Students interested in philosophy graduate school have a number of factors to consider. What constitutes "best" is individually defined because people have different requirements and rank advantages of schools in diverse ways. Some of the things that students might consider when evaluating schools include the following: degrees offered, admission requirements, departmental focus, attendance options, and practical details like distance, cost, and funding.
A university with a philosophy graduate school may offer one or two degrees. Most schools have a master’s program, which takes one to two years of full-time studies to complete. Many colleges also award a PhD in philosophy, which requires about four to six years of full-time attendance. Not all schools offer a doctorate, and few colleges don’t award a master’s degree. Students should eliminate the schools that don’t offer the degree they seek. If they’re unsure about committing to a PhD, there are some programs that award a master’s degree partway through a PhD program, which might be a good option.
Any schools considered should be evaluated based on their entrance requirements. Some philosophy graduate school programs welcome students with undergraduate degrees in most subjects in the humanities, and other schools only accept people with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. A few doctoral programs prefer students with a master’s degree in philosophy. School requirements vary significantly, and research is useful to identify those schools that will certainly accept an individual student to their programs, based not only major, but also on grade point average and standardized test scores.
Once students have found the best matching philosophy graduate school programs, that are likely to accept them, and that offer the degree they desire, some more research needs to take place. Some colleges have a clearly defined focus that may or may not match student interests. It’s fairly easy to determine a focus by reading faculty biographies, surveying course catalogs, and simply by asking. Matching focus or choosing a school that is more eclectic is important because students will need faculty support when they write a thesis or a doctorate, and they’re much more likely to get support if their chosen topics align with faculty interests.
There are a number of ways to attend philosophy graduate school. Programs are offered at traditional colleges and may be attended part or full-time. There are many online programs or other configurations where residency requirements are minimal. Students should verify school accreditation, and applicants should be aware that there is some prejudice in academia regarding attendance at online schools. It may be harder for PhDs to find work in colleges if they come from this background.
Additional practical factors worth consideration are need to relocate, costs, and potential funding sources. Traditional doctoral programs are usually most helpful because they often require students to teach. Students may earn stipends for teaching, and a few universities don’t charge doctoral candidates for classes if they teach. Master’s students usually have fewer scholarship options and often need to pay for school with student loans.