no single metric will make or break a person’s chance of admission. Each history application is first reviewed by at least two history faculty members (usually in the stated field of interest). These “field reviewers” evaluate the applicant's academic degrees and record, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, foreign language training, test scores (general GRE or TOEFL), writing sample, and the fit between the applicant's goals and the program's degree offerings and faculty research interests. The reviewers select the strongest applicants and recommend names to the admissions committee members, who make the final decision. By the end of the process, applications of those admitted will have been evaluated by at least seven faculty members.

What are the average GPA and test scores of those offered admission? 

We offer the following data only because many prospective applicants request it. Remember that these are only averages (not a range) and the averages vary from year to year. Our department receives 325 to 400 applications and selects a class of around 20 students each year. The data for a recent cohort of domestic admits were average GPA of 3.82 undergraduate, 3.93 graduate, and 3.83 in history coursework and average GRE scores of 96% verbal, 71% quantitative, and 5.42 analytical writing on a scale of 1 to 6. We do not set a minimum for GRE scores. The minimum acceptable score on the TOEFL is 570 out of 677 for the paper test and for the Internet-based test the aggregate minimum is 90 with minimum sub-scores of 18 writing, 17 speaking, 16 listening, and 17 reading. (A score of at least 26 in speaking satisfies the language proficiency requirement for student teaching positions.) The TOEFL scores of our admitted foreign-educated students usually far exceed the minimum. A recent cohort of foreign admits averaged 613 (paper test) and 109 (IBT TOEFL test) with sub-scores of 29 writing, 27 speaking, 29 listening, and 24 reading.

Q6: If admitted, when must I register my decision to accept or not?

April 15 is the deadline for admitted students to accept or decline their offers of admission. This deadline is a national deadline for all schools that are a part of the Council of Graduate Schools.

Program Offerings FAQs

Please see the Program Guide for complete program details.

What graduate degrees do you offer in history?

We only admit applicants committed to obtaining the PhD degree in history. We do not offer a terminal master’s degree; however, students who enter the program without an MA in history (or related field) can file for the MA while progressing toward the doctorate.

What fields of study does Berkeley offer?

The Berkeley History Department offers fifteen established fields: Africa, Ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantine, Early Modern Europe, East Asia: China, East Asia: Japan, Jewish, Late Modern Europe, Latin America, Medieval Europe, Middle East, North America, Science, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Can I pursue a Berkeley history graduate degree part-time, through evening courses, or through distance learning or correspondence?

No. Ours is a full-time program which requires the full-time commitment and presence of our students. We offer no evening or correspondence classes.

If I am not a Berkeley student, can I take just one or two courses at Berkeley?

During the academic year, Berkeley courses are normally not open to individuals not formally matriculated to Berkeley as an undergraduate or graduate student. Individuals not enrolled at Berkeley are permitted to enroll in undergraduate history courses during the Berkeley Summer Session, which is open to the public. No graduate courses are offered during Summer Session (see In limited cases it may be possible for a non-Berkeley individual to obtain the permission of a Berkeley faculty member, the Chair, and the Dean to take a regular Berkeley course during the academic year through University Extension's "concurrent enrollment." Be aware, however, that you are considered an Extension student, not a Berkeley student, when enrolled through Concurrent Enrollment and that Concurrent Enrollment is not intended as a means of accumulating credit toward a Berkeley degree by a student who has not been formally admitted to Berkeley. For more information about University Extension, see

I am a graduate student attending university in a foreign country. I would like to apply to Berkeley to be a visiting international student for just six months to a year. How do I go about it?

The Global Engagement Office (GEO) oversees the development of bilateral and multilateral exchange agreements that allow for graduate student and faculty exchanges with international partner instructions. The maximum stay is one academic year. Your first step is to find out if your school has a partnership agreement with Berkeley and if you are eligible to apply to your school to be nominated to be an exchange student. Nominated applications will be collected by GEO and then routed to the department where a department committee will decide which applicants can be accommodated. Prospective GEO applicants should refrain from contacting our faculty directly for a promise of sponsorship because only the committee can make the offer of a slot. Students accepted via this route are not registered students (so are not assessed fees) but can usually audit history courses and have access to the libraries.

International visiting students who wish to take full advantage of Berkeley's graduate courses while visiting and who want to enroll in a regular load of courses for credit should apply for "coursework-only" via the Education Abroad Program (EAP).  You can find more information about EAP’s reciprocal exchanges at An EAP applicant is nominated by the partner institution and submits applications to both the EAP office as well as directly to the department by the regular deadline for admission (December 1). If accepted by EAP and the department, the student's tuition and registration fees will be paid by the University (as part of the exchange agreement). The EAP student will be expected to register for a regular course load and will begin studies the following fall term for a maximum of one academic year.

Program Practices FAQs 

How long does it take to complete the MA/PhD or the PhD program?

The time by which students are expected to complete the PhD program is six or seven years depending on the field in which they entered. Fields with six year time-to-degree (three years to the qualifying exam and three years in doctoral candidacy): Early Modern Europe, Late Modern Europe, Latin America, North America, Science, and Southeast Asia. For fields requiring extensive language training the time-to-degree is seven years (four years to the qualifying exam and three years in doctoral candidacy). The seven year fields are: Africa, Ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantine, East Asia: China, East Asia: Japan, Jewish, Medieval Europe, Middle East, and South Asia.  Prospective students should be advised it is not uncommon for students to take longer to file than the prescribed normative time (and it is very rare to file early).

Can I apply credits from my MA program at another institution to the History PhD program at Berkeley?

After you complete one year of coursework toward the PhD here at Berkeley, you may petition to have typically no more than two graduate courses taken elsewhere applied to our PhD course requirements. You should be prepared to produce syllabi, exams, and papers so that equivalency can be established. If approved, the course will not appear on the Berkeley transcript but will be accepted internally toward PhD requirements.

Finances FAQs 

How much does a graduate education cost?

Information on Berkeley's tuition and fees can be found on the Registrar's website here.  The graduate student budget can be found on the Financial Aid Office's website here.

What financial support is available for history graduate students? 

Please see the finances section of the Program Guide for more detailed information. The guide is updated every summer.

Do I have to file a FAFSA to be eligible for financial aid and graduate fellowships?

Yes. If you wish to be offered a need-based graduate loan, work-study, or low-income parent grant from the University's Financial Aid Office, you should file the FAFSA and have the report sent to Berkeley in March. In addition, if you accept a University or department fellowship you must still file the FAFSA but you have until June to have the FAFSA sent to Berkeley. UC Berkeley’s FAFSA school code is 001312.

Last updated 11 September 2017