Graduate Theological Union

PhD / ThD F.A.Q.

About the GTU

How does the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) work?
The GTU is unique in that it is both a degree-granting institution and a consortium of schools, institutes, and centers. In cooperation with our member schools, the GTU grants the MA, PhD, and ThD degrees. The doctoral program is organized in four interdisciplinary departments consisting of participating faculty from the member seminaries, GTU academic centers, and affiliated institutions. In addition, Ph.D. students engage in coursework at UC Berkeley and incorporate the critical and theoretical dimensions of university research disciplines in their programs.

What are the member schools and centers of the GTU?

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
  • Mira and Ajay Shingal Center for Dharma Studies
  • Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies
  • Center for the Arts and Religion
  • Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
  • Sikh Studies Initiative

Affiliates and Institutes

  • Center for Swedenborgian Studies
  • Institute of Buddhist Studies
  • New College Berkeley
  • Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute
  • School of Applied Theology

What is GTU’s relationship with the University of California, Berkeley (UCB)? Is GTU a part of UCB?
The GTU is an independent institution, but does enjoy a rich relationship with UCB. GTU doctoral students have full cross-registration privileges at the University, often have UCB faculty on comprehensive and dissertation committees, and enjoy borrowing privileges at UCB libraries. UC Berkeley is just a block away from the GTU library and administrative buildings.

What faiths are represented at the GTU?
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.

Does the GTU offer distance learning or internet based options?
The GTU does not currently offer any non-residential programs. Some member schools do offer online courses as part of their degree programs, such as Starr King School for the Ministry and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

How many students are there at the GTU?
There are 186 students enrolled in the doctoral program; there are 1,110 students enrolled in all of the member schools of the GTU consortium.

Is it possible to attend GTU as a part-time student?
The doctoral program is designed for full-time study. Under extraordinary circumstances, with the permission of the Dean of Students for the Doctoral Program, a student may petition for part-time status.

Is there an age limit or preference at the GTU?
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.

Can I visit GTU?
Yes, we encourage prospective students to visit and acquaint themselves with our facilities and programs. The GTU Admissions Office staff can arrange for you to tour the campus and meet with faculty and students. Set up a visit by clicking this link.


The Application Process

What is the deadline to apply?
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.

Do I have to take the GRE exam?
All applicants from countries in which English is the official language are required to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test. All applicants must submit GRE or TOEFL scores. The GRE verbal reasoning score is usually expected to be a minimum of 150, and analytical writing scores should be between 4 and 6. No application will be considered without a valid GRE score from an exam taken within the last five years.

Do international students have different admission requirements?
International applicants applying from a country in which English is not the official language must submit TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores rather than GRE scores. Applicants to the doctoral program are expected to have a TOEFL score of at least 80 (internet) 213 (computer-based) or 600 (paper-based) from an exam taken within the last two years. See the International Student page for more information.

I have a master’s degree, but it is not in theology. Can I still apply to the GTU doctoral program?
The GTU requires a master’s level degree (MA, MTS, ThM., MDiv, etc) in theology, religious studies, or a closely related discipline. If you have questions about whether your degree would qualify, please call or e-mail the GTU admissions office.

How do I choose a concentration?
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.

How do I find out more about the faculty? Can I contact faculty prior to applying?
Faculty profiles are available on the GTU website, and those of our member schools. Most faculty welcome inquiries and questions from prospective students.

I am a GTU MA student, and I plan to apply for the doctoral program. Do I have to resubmit transcripts and test scores or can you use the copies from my MA file?
You must resubmit all materials, including transcripts and GRE or TOEFL scores, when you apply to another GTU program.

Is it possible to do the MA and move into the PhD as a single consecutive program?
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.

What type of writing sample should I send with my application?
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.

What should I do if I have limited or dated academic references? Are professional recommendations acceptable?
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

What are some of the jobs accepted by recent GTU Ph.D./Th.D. graduates?
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.

What percentage of students complete the degree, and in what length of time?
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.

What is the tuition for the doctoral program?
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.

What kind of financial support can I expect?
The GTU offers a comprehensive program of financial aid for its doctoral students. Merit-based scholarships and 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.

Are there opportunities for teaching?
There are some teaching opportunities at the GTU member schools, as well as at local colleges and universities. In addition, the Newhall Award program funds doctoral students to work in teaching or research with a GTU Core Doctoral Faculty member.

What kind of housing is available to GTU students?
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.

Is it possible to take a course without enrolling in a degree program?
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.