PHI BETA KAPPA (PBK), founded in 1776, is the oldest and most respected academic honors society in the United States. Its main purpose is to recognize students who have achieved distinction in the liberal arts and sciences. Only about 1% of U.S. college and university graduates are invited into membership. The UCR IOTA Chapter is the third chapter in the UC system, established in 1964.

Joining PBK

Students cannot apply to join PBK.  A PBK Faculty Selection Committee reviews all eligible candidates with a minimum 3.85 GPA each winter quarter.  Selected candidates are invited to join PBK in spring quarter.


None! In recognition of earning this honor the Division of Undergraduate Education and the Honors Program will pay for you your lifetime membership.

Criteria For Membership

In addition to academic excellence, PBK requires elected members to have completed ambitious programs in the liberal arts and sciences. Here is a summary of the current stipulations for eligibility established by the National Phi Beta Kappa Society. 

  • Stipulation 1 (120 Units of Liberal Arts and Sciences Coursework)

    Phi Beta Kappa honors achievement in the liberal arts and sciences. According to the national PBK stipulations, “The liberal arts and sciences encompass the traditional disciplines of the natural sciences, mathematics, social sciences, and humanities. Select courses in other programs of study may be included only if they unambiguously embody the liberal arts and sciences.”

    • The PBK standards also say that “applied or pre-professional coursework” shall not be considered in determining eligibility. (Examples of applied and pre-professional courses are in the areas of management, accounting, and law.
    • To be eligible for Phi Beta Kappa, a UCR student must have taken 120 units of liberal arts and sciences courses; that is, at least two-thirds of the 180 units that UCR requires for graduation. Successful PBK candidates will often have taken some courses outside the liberal arts and sciences, but the grades in these courses cannot count toward Phi Beta Kappa, and the courses themselves cannot exceed one-quarter of the units that the student offers for graduation.
  • Stipulation 2 (Ambitious Course Combinations in the Liberal Arts and Sciences)

    The strongest Phi Beta Kappa members have earned outstanding grades in ambitious courses that come from different branches of the liberal arts and sciences. Here are some examples of obvious elects to Phi Beta Kappa:

    • A student who combined advanced music with advanced mathematics courses.
    • A student who took advanced French as well as advanced philosophy courses.
    • A student who combined advanced chemistry with advanced history courses
    • A student who took both advanced Chinese and advanced biophysics courses.

    As required by the national stipulations, the UCR Council pays particular attention to courses a candidate has taken outside his or her major and how advanced these courses were.

  • Stipulation 3 (Intermediate Second Language)

    Phi Beta Kappa continues to place emphasis on language study as indispensable to the type of liberal education the Society honors and encourages. Specifically, elected candidates must have taken at least one course at the intermediate level or above in a second language. The National Society’s stipulation reads as follows: “Candidates shall have demonstrated, by successful work in high school or college, or in the two together, a knowledge of a second or non-native language at least minimally appropriate for a liberal education. In no case shall this mean less than the completion of the intermediate college level in a second, or non-native, language, or its equivalent.” If your transcript does not indicate intermediate competency in a second language, but you possess it, you can meet this requirement through a language evaluation.  Contact us for more details.

  • Stipulation 4 (At Least One Course in Mathematics, Logic, or Statistics)

    This stipulation provides as follows: “The candidate’s undergraduate record shall include at least one course in college-level mathematics, logic, or statistics, with content appropriate to a liberal arts and sciences curriculum. The course should introduce the student to mathematical ideas, abstract thinking, proofs, and the axiomatic method.”

If you are invited to join PBK, do not pass up the opportunity to have your academic achievements recognized.


Why Join PBK?

Phi Beta Kappa distinguishes you as an academic who loves to learn.  You will join a lifetime network of 500,00 other members around the nation who are business, technology, and government leaders, distinguished scientists, and change makers.

Your distinguished academic record will earn you an invitation to join PBK.  Do not miss the opportunity when the invitations are sent in spring quarter.

Further information about the history and purpose of the organization can be found on the National Phi Beta Kappa Society homepage.

For questions, contact Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Engaged Learning or PBK President, Dr. Carl Cranor.