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Do I have the academic pedigree to apply for Ph. D in either Ancient Near Eastern Studies or Assyriology?


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I know ANE/Assyriology/Hebrew bible is technically not classics, but there is no ANE option so this is the closest category I could find.

So I did not decide I wanted to research the ancient world until my third year of my undergrad. Moreover, while my undergrad college was a large, state university, it did not offer a single class in ancient languages. As a result, I am currently in what I consider for myself a "stepping stone" MA at a seminary where I will finish with roughly 5-6 semesters in classical Hebrew and 2 semesters in New Testament Greek. Along with this, I have a History BA, with 4 semesters of German. According to almost all of the ANE studies/history programs, I meet the limited requirements. So I am asking any of you who have been in or are currently enrolled in graduate ANE programs: is this enough?

Here's a quick break down:

3 years equivalency in classical Hebrew

1 year equivalency in NT Greek

2 year equivalency in German

4 year (high school level experience) in Spanish

HIstory BA 3.72 GPA 3.98 Major GPA

Bible MA (one year left)

Letters or Rec from OT scholars and historian

Above average GRE score

Thanks for reading and please be honest!


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  • 1 month later...

Hi there! 

I'm not an ANE student, but hopefully, I can help guide you to what might help you. (Also, have you tried asking this in the general history thread? There might be some historians there that might be helpful for this!) 

I think that you're set on the languages front, but you might want to see if you can do anything to bolster the "general education" part of it. Have you looked to see what different undergraduate programs require and compared it to what you have completed for your undergraduate? For example, UCLA requires their Ancient Near East and Egyptology majors to take general coursework for Ancient Near East Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, and Near Eastern Languages and then required courses in these areas: Archaeology and Art, History, Languages, Literature, and Religion (https://nelc.ucla.edu/ancient-egyptology/undergraduate/). If you find a graduate school where you seek the Ph.D., see what they require for their undergraduate program (if they have one) and see where the gaps are in your studying. One of the things I mentioned when I applied to Villanova is that while I was out of Classics for three years, I kept up with learning about it through MOOCs. And, luckily, there's a lot of different colleges and universities that offer online or distance learning options if you need to fill in gaps. For example, Oxford University offers undergraduate online courses in Ancient Egypt (https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/ancient-egypt-an-introduction-online), Mesopotamia (https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/the-first-civilization-mesopotamia-online), and Biblical Archaeology (https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/archaeology-of-the-bible-lands-online). What does your "cultural" or "civilization" coursework look like from your BA and MA? If you're missing a few things, filling in the gaps might help. 

However, having said that, I would go to the universities that you are most likely to apply for a Ph.D. and send an e-mail to the head of the ANE program with your inquiries. Sometimes they do give some advice on what would make you a competitive candidate. The worst I think will happen is you might have to take some undergraduate coursework or survey history courses about the Ancient Near East before you can apply and be competitive. I would weigh your options of trying to apply before you have filled in all the gaps. Also, you might find that volunteering or interning in a museum with a relevant collection might help you stand out a little bit as well. You could send out feelers to see if there are any museums/galleries that might be looking for people near you. I feel like if you were going specifically for Biblical or Judaic studies for a Ph.D., you might be alright, but again, I think you might want to see if there are ways for you to be able to fill the gaps with self-study or formal continuing education before applying. 

Again, I'm not an ANE student, but I did have a similar dilemma to you with Classics because I came late to the game, too. Going to my MA program before I tackled a Ph.D. was probably what was best for me because I got a lot more focused coursework. I will probably go after a Post-Bacc in the languages, too, to refresh myself before I apply for the Ph.D. in Classics because I know it's my weakness, on top of my rusty French and non-existent knowledge of German.     

You have a good GPA and decent GRE scores, so what I would think would be best is trying to find ways to get relevant research or practical work under your belt if you've filled the gaps or the professors in charge of the Ph.D. programs you're aiming for say that your coursework is satisfactory. 


Let me know if you need me to clarify anything! I hope this helped :3

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  • 1 month later...

Hi JonCL - I'm a recent masters-level graduate from a NELC program. My impression is that your Hebrew language training is fine for ANE, and your Greek is adequate background as one of the languages you'll do a reading proficiency test in but it's not enough to propose a research project involving Greek/NT. One of my deans from a previous institution told me that they accept students into their Arabic PhD with as little as two years of Arabic. (Small pet peeve -- when you say "3 years equivalency" it makes it sound to me like you're including intensives but trying to "hide" the fact for some reason. Just say exactly what you did. Also, your grades will matter a lot because of the intensives.)

You should remember that you'll be competing with native Hebrew speakers and Jewish students who grew up reading Hebrew as children, so your application is going to have to speak powerfully to your strengths and to what makes you the very best candidate out of a pool of extremely well-qualified candidates. The fact that my previous T10 accepts PhD students with 2 years of language training underscores the fact that this is not the most important aspect of the application, adequate language prep is only the basic prerequisite to apply.

What exactly are you wanting to study? I'm a bit puzzled by the Assyriology Dept inclusion, since you don't mention any previous studies in that area. Based on your stats I would suggest that your best chance at admission is to focus on some aspect of ancient Jewish history.

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