Looking for information about our academic degree or certificate programs?

Overviews of our degree and certificate programs can be found on our website with links to program details, and application and graduation requirements.

Looking to learn more about our chaplaincy program?

Click here for an overview of Buddhist chaplaincy education at the Institute, and follow the links for more information about how to complete the program within any of our degree programs.

Looking for more information about becoming a Buddhist minister?

Training Jodo Shinshu ministers has been a core value for us since our foundation more than sixty years ago. Click here to learn more about our programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Note: The GTU common-MA Program FAQ can be found here.

Q: What is the difference between the GTU Common M.A. and the Master of Divinity (MDiv) or Masters of Buddhist Studies (MBS)?
A: The GTU Common MA is primarily a research-focused, academically oriented degree designed to provide a breadth of knowledge for the advanced study of religion and theology that incorporates an ecumenical design. It is a two-year program that requires certification in a modern foreign language and the writing of a thesis. Most people who pursue this degree would like to teach, research and write. The GTU common-MA is also excellent preparation for doctoral-level work, and the GTU has a Buddhist Studies Ph.D. program.

The Master of Buddhist Studies is also primarily a research-focused, academically oriented degree designed to provide a breath of knowledge in the field of Buddhist studies. Whereas study takes place within an inter-religious and intra-Buddhist environment, the program is explicitly focused on the study of Buddhism. It is a two-year program that requires the writing of thesis. Most people who pursue this degree would like to teach, research, and write. The MBS program is also an ex excellent preparation for further doctoral-level work in the field of Buddhist Studies.

The Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree is a professional graduate-level degree program designed to prepare persons for lay and ordained ministries, Buddhist chaplaincy, pastoral work, or other religious leadership roles. Each member seminary offers the MDiv degree designed in accordance with the denominational affiliation of that school. It is a three-year program that culminates in a research-based thesis or final project. Most people who pursue this degree would like to become Buddhist priests or ministers, chaplains, teachers, or other serve as religious leaders in other contexts.

Q: How do I apply to one of your degree or certificate programs?
A: Click here for application materials or visit the GTU for more details on the common-MA program.

Q: What are the admissions deadlines?
A: The application deadline for the fall semester if February 1. For the spring semester it is September 30.

Q: Do you offer an online degree program?
A: No. Unfortunately, at this time, the IBS/GTU cannot offer an online degree program. Students are able to take a number of courses online, but regular degree program students should expect to be in residence in Berkeley or the San Francisco Bay Area to complete their degree.

Q: Is housing available?
A: Limited housing in our dorm is available. Please contact our offices for more information.

Q: I don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Can I still apply for admission or take a course?
A: A bachelor’s degree is required for admission into all of our degree programs. Please review this page for general admissions information as well as detailed requirements for specific degree or certificate programs.

Non-degree students and auditors do not need a bachelor’s degree. However, please keep in mind that our courses are designed as part of a graduate level-educational program, and we do expect all students to be able to participate in our classes at that level.

Q: Can I take a course without enrolling in a degree program?
A: Yes. You may apply for Special Student status which allows you to audit a course or take it for credit. Auditors are also welcome; in most cases, however, no record of enrollment will be kept for auditors.

Q: Is the GRE required?
A: Yes, GRE scores from within the last five years are required for admission to our degree programs.

Q: Is financial aid available?
A: Yes. Federal student loans, work-study and are available only for GTU Common MA students and on the basis of financial need. You must apply by the February 1 deadline to receive priority consideration for most financial aid, and you should complete both a FAFSA and the IBS Financial Aid Application.

A number of non-need based scholarships are given each year to students. Visit our Financial Aid page for more information.

Q: English is not my first language. Can I still attend the IBS?
A: For GTU MA students, international students applying from a country in which English is not the official language must submit a TOEFL score from within the last two years. Applicants to the M.A. program are expected to have a TOEFL score of at least 80 (internet) 213 (computer) or 550 (paper).

Please visit the the GTU website for more information on international student enrollment.

Q: Do I need to be fluent in a second language before entering your program?
A: No. Language requirements can be fulfilled during your time at the IBS; however, prior language study is always helpful when beginning a graduate program.


Q: How much does the IBS cost?
A: IBS tuition is set by the GTU. Click here for our most current tuition and fees schedule.