Facts and Figures About U.S. Philosophy Departments

Humanities Indicators, a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences that gathers information about the humanities in the United States, has released a report that includes a variety of details about philosophy departments.

The report focuses on data regarding the humanities in 2017. Besides philosophy, the report also covers art history, English, history, history of science, languages and literatures other than English, linguistics, anthropology, religion, folklore, musicology, classical studies, communication, American studies, race and ethnic studies, and women and gender studies.

Below are some of the report’s findings for philosophy, which were shared with my by Robert Townsend, director of the Washington Office of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.


  • Among philosophy departments that were granting degrees in 2012, total enrollment in undergraduate courses was 492,300 in fall 2017 (with an average enrollment of 654.7 per department).
  • On average, philosophy departments awarded nine bachelor’s degrees per department in the 2016–17 academic year (a statistically significant decrease from 2012). Students also completed an average of 8.9 minors per department.
  • Total enrollment in graduate-level philosophy courses was 24,970 in fall 2017 (with an average enrollment of 33.2 students per department). The average number of students pursuing an advanced degree in philosophy was 54 per department that granted such degrees.


  • Philosophy departments employed 6,735 full- and part-time faculty members in fall 2017—the 5th highest among the disciplines surveyed, with an average of nine faculty members per department. (For some comparisons, there were 24,060 English faculty, 15,640 history faculty, 5,090 anthropology faculty, 4,630 religion faculty, and 2,005 classics faculty).
  • 68% of philosophy faculty were either tenured or on the tenure track, compared to 62% for all disciplines surveyed. 
  • 17% of philosophy departments hired a new permanent faculty member for the start of the 2017–18 academic year (the smallest share found among the disciplines included in the survey)
  • 27% of the departments had a faculty member come up for tenure in the previous two years (also a comparatively small share).
  • Women constituted 27% of the faculty members in philosophy departments in fall 2017, the smallest share among the disciplines included in the survey. 25% of tenured faculty members were women, compared to 48% of faculty members on the tenure track and 15% of those off the tenure track.
  • While 90% of philosophy departments provided research support for their full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members and 66% offered such support for full-time nontenured or non-tenure-track faculty, only 24% offered such support for part-time faculty.

Supporting Student Careers:

  • 43% of philosophy departments rated the career services programs at their college or university “good” or “very good” for their students, while 11% rated the services “poor” or “very poor.”
  • A relatively small share—about 10%—of philosophy departments had a professional program (such as teacher credentialing). (The average for all disciplines in the survey combined was 24%.) Philosophy, however, had a relatively large percentage of departments with faculty teaching courses in a professional school at their institution (17%, compared to 12% across all disciplines in the survey).

Digital Humanities / Online Instruction:

  • A comparatively small share of philosophy departments, 11%, had one or more faculty members specializing in the digital humanities. The survey found a smaller share only among combined English/LLE departments.
  • In the 2016–17 academic year, 37% of philosophy departments offered fully online courses, while 14% offered hybrid courses. Departments offered an average of 4.1 fully online courses and 0.5 hybrid courses (each average was calculated over the number of departments offering a course of that kind).

You can view the whole report here and the philosophy-specific report here.

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4 years ago

Which universities have the largest departments? In terms of number of students or faculty.