The Department of Philosophy offers a program of study leading to the Master of Arts degree. Those who complete this program are extremely well prepared for advanced work in leading doctoral programs in philosophy or for teaching philosophy at the community college level. The Master of Arts degree also provides excellent preparation for further graduate study in fields other than philosophy.
Some outstanding features of the department’s M.A. program are:
Strong National Reputation
The department’s M.A. program is ranked second in the nation among terminal M.A. programs in philosophy by The Philosophical Gourmet Report. The program owes this reputation to the department’s very strong faculty, all of whom are actively publishing scholars who also have a deep commitment to graduate teaching.
The department is typically able to offer six graduate teaching assistantships to each incoming class. The graduate teaching assistantships pay full tuition and a stipend, which was $11,825 for the 2013-2014 academic year. Tuition waivers are also available to deserving students by application to the Graduate School.
Success of Graduates
Our placement record is outstanding. Over the past decade, roughly three-quarters of our graduates have applied to doctoral programs in philosophy, and nearly all who applied were admitted. Approximately 80% of those entered a top-fifty Ph.D. program (as ranked by The Philosophical Gourmet Report), and another 9% entered a program considered to have a "niche of excellence." Other graduates immediately entered teaching positions at community colleges or graduate and professional programs in fields other than philosophy. Please see our detailed placement record for further information.
Positive Student-Faculty Interaction
Faculty make a special effort to get to know the students in the program on an individual basis and take an interest in each individual's progress and success. The collegial atmosphere in the department encourages student-faculty interaction, and the manageable size of the program allows for individualized attention to each graduate student. The size of the program and faculty members' concern for each student have repeatedly been cited by current students and alumni as a major strength of the program.
Department Colloquium Series
Each year the department hosts several speakers in its colloquium series. Some of the most distinguished philosophers in the United States and from abroad have presented these colloquia. Prior to the presentations, the speakers are scheduled to meet with groups of graduate students, providing students the opportunity to engage in informal discussion with philosophers of international renown. The high caliber of the colloquium speakers and the quality of the discourse during the sessions have contributed significantly to the quality and national recognition of the M.A. program.
Annual Graduate Philosophy Conference
Each year the department hosts the Northern Graduate Philosophy Conference. The conference always draws a distinguished philosopher as the keynote speaker and outstanding graduate students from around the country as speakers. Students in NIU’s program can submit papers, but the conference provides all students in the program an excellent opportunity to participate in organizing a conference, to referee papers, and to serve as commentators on conference papers.
Flexible Admissions Requirements
The department does not require a baccalaureate degree in philosophy for admission to the M.A. program. Indeed, over the years, many students without baccalaureate degrees in philosophy, but with excellent academic credentials, have been admitted to the program. This has enabled some very capable students, who discovered philosophy late in their undergraduate careers, to pursue graduate study in philosophy, and many of them have subsequently gone on to highly respected doctoral programs in philosophy.
Rigorous Comprehensive Examination
In order to receive the M.A. degree, each student must pass a rigorous three-part comprehensive examination covering (1) metaphysics and epistemology, (2) ethics and value theory, and (3) the philosophies of science, language, and mind. The comprehensive examination is a particularly noteworthy strength of the program, for it ensures that all graduates have a solid foundation in all major areas of philosophy. The majority of graduates report that passing the comprehensive examination has given them a sense of major scholarly achievement and has provided them with a breadth of depth of knowledge necessary for success in doctoral programs in philosophy or in teaching positions at the community college level.