Frequently Asked Questions


I am considering applying to Rhetoric. Are my research interests suitable for this graduate program? 

The Department of Rhetoric graduate program provides professional training in academic research and teaching, culminating in the PhD degree. We do not offer a MA program. Our faculty represents a diverse range of scholarly expertise dedicated to the discipline of rhetoric, which is theoretically informed and interdisciplinary in practice, focused on discourse analysis, broadly conceived. We welcome students of all disciplinary knowledge and methodological training, including those with portfolios in the arts; however, we rank highly those applicants whose records of academic and related achievement demonstrate potential for success as scholar-teachers at the PhD level. We prefer students who at the time of application are able to 1) identify a general area of inquiry and, if possible, a specific research object or objects, and 2) explain why this study would best be done in the Department of Rhetoric at Berkeley, and not in a more traditional disciplinary or departmental academic unit at Berkeley, or another institution. The Department recognizes that for the graduate student, the educational and financial benefits of teaching eventually are offset by its time demands. Students therefore are encouraged to actively seek out and apply for university and outside sources of financial aid, especially for the semesters immediately following the qualifying exam.

What is the required word count for the Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Writing Sample? 

We do not have a maximum word count for the Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement. However, 1,000 words is a common maximum among applicants.

Writing samples vary in length and quantity, depending on a student’s interests and background. One or two essays of any length are acceptable. Please do not exceed 15,000 words, if possible. Published work is acceptable. There is flexibility so that you are able to decide what you believe shows your best work.

Do you offer funding packages for the PhD program? 

We offer five-years of funding for our graduate students who are admitted, which includes stipend and tuition/fees. The funding packages for each student may differ, but each is made up of fellowships, stipends, and Graduate Student Instructor positions.

Do I need to provide English Proficiency Tests if I am an applicant from abroad? 

To learn more about these language tests and English proficiency requirements for admissions to UC-Berkeley, please see here.

According to the Graduate Admissions Page for UC Berkeley: “There are two standardized tests you may take: the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).”

I have questions about Letters of Recommendation and how to have them sent? 

Letters of Recommendation can be sent through the dossier service Interfolio. If you would like to learn more about letters of recommendation FAQ, please see this page. Also, letters of recommendation are due the same day as the student’s application.

Where can I find out more information about the general admissions requirements for UC-Berkeley in general? 

The UC-Berkeley Graduate Admissions webpage is a great resource, please see here for steps to apply. For more frequently asked questions, you can find information here.

Who can answer my questions about the application and the admissions process, financial support, etc.? 

Please contact

Who can answer my questions about academics? 

You may contact the Faculty Head Graduate Student Adviser for the Department of Rhetoric: Professor Marianne Constable (Fall 2023: August-December) and Professor Ramona Naddaff (Spring 2024: January-May).

How can I contact Rhetoric faculty members? 

The profiles, research interests, and contact information of our faculty are available on this website. We invite you to study their biographies and descriptions of current research, and to contact by email those whose interests are closest to yours, should you have specific questions.

Do I need to be admitted by a faculty mentor before I can be admitted to the program? 

No. Applications are reviewed by our admissions committee faculty and the admission process is holistic and reviewed by the entire committee, not one single faculty member.

Can I visit a graduate seminar? 

Visits to classes are at the discretion of the instructor; prospective guests may contact a professor directly about the possibility of visiting his or her course. Our course schedule is posted on the department website, and is available through the U.C. Berkeley campus’s online schedule of classes.

Can I speak with current students in the program? 

The profiles and research interests of our current graduate students are posted on our department website, along with their contact information.


Does the Department of Rhetoric at UC Berkeley offer a MA program? 

No, the Rhetoric Department does not offer a MA program.

Is a MA degree required as a prerequisite to the Rhetoric PhD program? 

No, only a BA or its equivalent is required. The Department of Rhetoric admits many students with merely the BA degree. Others may have a MFA or a MA, in addition to the BA. Rhetoric graduate students begin their studies at the same point, regardless of prior graduate experience.

I have a MA or similar degree. Can it be credited toward the completion of Rhetoric’s PhD program? 

No, it cannot. The Rhetoric PhD program advances students to candidacy for the PhD degree through a course of study designed to prepare them to write a dissertation in Rhetoric. Other MA degree programs, even ones in rhetoric departments, cannot replicate this unique preparation.

Does Rhetoric support a dual JD/PhD program, with Berkeley Law? 

Students at Berkeley Law can undertake a concurrent JD with various kinds of Masters degrees, but not a concurrent JD/PHD unless it is with JSP.

Are there Designated Emphasis available? 

Rhetoric PhDs typically participate in the following DE programs: Critical TheoryFilm StudiesWomen, Gender & SexualityFolklore, and Early Modern Studies.


Is there a foreign language requirement? 

Candidates for the PhD are required to demonstrate advanced competence in one foreign language by the end of Year 3. Click here for details on foreign language requirements. Intermediate competence in at least one foreign language is advised for new applicants to the program.

Do you encourage students to take courses in departments outside of the Rhetoric Department? 

Seminar experiences outside of the department are essential to the Rhetoric doctoral program at Berkeley. While the first year is largely devoted to Rhetoric program requirements in Ancient and Contemporary Rhetoric (200 and 205) and four other seminars in Rhetoric, the rest of a student’s coursework is carefully selected from an array of courses offered on the Berkeley campus.

Can I pursue a doctorate while living outside of the San Francisco Bay Area? 

Because students take courses on campus for the first three years and teach regularly in the program, it is not possible to pursue our doctoral program on a commuter basis. In the summers and in the fourth or fifth years, students whose research requires national or international travel are certainly allowed to relocate for an appropriate period of time.