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Philosophy PhD Programs with Curriculum and Career Information

Doctoral programs in philosophy include intensive research as well as traditional coursework. Students normally focus on a specific topic, taking related classes and producing a dissertation derived from their research.

Essential Information

In a doctoral philosophy program, classes in epistemology, or the study of knowledge, provide students with the tools and background to discuss the development of social, political and moral values. Many programs also include logic courses that discuss the theories used to defend scientific data, mathematical facts or philosophical truths. Specializations may include topics such as classical philosophy, philosophy of science, and symbolic systems.

Doctoral candidates typically take a written or oral examination, prove proficiency in reading a foreign language such as Latin, Greek, German or French and defend their doctoral dissertation in front of a faculty panel. Teaching may be required as well. Some programs allow for interdisciplinary study in related fields like humanities or cognitive science. A bachelor's or master's degree in philosophy and submission of standard graduate documents are common prerequisites.


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Ph.D. in Philosophy

Most applicants to a doctoral philosophy program need to have a master's degree in philosophy. Some programs allow students with only a bachelor's degree to earn their master's degree in philosophy during their Ph.D. study, typically after meeting a certain number of the school's degree requirements. Prospective doctoral candidates will also need prerequisite coursework in the history of philosophy, logic, metaphysics or ethics. Applicants may also have to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation, a writing sample and a statement of purpose.

Many programs require degree candidates to teach courses in the basics of classical philosophy to undergraduate students, either through a teaching fellowship or a job as a teacher's assistant. Ph.D. students take upper-level coursework in the evolution of philosophy, ethics, philosophy of law, major philosophers' works and current areas of philosophical research. Typically, Ph.D. students will also perform their own research. Common courses include:

  • Evolution of philosophy
  • Advanced concepts in logic
  • Philosophy of language
  • Perception and states of mind
  • Works of major philosophers
  • Currents areas of philosophical research

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a doctoral philosophy program typically pursue teaching or research careers as members of a college or university's philosophy department. They may enter the job field as part-time or adjunct instructors or full-time, tenure-track faculty.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that postsecondary instructors in general can expect a 13% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

In May 2015, the BLS reported that postsecondary philosophy and religion teachers earned a median annual wage of $66,380. In general, the lowest paid ten percent earned an annual salary of $37,060 in 2015, while the highest paid ten percent of earners took home an annual salary of $154,190 during the same time.

Philosophy Ph.D. students typically anchor their studies around a central topic, going on to complete a dissertation based on their research of it. Other courses in these programs may go over the works of major philosophers, the philosophy of language, and more, with graduates usually continuing into a career in philosophical teaching and/or research.


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