Recommendations for Philosophy Majors Considering Graduate Study in Philosophy
For philosophy majors planning to attend graduate school in philosophy, early course planning and consultation with department faculty are highly recommended. Graduate study in philosophy can be intellectually exciting and can provide the foundation for careers in academia as well as in various other fields. But prospective graduate students in philosophy should weigh carefully the competitive admission standards of PhD programs, the rigor of advanced study in philosophy and the uncertain job market that awaits new PhDs in philosophy. The websites below explore the many factors that prospective graduate students should consider as they think through the prospect of applying to graduate school.
In addition to the required courses for the philosophy major, the Department urges graduate school-bound students to take at least three courses in the history of philosophy sequence: Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, Medieval and Renaissance European Philosophy, Early Modern European Philosophy and Kant and the Nineteenth-Century European Philosophy. For students who have particular interest in the history of philosophy the entire four-course sequence might be considered. Philosophy majors planning to attend graduate school usually take more than the nine courses required for the major.
The Department recommends that graduate school-bound students take Ethical Theory, Language, Truth and Reality (or Philosophy of Science), and/or Contemporary Continental Philosophy.
Finally, the Department recommends that graduate school-bound students take the Senior Thesis in either fall or spring term of the senior year. The senior thesis helps to refine research skills and focus philosophical interests. It also provides a well-researched writing sample for graduate school applications.
Philosophy majors planning graduate study are encouraged to develop scholarly research skills early in their undergraduate study of philosophy, and especially familiarity with the Philosopher's Index and other data bases. Many doctoral programs require foreign language competence examinations for purposes of research.
The Graduate School Application Process
Preparation for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) should begin in the summer or early fall of senior year, with a testing date that allows scores to be reported in time to meet graduate school deadlines. Most graduate programs in philosophy, whether MA or PhD programs, have mid-December to early January application deadlines. Graduate schools usually ask for three letters of recommendation; requests for letters of recommendation should be made by early to mid-November. Most letters of recommendations are now submitted electronically by faculty, but some schools request hard copy letters with accompanying forms that applicants provide.
The Department encourages students considering graduate school to consult with department faculty about different options for graduate study in philosophy, including interdisciplinary graduate programs in which philosophy is a component. Many options for graduate study in philosophy exist: master's programs, PhD programs, interdisciplinary programs that have philosophy as one of the emphases, and joint programs in philosophy and another field such as the PhD/JD combined degree program.
For Further Information and Reflection
Philosophical Gourmet Brian Leiter
Graduate Study in Philosophy? William deVries
Thinking About Graduate School in Philosophy
Is Graduate Study Right for You? Rutgers University
Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go T. Benton
Balancing Act: A Bad Reputation The Chronicle of Higher Education