Degree Requirements

NB: Requirements change over time. The overview below reflects the most recent requirements. Current students should consult the Guide for Graduate Students of Philosophy for the year of their admission to find the requirements applying to them. Prospective students may consult the most recent version of the Guide for fuller information about the current requirements outlined below and a detailed timetable of study.

Students may enter the Ph.D. program directly from their undergraduate studies or after completing an M.A. Students entering without an M.A. are awarded the M.A. degree along the way to the Ph.D. when those requirements are successfully completed (see below). The program is designed to be completed in 5 years.

The following is an overview of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in philosophy:

I. Course Requirements for students entering with a B.A. degree:

Credit requirement: Students must accumulate a minimum of 45 course credits in philosophy with satisfactory grades; normally this is equivalent to 15 graduate courses. At least 21 of the 45 credits must be for courses at the 700 level. At least 27 of these credits must be earned while in residence.

Distribution requirement: Students are required to pass the following courses:

Logic Requirement: PHI 611 
Ethics Requirement: PHI 631 or 634 
Two courses from the Epistemology and Metaphysics Group: PHI 640-649
One course from the History Group: PHI 660-684

Research requirement: Students are required to enroll in and complete 15 credits of PHI 830 or PHI 840 (Doctoral Dissertation Research).

II. The Qualifying Examination 

Each Ph.D. student must pass a qualifying examination on a general area of philosophy close to the student’s proposed dissertation topic or intended area of specialization, for example, epistemology, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, or ethics and political philosophy. (The area need not be confined to a single traditional sub-discipline, however; where a student’s intended specialization overlaps with more than one traditionally-defined area, the qualifier may be designed around relevant material from each area.) After declaring their area of specialization during their fifth semester, students are given a reading list of core texts in the area, chosen for each student individually. 

During the student's sixth semester, the student studies the material on the reading list, writes a paper of around 8,000 words on a topic central to this material, writes a dissertation proposal of around 2,000 words, and participates in an oral defense of the paper and the proposal as they relate to the reading list. The qualifying examination requirement is designed to measure the student's philosophical skills and sophistication, knowledge of the main issues and literature in the area of specialization, and preparation and overall ability to write a good dissertation in that area.

Qualifying exams are given the grade of either 0 (fail), 1 (M.A. level pass, Ph.D. level fail), or 2 (Ph.D. level pass). A student must receive a grade of 2 in order to proceed to the dissertation stage.

III. The Proposal and Dissertation

Students who have finished their course requirements and passed the qualifying exam (with a grade of 2) proceed to work on a dissertation proposal in consultation with faculty members. They then submit the proposal to their dissertation committee for formal approval. Once they have passed the proposal, they may go on to write the dissertation. The dissertation must be passed by the committee and defended orally.

IV. The Language Requirement (may be waived)

The language requirement is designed to ensure that students have the tools they need to conduct research in their area of choice. Thus a student who submits a dissertation proposal must possess the foreign language proficiency (if any) required by the proposed dissertation topic, as determined by the dissertation committee.

V. Requirements of the Graduate School

Students must also satisfy the requirements of the Graduate School as stated in the Graduate School Bulletin.

The following is an overview of the requirements for the M.A. degree in Philosophy (for Ph.D. students):

The requirements for the Master of Arts degree are fulfilled by completing all of the coursework requirements above and passing the qualifying examination with a grade of either 1 or 2. Students who achieve a grade of 2 on the qualifying examination are awarded the M.A. along the way to earning their Ph.D. Students who achieve a grade of 1 are awarded a terminal M.A. Students must also satisfy the requirements of the Graduate School as stated in the Graduate School Bulletin.