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How Long Does IT Take To Get a PhD in Philosophy?

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest degree available for the field of philosophy. Learn what it takes to complete a Ph.D. and explore some of the career options available upon graduation. View article »

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  • 0:04 Time Needed for a…
  • 1:01 Program Overview
  • 1:54 Course Format and Content
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  • 3:18 Career Information

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Video Transcript

Time Needed for a Ph.D. in Philosophy

Obtaining a Ph.D. in philosophy requires intensive study and dedication, as doctoral degree programs in this field are often competitive and can take several years to complete. Programs of study include multiple components, including coursework, academic reviews, and examinations. They may also incorporate teaching requirements and foreign language competency checks.

The average Ph.D. in philosophy program takes five to seven years to finish, depending on the students' part-time or full-time enrollment status. The dissertation component alone can take multiple years to complete, due to the complexity of the task. Doctoral students are usually given a deadline for completion, but these vary between schools, so it is important to check these details with your respective institution.

Program Overview

To apply to a Ph.D. in philosophy program, students must typically hold a bachelor's degree with a major or minor in philosophy and a minimum GPA. Students also usually must submit Graduate Record Examination scores and likely need to send in a writing sample and recommendation letters.

Most Ph.D. philosophy programs are highly competitive, so only the most viable candidates will be accepted each year to partake in this program of study. Programs build upon theories and topics addressed in students' previous college studies in philosophy and focus on individuals' chosen areas of specialty, which are usually identified prior to the application. The chosen area of study may affect the overall length of the program, depending on its complexity and the nature of the student's individual studies.

Course Format and Content

Most schools outline the format of the Ph.D. program up front. This path often includes coursework during the first two years, an academic review or qualifying examination during the third year, and then a dissertation close to the last year of study. The dissertation is an oral defense based on students' written research findings.

Some philosophy subjects within a Ph.D. program may include:

  • Legal philosophy
  • Ethics and morality
  • Philosophy of science
  • Philosophy of art
  • Philosophy of language
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Specific works by Descartes, Locke, Aristotle, Leibniz, and Plato

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  • Ethics
  • Logic

Teaching and Language Requirements

During the doctoral degree program, students may also be required to teach. As teaching assistants, students help professors instruct undergraduate philosophy classes. These teaching assignments, which are typically included as part of teaching seminar courses, help students build and develop their instruction skills and knowledge of philosophy content. In addition to teaching, many Ph.D. philosophy programs require students to pass a foreign language competency examination, unless the candidate is already fluent in Latin, French, German, or Greek.

Career Information

Ph.D. philosophy graduates have many employment options after completing their studies, which include but are not limited to:

  • Teaching
  • Conducting research on behalf of a college or university
  • Working in the private sector as a consultant

Most Ph.D. graduates transition into an academic role of some kind, whether that be teaching or research. Philosophy and religion postsecondary educators made a yearly median salary of $68,360 in May 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported that this specific group of postsecondary teachers could expect to see a 12% increase in jobs from 2014-2024, which is faster than the national average.

In conclusion, students wishing to obtain a Ph.D. in philosophy can expect to undertake an average of five to seven years of study, although program length ultimately depends on the institution, the student's chosen specialty and the specifics of the program. Programs require a dissertation and may incorporate periods of teaching and foreign language competency checks.

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