Philosophy professor teaching a small group of students.  The professor is standing in front of the students and pointing to a projected image on a white screen that is in front of a chalkboard.  The projected image has bullet points with notes about the truth-function.

The Department of Philosophy offers work leading to the doctor of philosophy with a major in philosophy.

The M.A. is granted to Ph.D. program students when they pass their preliminary examinations and become a dissertator. When a student must leave the program early and is unable to complete a Ph.D., a terminal M.A. is granted upon satisfying the department's criteria for a master's degree.

The Ph.D. degree is awarded in recognition of a successfully completed program of advanced studies in philosophy, culminating in a dissertation which represents a contribution to philosophy or to philosophical scholarship.

The Ph.D. program falls into two major stages. The first consists of work that prepares the student for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. Studies during the first stage of the program are devoted to acquiring the philosophical skills and learning needed to do philosophy in the second stage when writing a successful dissertation.

The department offers five years of support to all incoming graduate students. Support begins with the first fall semester and continues for at least nine additional semesters, provided the student makes satisfactory academic progress and carries out duties acceptably as a graduate assistant.

The department assigns a faculty member as placement officer and devotes a significant portion of staff resources to help graduates find employment.

This master’s program is offered for work leading to the Ph.D. Students may not apply directly for the master’s, and should instead see the admissions information for the Ph.D.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

We offer five years of support to all incoming graduate students, beginning their first fall semester, and continuing for at least nine additional semesters, provided the student makes satisfactory academic progress and carries out duties acceptably as graduate assistants. The support may vary from year to year between assistantships and lectureships.  


Please be advised that all students who are not US citizens must prove that they have the financial means to live and study in the United States, before they are granted a visa. For an explanation of this policy, see International Applicant Financial Information.


Citizens of the United States and permanent residents should contact Student Financial Services (phone: 608-262-3060) for more information on eligibility, how and when to apply, and types of aid.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 34 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 21 credits taken in PHILOS seminars (courses numbered between 800 and 989).
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 30 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.5 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements Philosophy requires a grade of B or better in all PHILOS seminars.
Assessments and Examinations None for the master's degree.
Language Requirements No language requirements. Students in the History of Philosophy area may find it important to take additional language courses in consultation with their advisor.

Required COURSES

Philosophy courses in our department are more or less divided into two categories: ethics, aesthetics, and social and political philosophy; and metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, or philosophy of science. Students are expected to take courses in both categories.

First year graduate students may not register for PHILOS 599 Directed Study, PHILOS 699 Directed Study, or PHILOS courses numbered 990-998. Note that no more than one course at the 400-600 level can count toward the credit hour requirements for the MA.

Proseminar Requirement3
All students are expected to take the first year proseminar in their first semester in the program.
Proseminar in Philosophy
Teaching Seminar Requirement1
Students must take this course during the first year of teaching.
Teaching Philosophy
Other Seminar Requirements30
Students must also complete 10 seminars from the following:
Reading Seminar 1
Seminar: Epistemology
Seminar-Philosophy of Language
Seminar-Philosophy of Science:Causation, Explanation & Probability
Seminar-Philosophy of Mind
Seminar Social and Political Philosophy
Metaphysics Seminar
History of Philosophy Requirement
Within the 10 seminar requirement, students must complete 6 credits of History of Philosophy courses.
Advanced History of Philosophy
Advanced History of Philosophy
Logic Requirement
Students meet the logic requirement through one of four paths: 1) Take PHILOS 511 or PHILOS 512; 2) Take PHILOS 211 (does not count for credit for the MA), 3) using prior graduate coursework from another institution, or 4) Receiving an A on the final examination in PHILOS 211. Students who opt for the first path may count PHILOS 511 or PHILOS 512 toward the 10 seminar requirement.
Total Credits34

No more than one 701 course can count toward the 34-credit-hour requirement for the M.A.

Each of the other listed seminars (except for the Proseminar and Teaching Seminar) meets with a concurrently offered PHILOS 701 Reading Seminar. Students who take PHILOS 701 in place of the other listed seminar attend all the seminar meetings and do the readings, but have a substantially lighter workload, determined by the professor before the beginning of the semester.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of graduate coursework taken as a graduate student from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 500 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


Students who have four or more grades of “Incomplete” may not register for further work until these Incompletes have been removed. It is the policy of the philosophy department not to give Incompletes, except when illness or events beyond the student’s control prevent the completion of course work.

If a student who is not making satisfactory progress (a) has at any one time three or more incompletes that have been on the student’s record for one semester or more, or (b) has not passed the dissertation prospectus examination by the end of the ninth semester of residency, or (c) has at any time a cumulative GPA of less than 3.5 in philosophy graduate seminars (those numbered 800 and above), then the student will be placed on probation; and if after two semesters there is still a deficiency, the student will be removed from the program.

No student while on probation is eligible for appointment as a TA, PA, or RA nor will that student be recommended by the department for a fellowship.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects students to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

The assistant to the chair serves as the advisor for the first year or so. Students then select an advisor and, as coursework and other requirements are completed, a committee of faculty is selected by the student to serve as advisors. 


12 credits


The program of study that you work out will be designed for completion, normally, by the end of the sixth or seventh semester of full-time graduate studies.

In order to make satisfactory academic progress, a student must attempt to complete the logic requirement by the end of his or her first year. If the student does not fulfill the requirement, then another attempt must be made in the third semester. If the student fails to satisfy the requirement again, another attempt must be made in the fourth semester. If the student fails to pass the requirement by the end of his or her fourth semester, then this will constitute failure to make satisfactory academic progress. Subject to instructor’s willingness, a student may attempt to pass the requirement more than once in a semester.

All entering graduate students will participate in a proseminar in their first term in residence. All graduate students must take the Teaching Philosophy course during their first year of teaching.

A student who is normally enrolled and in residence in the PhD. program is making satisfactory progress unless that student:

  • has not attempted to complete the logic requirement by the end of the first year in residence and continued to attempt to complete the logic requirement in each subsequent semester until completing this requirement, or
  • has not completed the logic requirement by the end of the second year in residence, or
  • has not satisfied the history of philosophy requirement by the end of the third year of residence, or
  • as not become a dissertator by the end of the fourth year of residence, or
  • has not passed the examination on the dissertation prospectus by (a) the end of the ninth semester in residence or (b) within one year after passing the prelim, whichever is later.

Moreover, failure to submit a passing prelim by the end of the seventh semester will result in dismissal from the program.

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Expert ability to think critically about arguments.
  2. Expert ability to interpret complex texts accurately and analyze them logically.
  3. Ability to communicate very precisely and concisely in both writing and in speech.
  4. In-depth familiarity with the history of Western philosophy and the major debates within that tradition.
  5. Interpretative charity, and intellectual honesty, which includes appropriate attribution to others of their ideas, and recognition and frankness about the limitations of one's own ideas.

Professors Brighouse, Clatterbuck, Fletcher, Gibson, Goodrich, Gottlieb, Loets, Kelleher, Mackay, Masrour, Messina, Nadler, Roberts, Shafer-Landau, Shapiro, Sidelle, Southgate, Steinberg, Streiffer, Titelbaum, Vranas, Whittle, Zimmerman