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.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline January 5
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

For admission to the Ph.D. program with full graduate standing, a student must have completed the equivalent of a B.A. with a major in philosophy. Promising students who do not meet this requirement may be admitted with deficiencies provided that they have completed at least 12 credits in philosophy. 

The deadline for applications is January 5. You must apply online by that date to be considered for admission.

The process begins with the application to the UW–Madison Graduate School.

Answer all required questions and be sure to submit the following:

  1. Reasons for Study (also called Statement of Purpose)
  2. Names of at least three professors and their email addresses for letters of recommendation
  3. TOEFL or Melab scores if your native language is not English
  4. Supplemental application (questionnaire about what philosophy courses you've already studied)
  5. Writing sample (4,500–6,000 words recommended, which is 15–20 pages double-spaced, devoted to a philosophical subject)

GRE scores are not required and will not be looked at.

Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score. Please see the specific English proficiency requirements here

If you have questions about the process of applying, contact Miriam Fagan, graduate coordinator, or 608-263-5278.

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 9 additional semesters, provided the student makes satisfactory academic progress and carries out duties acceptably as graduate assistants.The support you receive may vary from year to year between assistantships and lectureships.  

Note to International Students

Please be advised that all students who are not U.S. 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.

Additional Financial Aid

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 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits; 27 credits must be taken in PHILOS coursework
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement At least 48 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 Students are required to:

satisfy the preliminary exam requirement;
satisfy the prospectus requirement;
and satisfy the thesis and oral defense requirements.
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.
Breadth Requirement All doctoral students are required to complete a minor or Graduate/Professional certificate.

A minor composed only of Philosophy courses is possible (Option B); completion of such a minor requires that a student takes at least three courses, numbered 500 or above, including two graduate seminars, all of which fall outside their major area of specialization.

Required COURSES

Students must complete the requirements for the Philosophy M.A. In addition to those requirements, students must adhere to the following:

PHILOS 701 Reading Seminar 13
Earn the remainder of the credits by taking directed research or thesis-prep courses (e.g., PHILOS 990 Research and Thesis).

PhD students must complete an additional 800-900 level seminar or take PHILOS 701 Reading Seminar a second time (in addition to the first taken as an MA student).

Each of the other listed seminars on the MA Requirements (except for the Proseminar and Teaching Seminar) meets with a concurrently offered PHILOS 701 Reading Seminar 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 ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral 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 ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree 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. The primary advisor serves as the dissertation chair. The dissertation committee members (typically 3 faculty from the Department of Philosophy) serve as readers. 


15 credits

Time Limits

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.

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten 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 design curriculum for undergraduate courses in their areas of expertise and competence.
  4. Ability to communicate very precisely and concisely in both writing and in speech.
  5. In-depth familiarity with the history of Western philosophy and the major debates within that tradition.
  6. Ability to write a book length manuscript which constitutes an original and valuable contribution to the field.
  7. 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.
  8. Fosters ethical and professional conduct.
  9. Ability to engage in high quality undergraduate instruction in their areas of expertise and competence.
  10. Well-equipped to pursue continuous professional development with respect to goals.

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