M.A. in Philosophy

Admission Requirements

The M.A. in philosophy enables students to discover whether they should pursue the Ph.D. and prepares them for admission to doctoral programs as well as for a wide variety of careers. As the only graduate program in philosophy at a public university in Louisiana, one of its aims is to assist students who have not had the opportunity to complete an undergraduate philosophy degree. The M.A. in philosophy should help such students to develop the necessary background as well as to determine whether to pursue doctoral level studies. The faculty, therefore, welcomes qualified and motivated students who lack extensive undergraduate work in philosophy.

Students who have completed at least 18 hours in philosophy, with courses in history of philosophy, ethics, and logic are ideally prepared for graduate work in philosophy. Incoming graduate students who lack a strong background in philosophy may be required to focus first on developing the necessary basis for further studies. This may include taking some undergraduate-level courses. The department’s Graduate Committee will decide what courses, if any, each incoming graduate student will be required to take, taking into account the student’s background and area(s) of interest.

Students who are required to take undergraduate-level courses will be informed of that when they are admitted to the program. In some cases, a student will be allowed to attend the undergraduate-level course, do additional work for it (such as more reading and writing on its subject matter), and receive graduate credit for it. This will be accomplished by having the student register for PHIL 4991: Independent Research.

Graduate Advisor

Incoming students are automatically assigned to the Graduate Committee Chairperson or to another member of the graduate faculty for advising. It is the responsibility of the advisor to approve the student’s schedule, to see that s/he follows the guidelines of the department, and to monitor the student’s progress. It should be kept in mind that the graduate faculty as a whole offers the graduate program and that each graduate student is free to discuss any academic matter of concern with any member of the graduate faculty. Serious problems should be referred to the Graduate Committee Chairperson, a member of the Graduate Committee, or the Department Chair. When a graduate student chooses a major professor (i.e., the thesis advisor) from the graduate faculty, the major professor will assume the functions of the graduate advisor. 

Degree Requirements

The M.A., which is normally completed in two academic years, must be completed within a maximum of three years. Exceptions to this rule will require approval by the Graduate Committee. The work of each student will be reviewed at the end of every semester in order to determine his/her progress and the advisability of continuing graduate studies.

Course Requirements

There are two avenues to the M.A. in philosophy: thesis and non-thesis. Students who enter the M.A. program with adequate or ideal preparation should bear in mind that writing an M.A. thesis at the end of three semesters of course work can be just the right exercise of independent thought and philosophical initiative to complement a period in which their philosophical thinking has been nurtured by instructors.  At the same time, a variety of factors may combine to indicate that the non-thesis route to the M.A. would be the better course.

The philosophy faculty does not require a minor in a related field; but students who intend the M.A. degree in philosophy to be terminal and to move to another field (for example, computer science, law, business) or students who plan to move into some specialized area of philosophy (such as medieval or ancient philosophy, philosophy of science) are strongly encouraged to consider the advantage of a minor in the relevant field outside philosophy.

Thesis Option

The thesis option requires 30 semester hours of graduate work, 24 of which must be in course work and 6 of which must be in thesis work. At least 15 of these 30 hours must be at the 7000 level or above: typically three 7000-level seminars (9 hours) plus thesis research (6 hours). In each semester of enrollment in the program, students must take that 7000-level course which the Graduate Committee designates the "M.A. Seminar." Exceptions to this practice can be made only for sound academic reasons and must be approved by the Graduate Committee. An external minor for thesis-option students may be constructed by completing as many as 6 of the required hours in an area outside philosophy but relevant to the student’s philosophical work. The external minor must be approved by the Graduate Committee.

 The typical course of study for thesis students would involve taking nine hours in each of their first three semesters and completing their remaining thesis hours in the fourth semester.  In each of the first two semesters, the student would enroll in the designated 7000-level graduate seminar in philosophy and in two other classes at the 4000-level or above.  In the third semester, the students would enroll in the designated graduate seminar, in one other class at the 4000-level or above, and in three hours of 8000-level thesis research.  In the fourth semester, the students would enroll in the necessary hours to complete their thesis research. 

Near the end of the first year of study, students intending to write a thesis must submit a proposal (of no less than 1000 words) to the Graduate Committee Chairperson, which may include recommendations for members of the thesis committee.  The entire graduate faculty will meet to evaluate the proposal with respect to its viability (including the likelihood of its timely completion) and to assign an appropriate committee, if accepted.  Before the end of the second semester, the designated committee will meet with the student to discuss the proposal and to approve the plan for enrollment in 8000-level Thesis Research for the next semester.  (Forms for enrollment are available in the Department Office.)

At the beginning of the third semester, the thesis committee will meet with the student to review a detailed plan for Thesis Research and to set a date to conduct an oral discussion of a written sample from the thesis.  Before the end of the third semester, the full committee will meet with the student, who will provide a substantial written sample from the thesis, and an oral defense will be conducted at that time.  

The completed thesis will be delivered to the committee sometime near the middle of the fourth semester and, if deemed acceptable, will be followed by an oral exam and submitted to the Graduate School in accord with the appropriate deadlines.

Non-Thesis Option

The non-thesis option requires 36 hours of course work. To complete the degree in two years, the non-thesis student must take four 7000-level philosophy seminars plus two additional 7000-level courses. In each of the four semesters of enrollment in the program, students must take that 7000-level course which the Graduate Committee designates the “M.A. Seminar.” Exceptions to this practice can be made only for sound academic reasons and must be approved by the Graduate Committee. Non-Thesis students may take as many as 12 hours outside the department to constitute an external graduate minor. The external minor must be approved by the Graduate Committee.

The non-thesis student typically enrolls in nine hours for all four semesters.  Each semester the non-thesis student would enroll in the designated 7000-level seminar in philosophy and two other classes at the 4000-level or above.  Note that non-thesis students must complete at least half of their hours at the 7000-level or above, in which case, six hours of course work must be taken at the 7000-level over and above the designated graduate seminars.  These may be taken in the form of Independent Studies or other 7000-level classes, including in other departments.

For non-thesis students, an oral examination will be conducted in their final semester based on work that they have accomplished in the program. At the beginning of the fourth semester, the student will submit to their advisor three substantial papers that have been written for three different professors in three different classes while in the program. These papers should give evidence of  both the depth and the breadth of the student’s understanding of core areas in philosophy. A three-person committee, chosen by the graduate faculty in philosophy, will conduct the final oral exam in accord with the appropriate deadlines of the Graduate School.

Concentration in Feminist Philosophy

Whether pursuing the thesis or non-thesis option, the student may be certified with a concentration in Feminist Philosophy by taking 12 hours of their coursework in WGS classes.

Dual Degree

Students in Ph.D. programs in other departments are encouraged to pursue an M.A. in philosophy.  Under the dual degree program, hours accumulated for the Ph.D. in another field may be counted toward the M.A. in philosophy.  Students interested in this option should meet with the Graduate Committee Chairperson, who will tailor a program to suit the individual needs of each case. Complete the form for adding a dual-degree.

Graduate Minor

Students in Ph.D. programs in other departments may also pursue a graduate minor in philosophy.  To receive a graduate minor, students must take three PHIL courses at the 4000 or 7000 level, with one of those courses at the 7000 level.

Accelerated Master’s Degree Program

An accelerated master’s program is available for undergraduate students who have completed at least 60 semester hours of credit with a grade point average of at least 3.50 for all work taken at LSU.  Students may take a maximum of half of the required hours for the M.A. in philosophy while enrolled as undergraduates. These hours may be applied toward the master’s degree, provided a GPA of 3.00 in graduate coursework is maintained and provided none of these hours apply toward the baccalaureate degree.

Language Requirements

Normally a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language (French, German, Latin, Greek) is required of candidates for the M.A. in philosophy. Thesis topics which require research in a foreign language will not be approved without demonstrated fluency in that language. In accordance with the policy of the Graduate School, the philosophy faculty will occasionally accept competence with respect to some “special research tool,” such as a computer language, statistics, or a logical system. Such special research tools must be demonstrably relevant to the pursuit of some project or possible projects in philosophy. Students who anticipate fulfilling the requirement in this way should consult with the Graduate Committee early in the planning of their graduate program.

The foreign language requirement may be satisfied by (1) completion of a graduate reading course in the language with a grade of ‘B’ or better, or (2) passing an examination administered by the faculty (translating a philosophical text in the language), or (3) passing a national language test.


The grade requirements of the philosophy M.A. are those of the Graduate School. Students should familiarize themselves with the grade requirements and regulations of the Graduate School as given in the Graduate School section of the LSU General Catalog.


Graduate students who are granted assistantships will be notified in writing as soon as possible after decisions on admissions and financial awards are made. Appointments are ordinarily made on a yearly basis and are renewable, although a student should not expect to hold an assistantship for more than four semesters. Assistantships will be granted and renewed on the basis of performance in course work and in carrying out the duties of an assistant. Graduate assistants in philosophy do not have sole instructional responsibility for classes. Their role is to assist the professor or professors to which they are assigned. Typically, the graduate assistant will hold regular office hours for student consultations and have the primary responsibility for grading examinations and essays. S/he may also be asked by the professor to undertake other responsibilities with respect to the class, such as conduct review sessions or give an occasional lecture. Professors are expected to supervise the work of graduate assistants, especially their grading, and to consider the assistant’s work as part of graduate training in philosophy. Full-time assistants are expected to work (on average) no more than twenty hours per week in fulfilling the responsibilities of the assistantship, and are required to submit a monthly timesheet confirming this. Should the assigned workload require more than an average of twenty hours per week, the assistant should inform the supervising faculty member. Or the assistant may inform the Graduate Committee Chairperson or any member of the Graduate Committee. 

Each faculty member assisted by a graduate assistant must complete an evaluation of his/her performance, using the approved evaluation form, for each graduate assistant in each semester of assistance. The faculty member must hold a meeting with the graduate assistant in which s/he presents the evaluation and discusses it with the assistant. The assistant must sign the evaluation as an indication that the evaluation was made and the meeting conducted. Should the assistant wish to take formal exception to the supervising faculty member’s evaluation, s/he may prepare a written statement addressed to the Chairperson for Graduate Studies or to the Department Chair.

Graduate assistants should plan to be available for a meeting before the semester begins, at which class assignments are made. 


Applications must be made to the Graduate School, to which transcripts must be sent (not to the department). Letters of recommendation as well as a writing sample must be submitted electronically along with the application. Those students applying for a graduate assistantship should see that their application is completed no later than March 1.