Thinking of graduate school?

Your undergraduate Classics or Ancient Studies degree will help you in any number of professions or pursuits, because it combines key skill development and deep engagement with perennially relevant human questions.

A graduate degree in Classics or a related field is one path. Graduate school is a long and a challenging experience – most PhD programs take six years, and MA programs two densely packed years – but it can be a highly rewarding experience as well. If you wish to continue in academia, be aware of the following facts, and plan ahead:

  • Graduate programs in Classics, whether they lead to an MA or PhD, require advanced work in both ancient languages. Because of this, applicants should meet and even exceed the Greek and Latin requirements of the Classics major at Washington University. This is a big challenge for most busy undergraduates, but it is possible to do extra language coursework in the summer (see “Summer Language Study” on this website) or to seek additional coursework after the BA through a postbaccalaureate program. 
     
  • Graduate school entails a good deal of independent, though mentored, research. Applicants should demonstrate experience with and enthusiasm for research, particularly in Classics. In your coursework at Wash U, work hard on every research project you are assigned, and if possible, apply for the honors program so that you can experience the process of a senior thesis and discuss it in your applications.
     
  • Good writing skills are essential for success in graduate school – and for the success of the personal statement on the application. Practice your writing by taking many courses that require it, seek feedback from everyone you can, and read lots of modern classical scholarship to become familiar with its conventions.
     
  • Recommendation letters will carry great weight in your applications. Be sure to get to know your professors well enough to be able to ask them, and to choose recommenders who can speak about your language and/or research skills.
     
  • Some graduate programs require GRE scores. If your application list includes such programs, take (and study for!) the GRE by the fall of your application year.
     
  • Research programs carefully by reading their websites and learning about their faculty and activities. Be sure to read about each program’s structure and requirements on its website, and learn how graduate students are funded. The Society for Classical Studies website is not just an excellent gateway into all sorts of information about the Classics profession, but a repository for information about what is going on in various graduate programs – for example, dissertations currently in progress or recently completed. This can tell you a lot about the success and the general culture of various programs. This website also examines and ranks PhD programs in various fields.
     
  • Graduate programs in Classics require reading knowledge in at least one modern language (PhD programs generally require two, and more may be necessary in your chosen field). If possible, take courses in French, German, or Italian before applying to graduate school so that you will begin your program with one of those boxes already checked.
     
  • If you want to pursue a PhD, know that the job market for Classics professors is very, very tight, and quite a large percentage of PhDs never attain a tenure-track position. You can read musings (not all negative!) about job hunting and starting a career by some recent Classics PhDs in the Society for Classical Studies newsletter.
  • Be aware, even as you begin your training, that other interesting careers can come from a Classics PhD and repay your years of work. The world is full of excellent part-time college or secondary teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other professionals who proudly hold Classics PhDs and use the skills they acquired in graduate school. You can meet some of them on the website of the Paideia Institute, which has created a site featuring stories of "Legionnaires" and a social network called Nexus.
  • An MA in Classics is a valuable degree to add to your undergraduate training. It can give you extra time to improve your language skills and knowledge if you plan to apply to PhD programs, the opportunity to pursue a specific research project that is meaningful to you, or experience in teaching or administrative work that may open up other professional opportunities. You can peruse information about MA-only and MA/PhD programs, and even consider the combined BA-MA program at Wash U.
     
  • If you know you want to pursue secondary teaching – and Latin teachers are in high demand across the United States – you would be very well prepared with an MA in Classics, but an alternative is to attend an MA program that stresses pedagogy or an MAT in Latin program (some appear on this list), which include coursework in Education). 

 

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