Philosophy Degree Programs with Course Information

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

In bachelor's degree programs, students explore the history of philosophy and the writings of major philosophers, practice expressing ideas verbally and in writing, and learn skills needed in philosophic reasoning. A bachelor's degree in philosophy prepares students for graduate study in philosophy or related fields, including religion or law. Students in a master's degree program can often choose an area of concentration, such as medical ethics. A doctoral program usually prepares students for careers as college professors.

Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy

Bachelor's degree programs in philosophy introduce the major tenets of the discipline, exploring issues such as morality, political legitimacy, scientific changes, medical advancements and religious belief. Most undergraduate programs introduce students to the history of philosophy as well as skills in analysis, rhetoric, writing and critical thinking. Because of the critical, argumentative and analytical skills they develop as undergraduates, many philosophy majors also go on to legal studies, MBA programs or seminaries. Bachelor's degree in philosophy programs require general education coursework in addition to major coursework. Typical courses required for a philosophy major include:

  • Ancient and modern philosophy
  • Moral and political philosophy
  • Logic
  • Ethics
  • Epistemology
  • Metaphysics

Master's Degree in Philosophy

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Philosophy degree programs explore aesthetics, logic, political philosophy, philosophy of mind and language, as well as contemporary philosophical issues such as medical ethics and cognitive science. Many schools offer specialized concentrations or tracks, such as the philosophy of science or environmental ethics and require 32 credit hours for completion. Bachelor's degrees in the field are often required, though most schools do offer provisional acceptance to non-philosophy majors who demonstrate promise and meet certain additional criteria. Students may be required to write a thesis or complete an exit exam. Students further develop their skills in argumentation, communication, critical thinking, information management and research, which, as transferable skills, can serve them well in a variety of careers. Typical courses M.A. students might take include:

  • Philosophy of science
  • Medical ethics
  • Contemporary philosophy
  • Eastern philosophy
  • Modern philosophy
  • Politics and culture

Doctoral Degree in Philosophy

As with most doctoral degrees, students wishing to pursue a doctoral degree in philosophy must complete a dissertation in an area that advances academic knowledge or research. Typical areas of research for such dissertations include medical ethics, religion or existentialism. Students must also complete philosophy-related graduate seminars, demonstrate foreign language proficiency, complete a logic exam or logic course requirement and defend their dissertations. Ph.D. in philosophy students must complete around 64 hours of coursework in addition to their dissertation research and development. Typical courses at the doctoral level in philosophy include:

  • Ancient philosophy
  • Modern philosophy
  • Philosophical logic
  • Ethics
  • Metaphysics

Popular Career Options

Popular career options for those with a B.A. in philosophy include:

  • Lawyer
  • Systems analyst
  • Cultural affairs officer
  • Technical writer
  • Critic

Graduates of master's degree philosophy programs often go into academia; however, skills acquired in graduate philosophy degree programs may be transferred into many different arenas including:

  • Public relations associate
  • Insurance broker
  • Banker
  • Editor
  • Grant writer

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The majority of Ph.D. in Philosophy graduates go on to careers as college or university teachers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, philosophy and religion teachers held 23,490 jobs in the United States in May 2019. Because of many expected retirements, jobs for post-secondary philosophy and religion teachers are projected to increase by 7% between 2019 and 2029, with the best opportunities expected for part-time and non-tenure positions. As of May 2019, the median annual wage for post-secondary philosophy and religion teacher was around $75,240 annually, with the highest salaries typically going to those who taught at colleges, universities and professional schools.

Individuals wanting to earn a degree in philosophy can do so at the bachelor's, master's, or doctoral level. In addition to classroom coursework, students advancing on to a master's degree may need to complete a thesis or complete an exit exam, while students earning a doctorate will complete a dissertation.

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