Updated Degree Programs

Scott Mitchell  |  June 13, 2016

The Institute of Buddhist Studies is pleased to announce an update to its degree programs which will better meet the needs of our students and their educational goals.

In addition to the jointly offered GTU Master of Arts degree, the IBS independently offers two graduate-level degrees:

More information on the GTU MA program can be found here.

The Master of Buddhist Studies degree is designed for those seeking a systematic education in Buddhist Studies for professional, academic, or personal purposes. Students in the program complete a breadth of courses which provide a basis for an understanding of the doctrinal, historical and cultural development of the Buddhist tradition as a whole.

This program was designed in part to prepare students for further academic work at the doctoral level or for continuing education purposes. This is a 48-unit degree designed to be completed in two years of full-time study.

Students in the MBS program will:

  • Develop substantive knowledge of Buddhist history, thought, texts, and practices
  • Demonstrate analytical skills through specialist and comparative work
  • Assess multiple theories and methods of Buddhist Studies
  • Develop critical thinking, writing, and research skills


The Master of Divinity degree is a three-year professional degree which prepares students to engage fully and with confidence in ministry, chaplaincy, and related professions as well as further academic work. Diversity and dialogue are an essential part of the program and support its aim — to develop skilled, thoughtful and effective leaders grounded in the Buddhist tradition, able to think critically and respond constructively to the needs of a changing world.

This program was designed to best support those interested in careers in ministry or chaplaincy, and specialized tracks of study have been developed to guide students through the program. This is a 72-unit degree program which meets the requirements for both the Association of Professional Chaplains and Nishi Hongwanji educational standards.

The goals of IBS’s Master of Divinity program are to provide all students with:

  • Foundational knowledge of Buddhist history, literature, thought, practice, and ethics as the basis for effective ministry, chaplaincy, or religious leadership both in and out of Buddhist sanghas
  • Structured and critical exploration of one’s own Buddhist tradition as a basis for ministerial formation and the development of facilities to provide pastoral care
  • Engagement with one’s tradition within a multi-religious, multi-cultural, and multi-Buddhist context to support an engagement with diverse communities
  • Opportunities to develop research and communication skills through writing, public speaking, and dharma talks to effectively communicate Buddhist thought

Please visit our website for more information on these degree programs, and contact our office with any questions or to learn more about the application process and requirements.

About the IBS

Providing Buddhist education in Berkeley since 1949, and incorporated as a graduate school and seminary in 1966, the Institute of Buddhist Studies offers a range of graduate-level degree and certificate programs in the entirety of the Buddhist tradition.

At the intersection of the Buddhist scholar-practitioner tradition and the Western academic tradition, our programs provide students with a foundation in Buddhism’s diverse history in Asia and the contemporary world while allowing for individual specialization and focus.

Our graduates go on to doctoral study at universities across the country, ordain as Buddhist priests or monastics, and serve as chaplains in hospitals, prisons, and the military. This diverse student body and approach to Buddhist education is unique in North America, preparing students to be thoughtful and creative leaders in a complex and changing world.

Our Mission: To provide graduate level education in the full breadth of the Buddhist tradition with specialized education supporting Pure Land and contemporary Shin Buddhist Studies and advancing Jodo Shinshu Buddhist ministry.