Explore the most enduring questions...
Philosophy is the investigation of the deepest and most enduring questions about ourselves, the world in which we live and our place in it, such as: What is real? Is the mind distinct from the body? Do we have free will? What can we know and how can we know it? Are there objective moral truths? Does God exist? Philosophy at once fascinates, perplexes, and propels us to examine and reflect on what truly makes us human.
Our nationally renowned faculty teach undergraduate as well as master’s level courses each semester, including introductory-level general education courses. Our graduate program is ranked second in the nation among terminal M.A. programs in philosophy, due in large part to our outstanding faculty.
Exceptional Graduate Teaching Assistants
Our nationally ranked graduate program attracts promising young teacher/scholars who carry out indirect instructional responsibilities, such as tutoring and grading, under faculty supervision. These highly qualified teaching assistants provide undergraduates with ready access to additional help with questions or problems concerning course assignments or lectures.
Small Program, Big Benefits
Although we are part of a large and diverse university, the philosophy program is comparatively small. This ensures that undergraduates receive individualized attention from professors, that student/faculty interaction is frequent, and that upper-division class sizes are conducive to in-depth discussions and dialogue. Surveys of current majors and recent graduates cite these factors as among the program’s greatest strengths.
Preparation for Success
The study of philosophy imparts skills and capabilities that help graduates succeed in a wide variety of careers and occupations. In addition, a degree in philosophy provides excellent preparation for further graduate and professional study in many disciplines, such as law, medicine, and business.
In fact, philosophy majors average among the highest scores of all majors on standardized tests for admission to graduate and professional schools.
Applied Ethics Certificate
We coordinate an undergraduate certificate in applied ethics, which is designed to enhance knowledge of ethical theories and principles and their application to real-world moral problems. The required course examines the principal ethical theories in Western thought. The electives examine ethical concerns specific to a variety of disciplines — business, engineering, health sciences, humanities, journalism, and social sciences.
What Can I Do With This Degree?
Philosophy provides skills that are useful in all fields, such as analytical and investigative skills, the ability to take on challenges and responsibility, and excellent verbal and written communcation skills. Most importantly, students of philosophy develop the ability to think creatively and to ask the right questions.
In recent years, philosophy has been called “the quintessentially modern discipline” and “the ultimate ‘transferable work skill.’” (“Philosophy: A Quintessentially Modern Discipline,” London Times).
The benefits of being a philosophy major are unmatched. It has fully prepared me for any post graduation opportunities I wish to pursue. This includes numerous job offers in a difficult economy. With an incredible staff behind me at NIU, the sky is the limit."
The philosophy department at NIU could not have been more helpful and supportive. The personal attention I received truly was extraordinary.
The Department of Philosophy offers an undergraduate major leading to either a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree, allowing students maximal flexibility in tailoring their programs of study to their intellectual interests. Students interested in literature and foreign languages are better served by the B.A. degree track, whereas students interested in the sciences and mathematics are better served by the B.S. degree track. The two degree tracks also allow students in any degree program to easily add philosophy as a second major. Either degree can be received with departmental honors. In addition to the major, the department offers a program of study leading to a minor, which is a rewarding complement to nearly any major, and it coordinates the undergraduate certificate of study in applied ethics.
Who Studies Philosophy
- Wes Anderson, filmmaker
- William Bennett, former US Secretary of Education (1985-1988)
- Stephen Breyer, US Supreme Court Justice
- Grace Lee Boggs, activist and author
- Pearl Buck, Nobel Prize in literature, 1938
- Ethan Coen, filmmaker
- Dave Farrell, Bassist for Linkin Park
- Carly Fiorina, Former CEO Hewlett-Packard
- Arian Foster, running back, Houston Texans
- Philip Glass, composer
- Christy Haubegger, founder of Latina magazine
- Phil Jackson, head coach Chicago Bulls (1989-1998)
- Elmore Leonard, novelist and screenwriter
- Steve Martin, actor and musician
- Stone Phillips, reporter and former anchor of Dateline NBC
- Larry Sanger, co-founder Wikipedia
- William Schulz, Executive Director, Amnesty International (USA)
- David Souter, Supreme Court Justice
- Steve Reich, composer
- Rick Rubin, record producer & co-president of Columbia Records
- Peter Thiel, co-founded PayPal
- Juan Williams, journalist
- Explore Majors
- Biological Sciences
- Chemistry and Biochemistry
- Computer Science
- Environmental Studies
- Geology and Environmental Geosciences
- Mathematical Sciences
- Nonprofit and NGO Studies
- Political Science
- Southeast Asian Studies
- World Languages and Cultures
Zulauf Hall 312
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Zulauf Hall 201