Master’s Programs in Philosophy


According to the American Philosophical Association (APA), there are 127 graduate programs in philosophy that offer a terminal Master’s degree. However, it isn’t easy to find out much about them.

This page will tell you which MA programs offer funding for students, but there are other questions one might have about them, such as:

  1. Are there unfunded MA programs in philosophy worth considering, and why?
  2. Which MA programs have particularly good philosophy PhD program placement?
  3. Which MA programs have particularly good non-academic placement?
  4. Which MA programs have distinctive programs tailored to particular interests in philosophy, or particular non-academic activities or careers?
  5. Are there joint degree programs that include an MA in philosophy?
  6. To what extent do PhD program rankings apply to MA programs (given that MA students may take less coursework, and conduct less independent research)?

Faculty in philosophy programs that offer terminal MA degrees are encouraged to share information about their programs, and others in the know are welcome to share their experiences and thoughts.

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Chris Yeomans
7 months ago

Purdue has a unique MA program for non-native speakers of English which combines high-level and discipline-specific ESL classes with our normal graduate seminars. It is unfunded but we are cutting the cost as we enroll more students. https://cla.purdue.edu/academic/philosophy/students/graduate/ma-program/ma-program-about.htmlReport

Dallas H
7 months ago

I am currently finishing my last semester at Northern Illinois University’s terminal MA program, so I can at least share my thoughts pertaining to question (2).
NIU seems to have a strong PhD placement record compared to other terminal MA programs. To my knowledge, the majority of NIU students that apply to PhD programs end up being accepted, many of whom end up at very good schools. While fewer students have applied to PhD programs in the last two years due to the pandemic, I don’t expect the placement record to change all that much from the last 10 years. I believe the reason for a relatively high placement record into strong PhD programs is due to the faculty and student culture. The faculty are often very accessible to MA students and are extremely helpful regarding coursework, advice about careers in academic philosophy, and training in philosophy writing. The student culture, at least during the last two years, has been extremely supportive and collaborative. Students are frequently eager to share ideas and help each other out. Since we were back on campus this academic year, we started a student workshop every week to get helpful feedback from our peers. It’s also worth noting that DeKalb doesn’t offer much distraction from one’s studies as it is a small college town in rural Illinois; this typically contributes to good study habits.
NIU’s philosophy department also offers TAships to ~30% of a cohort depending on size. With that said, other students can secure TAships in other departments or the student writing center if they are willing to work in other areas. But even if a student does not receive any TAship, both tuition and cost of living are extremely inexpensive. If rooming with other students, one could probably live near campus for ~$12k/yr (maybe even less) which can be covered by a part-time job, full-time summer job, savings, or a small student loan.
NIU placement record: https://www.niu.edu/clas/phil/graduate/placement.shtml
DeKalb cost of living: https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/city/illinois/dekalbReport

NIU MA Alum
NIU MA Alum
Reply to  Dallas H
7 months ago

Just want to second this – I did my Master’s at NIU, received full funding plus a generous stipend, and ended up in a high-ranked PhD program. NIU is one of the top three or so in placement into PhD programs (based on the research I did when I applied and my observations since), and of those, NIU has the most generous funding and the lowest cost of living. The faculty are all engaged researchers from well-regarded places who make themselves very available to their students. Can’t say enough good things about NIU!Report

Ken Shockley
7 months ago

Colorado State offers six or seven two-year Graduate Teaching Assistantship packages to each incoming class; almost all accepted students are funded. Graduate Teaching Assistants receive a full tuition waiver, health insurance, and an annual stipend (for 2021-2022, $15660, with modest annual increases expected). While the department has traditional and developing strengths in applied ethics and global philosophy, the MA program is not specialized and students have completed theses on a wide range of philosophical topics. Recent graduates of our program have been accepted into philosophy PhD programs at Arizona, Arizona State, Central European University, U. Cincinnati, Denver (Iliff School of Theology), Ghent University, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Miami, Nebraska, and Tennessee, and Wisconsin.  
https://philosophy.colostate.edu/graduate-program/Report

Alastair Norcross
7 months ago

The University of Colorado Boulder Philosophy department doesn’t have a policy guaranteeing funding for MA students, but almost all our MA students do receive some semesters of TA funding (which includes full tuition and a stipend that is considerably higher, adjusting for inflation, than what I got as a Ph.D student). Some of our MA students are funded for their whole course, and some receive admission offers with funding guarantees for one or two years (two years is the expected time to completion of the MA, but some students take a bit longer).Report

HK Andersen
HK Andersen
7 months ago

Simon Fraser University has a funded MA program. WE often gets students from non-North American schools, and we are a great place to make the transition to North American Philosophy. We also get students who are moving into philosophy from a different field, or who have been out of school for some time. Our PhD placement is effective, and we also prioritize helping students make fully informed decisions about whether continuing in academic philosophy is a good fit for them. Sometimes students are great at it and decide that this is not where they want to spend their time, and it can be helpful to have a supportive program to make that choice without pressure one way or the other. We are an MA-only program, which means grads get a great deal of focused faculty attention on cultivating their professional paper (which is often also a writing sample for PhD programs).Report

Jack Justus
7 months ago

We developed a terminal MA program about a half decade ago. There is some variability, but we typically admit around five MA students per year, all of which are funded with teaching assistantships that include a tuition waiver, health insurance, and an annual stipend that is quite competitive with peer programs. The department has strengths in ethics, philosophy of action, and philosophy of science (esp. psychology and biology), but our MA program is designed to expose students to a wide range of philosophical topics and prepare them for dissertation work. (We did, however, recently start an MA in philosophy of science with a slightly more tailored focus.) Speaking from experience, there is no hierarchical categorization of MA vs. PhD students, something the department takes very seriously. MA students take the same course load as PhD students. Recent graduates of the MA program have been accepted into philosophy PhD programs at the University of Connecticut, Miami, Notre Dame, UCSD, Indiana University, Georgetown, and FSU among others. For more information, see: https://philosophy.fsu.edu/graduate-studyReport

HK Andersen
HK Andersen
7 months ago

A note about point 6 in the original post: I think that the PhD rankings diverge, often strongly, from MA education quality. In programs that have both a PhD and an MA program, there is a realy tendency to treat the MA program as a kind of testing ground for students, about whether the department wants to admit them as PhD students. But this is counter-productive to a good MA education. Often the joint MA/PhD programs don’t have placement practices or offer help to MA students who want to apply to other PhD programs as they near the end of their MA studies. And often the PhD students receive a disproprotionate amount of faculty attention, because they are there longer and have a chance to cultivate more relationships with faculty. This can leave the MA students out in the cold in terms of getting supervision, informal mentoring, etc. So what makes for a good MA program, like a chance to get supervision on a focused piece of writing, or help with applying to PhD programs, is often in direct tension with the conditions at the joint MA/PhD programs.Report

Nick Laskowski
7 months ago

California State University, Long Beach has a thriving Philosophy MA program, due in large part to the tireless work of our DGS over the last decade, Cory Wright. We have a history of solid placement. Our recent placement has been excellent. Don’t take my word for it:

https://cla.csulb.edu/departments/philosophy/graduate_placement/Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
7 months ago

I completed the terminal M.A. program in philosophy at Texas A&M University in 2008. It was funded at the time, with a teaching stipend that allowed one to live comfortably in the Bryan/College Station area. It was a great experience, for both professional and social reasons. The expertise of the faculty covered a range of topics across analytic, continental, and pragmatist-inflected American philosophy, and in the history of philosophy. Looking over their website, I’d say that remains the case today. The ability to study across philosophical traditions is one of the things I appreciate most about my time at A&M.

The faculty also encouraged interdisciplinary work, with at least one thesis committee member needing to come from outside the department. At the time, you could also take graduate courses in international affairs. Bryan/College Station is a friendly community, with lots to do in and around the area, while Austin and Houston are each only 2 hours away, and the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is closer to 3. Be sure to go to one of the football games. Gig ’em Aggs!Report

Last edited 7 months ago by Preston Stovall
Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Preston Stovall
7 months ago

Unfortunately, the university administration cut funding to all Masters programs at the university five or six years ago. The department is now only willing to consider applications from students that have an outside guaranteed funding source (so far, this has mainly been military officers with a commitment to teach military ethics at West Point, with the US Army willing to pay their tuition and fees for the MA, but there have been a few serious applicants with other funding sources as well).Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
7 months ago

That is indeed unfortunate, Kenny. As a funded program, the M.A. at A&M helped students make the transition to PhD programs. It was certainly beneficial in my case, and I can’t imagine my work or sensibility not having been influenced by the interests and styles of the faculty at A&M. I’m sure that kind of thing is still going on at the level of Ph.D. study, while some people will be lucky enough to get outside funding. And it’s good to know that military personnel are still associated with the program. But the funded M.A. played a special role in the ecosystem of academic philosophy. As someone who benefitted from that role, I’m sad to hear about its loss.Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
7 months ago

Here in the Czech Republic, we’ve just started a two-year English-language M.A. program at the University of Hradec Králové, two hours east of Prague by train. Our faculty is small, but we’re working on some high-profile grant projects, and we’re building up a network of connections in central Europe and North America. In terms of teaching and research, we’re particularly strong in the scientifically informed philosophy of mind — including cognitive science and animal cognition — the philosophy of language, and philosophical logic (particularly in the proof-theoretic tradition).

While not guaranteed, we generally offer fellowships that effectively make the study free, and I’m working on getting them to offer a stipend as well. Not being on the Euro, the cost of living in the Czech Republic, and Hradec in particular, is very cheap by U.S. standards, while the ability to travel across Europe is an added benefit of the location. And Czechia is a lovely country, having carved out a charming way of life in the center of central Europe.Report

Nickolas Pappas
7 months ago

I’m writing from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, where I’m the department head of Philosophy, to describe our MA.

The Graduate Center’s MA in Philosophy is designed for several kinds of students: for those who wish to prepare for admission to a PhD program in philosophy; for those who pursue interdisciplinary studies; for those seeking certification to teach philosophy at the community college or secondary school level; and for students who wish to pursue philosophy beyond the undergraduate level for their own personal satisfaction.

Each year’s cohort is made up of around 14-16 students. 

Financial support–such as grants and research positions–is offered only in a few cases each year, but CUNY’s tuition is extremely low compared to its peer institutions. Some students pursue the MA part-time while holding full-time jobs. Several of our recent MAs have been admitted to very good PhD Programs, including some who have been offered spots in the Graduate Center’s own PhD Program. 

In addition to the standard master’s degree, the Philosophy Program offers an Advanced Certificate in Philosophy of Art to its PhD and MA students, exploiting the substantial research profile in aesthetics enjoyed by the GC. Students pursuing this Certificate en route to completing their MA take four Philosophy courses in philosophy of art and two courses in an arts program (e.g. Music, Theatre, Art History). Students can complete the Certificate within the normal time of completion for the standard MA.

For more information see the GC website, or contact Jonathan Gilmore ([email protected]), the Director of MA Studies for Philosophy.
 https://www.gc.cuny.edu/philosophy  Report

Tim O'Keefe
7 months ago

Georgia State University offers funding to all graduate students it admits, with a full waiver of tuition. (Students still owe fees, about $650 per semester.) All students are expected to teach their own classes in their second year. Most teach Critical Thinking, but a fair number teach either Introduction to Philosophy or Introduction to Ethics. We have an extensive program to prepare graduate students to become excellent teachers.

Students can pursue a variety of interests, but we have 3 areas of research strength: social and political philosophy, philosophy of mind, and history of philosophy, esp. ancient philosophy and Kant and post-Kantian German philosophy. We have excellent retention, progression and graduation, with a graduation rate of over 90% for every cohort since 2015. (See https://philosophy.gsu.edu/retention-graduation/ .) More information about our program is available at https://philosophy.gsu.edu/academics/graduate/ .Report

Anca Gheaus
7 months ago

The Central European University in Vienna has a 2 year MA program in the Philosophy – as well a one year MA in Philosophy! – which, as far as I can tell, is excellent and has good PhD placements. (I’m working in Pol Sci myself, but tend to teach MA students from Philosophy as well.) It also has funding schemes benefitting most students.
https://philosophy.ceu.edu/masters-philosophyReport

Bill Bristow
7 months ago

UW Milwaukee enrolls 8-10 students each year into its 2-year terminal Master’s program, approximately 25% of whom are international students. All of the students are funded. All enrolled students receive a tuition remission and a TA ship (most, at $9100/year) or an internal fellowship (a few each year, at $15000/year). (The university’s “segregated fees” are about $750/ semester, but in recent years we have been able to cover those for all first-years with a department fellowship). Our program is generalist in orientation. Our placement record is strong. In the last couple of years, students have entered PhD programs in Philosophy at UNC, Toronto, Riverside, Harvard, USC, Stanford, UC Irvine LPS, Cornell. For full placement information:
https://uwm.edu/philosophy/graduate/graduate-placement/Report

Thomas Raleigh
7 months ago

At the University of Luxembourg we offer a 2-year MA in Modern & Contemporary European Philosophy. There are *no tuition fees* for students who are accepted into the program and there are also some student assistantships and a limited number of stipends available which provide some financial assistance. All the philosophy classes in the MA are taught in English. However, a feature of our MA which many students find attractive is that they can take language classes for course credits and then also easily practice speaking French or German (and many other languages!) outside of the university as Luxembourg is an incredibly multi-lingual place! We accept students from all over the world each year and have had lots of recent success placing graduating students in good PhD programs both in Europe and in North America.
For more information about the Master’s course: https://wwwfr.uni.lu/formations/fhse/master_in_modern_and_contemporary_european_philosophy
For more information about the Philosophy Department: https://wwwfr.uni.lu/recherche/fhse/dhum/research_institutes/philosophyReport

Jordan MacKenzie
7 months ago

Virginia Tech has a terminal MA program that accepts 4-5 funded students per year. Our funding package is quite generous: we offer a full tuition waiver, along with a stipend. Next year, our stipend will be $20,506 (note: student fees are approx. $1500 per semester). Students are expected to serve as graduate teaching assistants for the duration of the program.

We’re really pleased with the amount of support we’re able to offer students interested in pursuing PhDs in philosophy. Students enroll in a ‘pro-seminar’ course in their first semester here. In that course, they work with faculty to develop effective research and writing habits. In the summer after their first year, they participate in an intensive writing seminar/accountability group. In that group, they give each other feedback on their writing samples (and get feedback from various faculty members), and help hold each other accountable to writing deadlines. They also give each other a lot of support in what can otherwise be a fairly isolating process! That seminar culminates in a two day research conference where they present their writing samples to the full department.

We’ve had a lot of success with these strategies in terms of placement. This year, our students gained acceptances from schools such as Princeton, Pitt HPS, USC, UNC, Chicago, UCSD, Arizona and Cornell (among others). You can view our placement record here (note: the 2022 data has not yet been added): https://liberalarts.vt.edu/departments-and-schools/department-of-philosophy/academic-programs/masters-in-philosophy/placement.html

In terms of research strengths–our department has historically had a focus on the philosophy of science. In recent years, we’ve developed strengths in core analytic (especially language and metaphysics), normative ethics, and political philosophy.

As the grad director for the MA program, I’m always happy to chat with prospective students.Report

Trevor Pearce
7 months ago

We have a funded MA program in Ethics & Applied Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The funding is now better than what’s indicated at the Weebly site. We can bring in 3–5 new students each year on TAships, which pay $7,000 per semester plus in-state tuition ($2170 per semester). Our research specialties are research and healthcare ethics, Latinx philosophy, philosophy of race, gender and sexuality, critical data studies, twentieth-century continental philosophy, and American philosophy. Over the past several years we have placed the majority of students who applied in PhD programs: https://philosophy.charlotte.edu/graduate.Report

Blain
7 months ago

I’d like to add a few points to Bill Bristow’s description of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee MA program.

One strength of our program is that we invest a lot of time in helping our students get their writing samples in order for their applications to PhD programs (as well as for presentation at conferences and/or future publication). During their second year, most of our students take part in our “Writing Workshop” seminar (for credit). This workshop is devoted to helping students revise and polish their writing samples, as well as helping them with their “personal statements” and other related matters. Because we’re a smaller program, the workshop can go through at least two drafts of every student’s sample (before submitting their third and final draft in December – around the time when they’re also applying to PhD programs). I’ve run the workshop multiple times in the past, and in addition to discussing the students’ work in the seminar, I write comments on all the drafts. 

We also have a devoted “Graduate Advisor” whose job is to help our students navigate our MA program and the application process.

Like most Philosophy Departments with graduate programs, we have an active visiting speakers series. Our visitors meet separately with our MA students (usually before the talk) to discuss their papers and work in general.

Finally, I think that our placement record is quite impressive. I encourage potential applicants to consult it: https://uwm.edu/philosophy/graduate/graduate-placement/Report

David Landy
7 months ago

San Francisco State has multiple sources of funding for its MA in Philosophy. We offer scholarships worth as much as $15,000 per year, paid TAships and paid Graduate Teaching Associateships, and the State of California provides most California residents who have demonstrated financial need with a grant that covers nearly all of their tuition. Most U.S. citizens can establish California residency in one year, even if they are attending the graduate program full time.
 
We are very pleased with our PhD-program placement record, an we’ve recently revised the way that we display our placement information on our website to be give as much detail as possible while still respecting students’ privacy. We’ll be updating it again with the Fall 2022 information in the next week or so.
 
It is worth mentioning, too, that our program is setup to serve students with ambitions other than PhD programs, including those who would like to teach, to advance or change careers, or those who are just interested in philosophy. One recent initiative on this front is our interdisciplinary certificate program in Ethical AI, which is easily paired with the philosophy MA.
 
Finally, I should mention that SF State’s Philosophy terminal MA program is one of the few where graduate students can take all of their contact-hour courses in small seminars designed for graduate students. The program offers 9-10 graduate seminars in philosophy every semester, always in a wide variety of topics both contemporary and historical. Our MA students are our pride and joy and they get a true graduate experience in philosophy.Report

Gaile Pohlhaus
7 months ago

Miami Univ (Ohio) admits 2-3 students a year to our terminal MA; all students are funded with 100% tuition scholarship and an Assistantship of roughly $14K (very livable in south west Ohio). TAs run one small discussion section for an intro course per semester and enroll in a teaching practicum each fall to help develop pedagogical skills. We have strengths in continental philosophy, history of philosophy, feminist philosophy, and ethics. There is also a strong Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies program that offers a WGS graduate certificate. Of the students who apply to PhD programs, nearly all get in, and we are particularly successful at placing students in Continental philosophy programs (in recent years: Emory, Villanova, Fordham). We are usually able to help fund students with travel to conferences and there is opportunity to apply for a university summer fellowship of $1500 to engage in summer research. More info here: https://www.miamioh.edu/cas/academics/departments/philosophy/academics/ma-program/index.htmlReport

Nick Wiltsher
7 months ago

This might be obvious, but just in case: almost every institution in the UK and Europe that awards PhDs in philosophy will also have a terminal masters programme (or several). Most of these are not included in the APA and other resources linked above. Additionally, I think that US institutions are more inclined to treat masters and doctoral education as continuous, whereas elsewhere they are separated more sharply (question 6 seems framed in a way that suggests the US model). But that is more of a hunch than the first point.

Here at Uppsala, we have a two-year MA programme in philosophy, and a two-year programme in aesthetics. Unfortunately, we don’t ourselves offer scholarships, though there are some available through the university, and there are no tuition fees for EU students. The philosophy MA is of course fantastic, but the aesthetics MA is notable in relation to question 4, since there are very few MA programmes where one can specialise in aesthetics.Report

Jason Hanna
7 months ago

I’m the chair in the philosophy department at Northern Illinois University. Though two NIU students have replied above, I will add a few details to their generally accurate description of the M.A. program here at NIU. The department normally offers four to five graduate assistantships to each incoming class. Each assistantship comes with a tuition waiver, plus a stipend of about $14,300, and is renewable for a second year. Our graduate assistants are responsible for “indirect instruction,” including grading, tutoring, and holding office hours; they are not faced with the more time-intensive task of teaching their own courses. In addition to the assistantships, NIU’s Graduate School offers one-year, nonrenewable tuition waivers. (The department recommends admitted applicants for these waivers, but the Graduate School ultimately decides on the awards.) In recent years, our applicants have been quite successful in securing waivers. Tuition waivers cover the portion of tuition calculated as the “instructional charge,” but not the “institutional charge” (roughly, what most institutions call “fees”). As Dallas H points out, the cost of living in DeKalb, about 65 miles west of Chicago, is relatively low.
 
We’ve had a lot of success placing our graduates into Ph.D. programs. Over the past decade, 89% (80 of 90) of our M.A. graduates who applied to Ph.D. programs were
admitted to a Ph.D. program, with full funding. In recent years, we have placed
multiple students at each of the following Ph.D. programs: Rutgers, Toronto,
Notre Dame, North Carolina, Arizona, Cornell, and Indiana, among others. Our
website includes the department’s complete placement record from 2007-2021 (https://www.niu.edu/clas/phil/graduate/placement.shtml).
Data for 2022 will be added in May.
 
We promote students’ success by encouraging them to take PHIL 601, Graduate Writing Seminar, in the first semester of their second year, as many gear up to apply to doctoral programs. In this one-credit course, students work one-in-one with a faculty member to revise and polish a philosophical essay. Program requirements ensure that each graduate has a solid grounding in logic, M&E, ethics and political philosophy, and related philosophies of science, language, and mind.
 
We also host a yearly series of colloquia (in person again this year!), and the graduate
students put together an annual conference.
 
Interested students should feel free to contact us or check out our website (https://www.niu.edu/clas/phil/graduate/index.shtml).Report

Kevin Ong'era
Kevin Ong'era
7 months ago

Are there scholarships available for an MA in philosophy? Kindly direct me.Report

Jason Hanna
Reply to  Kevin Ong'era
7 months ago

Your best bet is to apply to a program that offers graduate assistantships or tuition waivers (see comments above). The assistantships will typically come with a tuition waiver, plus a stipend (pay). Many programs also offer fellowships to talented students. There might be some “outside” funding, but it’s probably relatively scarce (unless you’re doing something with the military, as Kenny Easwaran notes).Report

Soazig Le Bihan
Reply to  Kevin Ong'era
7 months ago

The University of Montana has TAships to offer.Report

Soazig Le Bihan
7 months ago

At the University of Montana, we offer an MA program in Environmental Philosophy. Our courses span issues from animal studies, the Anthropocene, synthetic biology, environmental aesthetics, and the philosophy of ecology / climate science. The program is unique in that it emphasizes engagement with communities. Our students complete an internship and a Civic Engagement Project in lieu of a thesis. We also value interdisciplinarity and strongly encourage our students to take classes from the multiple environmentally focused programs across our campus (Enviro. Studies, Native American Studies, Forestry, Literature, Creative Writing, Nature Resource Management, Law etc). We have 5 TAships and some other scholarships to offer our students. Some students come unfunded. Some others come from our undergraduate program: we have a 5 year BA/MA in place. Because of our ‘distinctive program designation’ from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a graduate student in our environmental philosophy program who is a resident of a Western state can enroll at 150% of Montana’s in-state tuition rates. The Western states covered by this agreement include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Some of our students want to pursue a PhD and our very successful in that endeavor (UC Irvine LPS, Stanford, UC Riverside, Michigan State, Oregon U). Some go to law school, for which we have a 100% placement. Some join the workforce, mostly in the government and non-profit sectors. We have currently 14 students in the program. Report

Kian Mintz-Woo
6 months ago

University College Cork (in the south of Ireland) has both an MA in philosophy but also a unique multidisciplinary MA in Health and Society (coordinated between philosophy, public health and economics, details at https://www.ucc.ie/en/ckd10/ ). While unfunded, last year we were able to get funding for a number of Irish students ( https://www.irishexaminer.com/sponsored/arid-40072244.html ). Irish postgraduate degrees are generally less expensive than American ones (EU fees: €6,130 and international fees: €16,400 for one year). I believe this is targeted more towards students that want to go into health policy or practical healthcare contexts.Report