Graduate FAQ

General Program Questions

We have two distinct programs. The MA program usually takes two years; the PhD usually takes three years, though one must already have an MA in philosophy to qualify for the PhD program.

Having two distinct programs allows us to offer one kind of service to students with BAs and a very different service to students with MAs. The MA program is good for those who intend to complete a Master's degree and go on to another PhD program. It also benefits students who want an MA and are not yet sure they want a PhD. Our PhD program offers students who already have an MA an opportunity to complete the PhD in three years, rather than the five years it would take at most other PhD programs.

The main form of aid is a teaching assistantship, which provides a modest stipend as well as a tuition waiver. The department also has a very limited number of research assistantships (same stipend and waiver). In addition to this and external scholarships, the Graduate School offers a number of fellowships and employment opportunities.

Each year a limited number of graduate teaching assistantships are offered, usually for the expected duration of the student's program of study (i.e., two years for MA students, three for PhD students). The assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis to those applicants who show the most promise of excellence in teaching philosophy.

No, but students who have completed the Master's and done well in the program are frequently accepted into the PhD program with departmental funding.

Yes, but see the previous answer.  Also, a reduced admission application fee of $25.00 will need to be paid.

The Graduate School requires that MA degrees be finished in six years, PhDs in seven. The department can sometimes extend funding beyond the periods cited above, but such decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Students with little previous exposure to academic philosophy sometimes expect a course of study that is really more appropriate to some other field, like psychology, religious studies, or English literature. Our course descriptions should give the potential applicant some idea of what our department takes philosophy to be.

Admissions Questions

You need a Bachelor's, but not necessarily in philosophy, though it certainly helps. Students with a more extensive background in philosophy and/or related fields will have better chances of admission. The successful applicant usually has at least 18 undergraduate hours in philosophy, though sometimes students with fewer hours are admitted. Promising students with poor backgrounds are sometimes admitted "with deficiencies": admitted to the program but required to take more than the usual number of courses for the degree. Students with very little or no prior coursework in philosophy are encouraged to take several undergraduate courses before applying.

Yes. We do not offer a combined MA/PhD program. Students who are in the process of finishing a Master's at the time of application may be conditionally admitted.

Yes. Because it is a three year program, our PhD program is only open to students with a Master's in philosophy.

No. However, some students pursuing Master's degrees in closely related fields end up taking a fair amount of graduate level work in philosophy. Up to six hours of this may transfer.

Admission to the Graduate School and admission to a department's graduate program are distinct. 

U of A Graduate School requirements can be found here.


You should submit a philosophy paper as a writing sample if at all possible. Nonphilosophy majors should indicate in their statement of purpose what kind of philosophical background they have.

Application Questions

Send a writing sample, statement of purpose, and assistantship application (if desired) directly to the department; send admission application, fee, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores to the U of A Graduate School. Links can be found here.

We have rolling admissions, so there is no real deadline for application into one of our graduate programs. Applications for assistantships, however, need to be complete by January 15 prior to the fall for which the assistantship is sought.


You should briefly summarize the high points of your dossier and describe your philosophical interests. If you have a particular project you would like to pursue, you should discuss it. If your background is in some field other than philosophy, you might tell us about what formal training in philosophy you have had. If there is anything else in your file that requires clarification/explanation, this is the place to offer that. Autobiographies and discussions of self-taught material tend not to strengthen an application.

These are submitted online to the U of A Graduate School

It depends on the kind of aid sought. Assistantship applications require a form to be sent to the Philosophy Department. Other sources of aid (e.g., U of A Graduate School, external scholarships) will need to be contacted directly.