Thinking of Graduate School in Classics?

Here is what you should do:

I. Make absolutely sure graduate study in Classics is for you
An academic career in Classics can bring wonderful rewards, but you should not undertake it unless you are very motivated.  Be sure that you consider the following:
1. It is hard to get into graduate school in Classics.
2. PhD programs in Classics are difficult and often take six or more years.  
3. The job market for university professors of Classics is exceedingly tight.
4. If you would like a career in Classics but would rather not face the uncertainties of the academic job market, remember that there is a pressing demand for teachers of Latin at the secondary level in Texas and elsewhere (see How to Become a Latin Teacher).
5. Remember that your Classics degree brings you skills that will be valuable in countless professions besides academia, and in law or professional school.
6. If you would like an opportunity to see what graduate school is like, consider taking part in UT's Pre-Graduate School Internship.  This program gives you the opportunity to work with a graduate student mentor for a semester.
7. If you would like to gain knowledge about research in Classics, consider taking part in a Research Apprenticeship or an Undergraduate Research Course.

II. Study lots of language
A. A good knowledge of both Latin and Ancient Greek is essential.  Start the languages as early as you can, take as many courses in them as you can, and give yourself to the languages heart and soul.  If you are starting your languages late, accelerated programs like UT's Summer Intensive Greek are probably a good idea.  Three things to remember:
1. The language requirements for our majors should be considered minimums: take more courses in Greek and Latin than the majors require if possible.
2. Languages are required not only for those planning to specialize in language and literature. All respectable PhD programs in ancient history, and most programs in Classical archaeology as well, require both Greek and Latin.
3. That means the one-language requirements of our majors in Ancient History and Classical Civilization Major and in Classical Archaeology will probably not be enough to get you into graduate school: take the second Classical language as well.

B. You will need a reading knowledge of German, French, and Italian in order to succeed in a Classics PhD program.  Starting these languages now will boost your chances of admission to graduate school and save you much trouble when you get there.

III. Write
Almost all graduate programs require a personal statement and a writing sample as part of the application, and writing will be an essential part of your graduate work.  Hone your writing skills as much as you can.  Take as many substantial writing courses as possible, especially those that require research and writing in Classics.  If you can, write an honors thesis and start it early so that you can use part of it as your writing sample.

IV. Get to know your professors in Classics
Letters of recommendation will carry much weight: make sure you have several faculty members in Classics who can recommend you enthusiastically.

V. Study for the GRE
A high score in the verbal and writing sections of the GRE will increase your chances of acceptance, and many schools count the total score (including math) when they make decisions regarding financial aid.  Note that the UT Learning Center offers free review classes for the GRE.

VI. Decide where to apply
Because of the competitive job market, you will want to be sure you get your degree from a program with a good reputation.  Just as important, however, is that the program suit your interests and needs.   Consult with several members of the Classics faculty for advice on what programs would be best for you.  You may also find the following web sites useful:
1. Classical Journal's Graduate Study in Classics Page
2.  PhDs.org.  
As you compare schools, be sure to consider such factors as the time it takes students to finish their degrees, the program's record of placing its graduate students, the types of financial aid available, and the courses offered, as well as the program's overall reputation.

VII.  Other options
A. Terminal Master's Degree: Several universities offer good graduate programs in Classics terminating in a Master's Degree.  This might be a good way to start if you feel you are not ready to jump into a PhD program yet.
B. Post-baccalaureate programs.  Several universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Iowa, the University of North Carolina, UCLA, and Georgetown, offer post-baccalaureate programs in Classics, where you can study Latin and Greek intensively as you prepare to apply for a PhD program.
C. Some students have stayed on as non-degree-seeking students after graduation to improve their languages, and have then applied successfully to PhD programs.


For  advice designed especially for those interested in graduate school in archaeology, see Thinking of Graduate School in Classical Archaeology? prepared by Jennifer Gates-Foster

last modified July 8, 2009 by timmoore@mail.utexas.edu