Carnegie Mellon University

M.A. Program in Philosophy

The M.A. Program in Philosophy provides exciting opportunities to pursue post-graduate studies in Philosophy for students with a degree in Philosophy who wish to continue their work in a more focused and advanced way, as well as for students with a degree in another field who wish to add a concentration in Philosophy. Two areas of specialization are offered in line with the distinctive strengths of the Philosophy Department that are not reflected in its other graduate degree programs, namely Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Science. The latter specialization offers emphases in Mathematics, Psychology, Physics, and the Social Sciences. The course of study is very flexible, and can be tailored to a student's interests and background.

The program's course requirements are designed to provide students with a shared introduction to basic tools of philosophical analysis, a shared background of philosophical issues, significant interdisciplinary competence, and an introduction to research topics in the department.

The M.A. program ordinarily requires two years of coursework. Students are not required to write an M.A. Thesis, although there is an option to do so. The normal full time graduate course load in Philosophy is a minimum of three (12 credit) courses per term, for a total of (at least) 144 credits. Students must pass all required courses with a grade of B or better. In order to receive a masters degree, students must have a cumulative QPA of 3.25 or higher.

By default students are presumed to be in the course-based degree option (they will not write a thesis). If a student would like to write a thesis, they must seek approval from one member of the department (the supervisor) and one additional faculty member (the second reader). This permission must be secured prior to the first day of classes of the fourth semester, but students are strongly advised to secure it earlier.

In the requirements below we refer to the "philosophical areas."

For the purpose of our requirements philosophical areas are:

  • Area 1: Philosophy of Science, Methodology, and Epistemology
  • Area 2: Value Theory
  • Area 3: History of Philosophy
  • Area 4: Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language, Lingusitics, and Metaphysics
  • Area 5: Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic

Seminar requirements

  • 80-600 Philosophy Core Seminar: Survey of crucial research in philosophy, logic, and related areas
  • 80-602 Philosophy Core Seminar II: Continued survey of crucial research in philosophy, logic, and related areas
  • Professional development seminar: Students must enroll in the professional development seminar in the spring semester of both years
  • One course from each of the five philosophical areas

Philosophy electives

Course-based option

  • Two graduate level courses in philosophy

Thesis option

  • Two courses of thesis research

Interdisciplinary elective

An interdisciplinary elective, e.g. in logic, computer science, statistics, game theory, linguistics, economics, or psychology, to develop formal skills that will support thesis research. These courses need to be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Suitable courses include:

  • 10-701 Machine Learning
  • 15-211 Fundamental Data Structures and Algorithms
  • 21-601 Model Theory I
  • 36-625 Probability and Mathematical Statistics I
  • 85-719 Introduction to Parallel Distributed Processing
  • 85-765 Cognitive Neuroscience

Additional courses

  • Two additional graduate level courses

NOTE: A maximum of two directed readings may be used to fulfill the requirements for the course-based masters degree without special permission from the Director of Graduate Studies. Students in the course-based option are encouraged, however, to consider taking at least one directed reading to further delve into an area of a previous course.

Advanced students can sometimes complete the program in a single year (including the following summer), corresponding to the fifth year of the combined 5-year B.A./M.A. degree. Also, there is a part-time version M.A. program, designed for students, such as qualified CMU staff employees using their staff benefits, who are able to pursue graduate study with only 1 or 2 courses per term.

The department's interdisciplinary research thrust affords an unusually broad range of career possibilities. Graduates of the program have been offered positions in Philosophy, Mathematics, Psychology, Computer Science, and Statistics, as well as research positions in industry. This wide range of interesting career opportunities reflects the department's unique dedication to serious, interdisciplinary research ties.

For a complete listing of our graduates and placement record, see our Masters alumni page.

The Philosophy Department offers qualified MA students up to a 50% tuition fellowship, added to whatever outside fellowships or other tuition awards the student has gained on her or his own. In addition, qualified M.A. students have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants or graders for undergraduate courses, for a stipend rate set annually by the department. In the 2015-2016 academic year, by TAing or grading one course per term for each of two terms, an M.A. student earns $8,000 in stipend. In addition, the department provides approximately $1,100 to cover the cost of a Carnegie Mellon health insurance policy.