The PhD program in philosophy consists of approximately 2 ½ years of coursework and 2 ½–3 ½ years of work on a dissertation, with five years of guaranteed funding and a sixth year of funding usually possible if needed. We are both a research and a teaching department. Teaching appointments are not only the principal means of supporting graduate students but are also the way that we train graduate students for a career of teaching as well as doing research in philosophy.

Applicants for admission to the Graduate School for work toward a doctoral degree in philosophy are expected to have had 18 or more credit hours in undergraduate courses in the subject.

Students in the doctoral program must satisfy a variety of requirements, including the completion of coursework. The department has a diversified faculty that can supervise the writing of doctoral dissertations on a wide range of topics. The department makes available teaching assistantships and then graduate part-time instructorships to its doctoral students, and assists with job placement.

Students wishing to pursue doctoral work in philosophy should note the doctoral degree requirements and consult the PhD program portion and the Graduate Admissions portion of the Department of Philosophy website.


  • Coursework: Students must take a minimum of 45 hours of approved graduate study, in addition to the 30 hours of dissertation credit hours required by the Graduate School.
  • Distribution requirements: 27 hours must be devoted to satisfying specific distribution requirements.
  • Language and technical requirement: Students must satisfy any language and/or technical requirements that the department judges to be necessary given the area of the dissertation.
  • Logic: Students must demonstrate proficiency in propositional and first-order logic
  • Diagnostic paper: Students must submit a diagnostic paper, generally at the beginning of the third semester of graduate study.
  • Qualifying papers: Students must submit a qualifying paper, generally at the beginning of the fifth semester of graduate study. Students may advance in the program only if the qualifying paper is judged acceptable by the examining committee and approved by the department.
  • Prospectus and oral examination: After passing the qualifying paper, students must assemble a prospectus committee of five faculty members, including a Chair/Advisor and (typically) an outside member. Students must submit a written prospectus to this committee, who, after judging the prospectus acceptable, will conduct an oral exam on the prospectus and related topics.
  • Dissertation and oral defense: Students must write a dissertation that is acceptable to the dissertation committee, and defend the dissertation in a public, oral defense at a time deemed appropriate by the committee.
  • Students are expected to make reasonable progress toward the PhD, and will be evaluated by the department in this regard each spring.

For detailed requirements, consult the PhD section of the department's website and especially the Official PhD Requirements and Additional Program Information (PDF).

Recommended Plan of Study

Ideally, PhD students in their first two years will take and complete three courses per semester, for a total of 12 courses (36 credit hours) by the end of the second year. The minimum number of courses PhD students can take to make good progress in the first two years of the program is five courses per year.

At the beginning of the third semester in the program, students turn in a diagnostic paper and will receive feedback from three faculty members.

At the beginning of the fifth semester in the program, students turn in the qualifying paper, which will be evaluated anonymously; this is a qualifying event that the student must pass in order to be considered for advancement to candidacy in the PhD program.

In the fifth semester, students continue to take courses in order to complete the required 45 credit hours (typically 15 courses). Ideally, students should have completed coursework by the end of their fifth semester and should then begin work on the prospectus.

Ideally, students will submit and defend their prospectus sometime in their sixth semester. Students are eligible to sign up for up to 10 dissertation hours before they pass their prospectus exam. The remainder of the required 30 dissertation hours are used in the fourth and fifth (and possibly sixth) years in the program while completing the dissertation.