Our program has faculty strengths in most major areas of contemporary Anglophone philosophy, including epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science and political philosophy. In addition, several faculty have teaching and research interests in the history of philosophy. For more information about faculty interests, see faculty. For current and recent course offerings, see courses.
Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions
No, specialization is something you do in a Ph.D. program. Our program and its requirements are designed to provide a broad knowledge of philosophy, which is necessary for admission to and success in a strong Ph.D. program.
No, M.A. students do not have the option to write a thesis. Instead, students intending to apply to doctoral programs in philosophy work individually with a faculty member on a writing sample to submit with their applications.
The comprehensive examination is a four-hour written examination in one of the following fields, as chosen by the student:
- Ethics and Political Philosophy
- Philosophy of Language
- Philosophy of Mind
- Philosophy of Science
A master list of ten study questions for each examination is distributed at the end of the spring semester of a student's first year, and students sit for the examination during the second year. Each student is allowed two opportunities to pass the comprehensive examination. The first opportunity occurs at the beginning of the fall semester of the second year, and, if necessary, the second opportunity occurs at the beginning of the spring semester of the second year.
The program is designed to be completed in two years. The shortest possible time to completion is one-and-a-half years (three semesters), but the department does not recommend attempting to complete the program in less than two years.
A detailed account of the placement of our M.A. graduates can be seen at Placement Record.
Yes. Whether you intend to be a full-time or part-time student, you apply for admission to the M.A. program. Once admitted, you may choose to enroll only part time. However, graduate assistantships and tuition waivers are not available to part-time students.
Yes, if you are enrolled in another graduate program at NIU or you are admitted to the Graduate School as a Student-at-Large. However, registration for philosophy graduate courses is by permit only, and the department gives registration priority to the students in its M.A. program.
The department can accept up to 15 credit hours of transfer credit, subject to the conditions detailed in the Graduate Catalog. Courses not taken at NIU are accepted for transfer credit only if approved by the department and the dean of the Graduate School.
That depends on the Ph.D. program. Many graduates of our program have transferred credits from our program to their Ph.D. programs, shortening their courses of study by up to one year. But not all Ph.D. programs accept transfer credits.
All information about how to apply is available at Applying to the Program.
No. All the information about our program is available here on our website.
Admission is competitive; admission with funding is highly competitive. In a typical year, we receive around 100 applications, and we typically aim to enroll a class of about fifteen.
The department is typically able to award five graduate assistantships to each incoming class, which provide a tuition waiver plus a yearly stipend of $13,900.
The Graduate School awards a variety of one-year tuition waivers on a competitive basis. Only admitted students are eligible to apply for a tuition waiver. If you are admitted to the M.A. program, you will receive instructions for how to apply.
Information about how to apply, along with the application form, is available at applying to the program.
Admitted students are eligible to apply for one or more Graduate School tuition waiver awards. If you are admitted to the M.A. program, you will be contacted with instructions for how to apply for a tuition waiver.
You can estimate the cost of tuition and fees using the Tuition Estimator.
All aspects of an application are important. We have found that a strong undergraduate GPA and strong GRE scores are highly predictive of success in our program, so they receive serious consideration. (Note: In recognition of the hardships posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the GRE requirement for fall 2021 is suspended. GRE scores will not be considered during this admissions cycle.) But the GPA and GRE scores are neither necessary nor sufficient for admission to the program. Many students with low grades or GRE scores have gained admission and flourished here. An excellent writing sample or particularly strong letter of recommendation can outweigh low grades or low GRE scores; likewise, a poor writing sample or lukewarm letters of recommendation can prevent a student with stellar numbers from getting in. If you feel that some aspect of your application doesn't accurately reflect your potential, please use your statement of purpose to explain this to us.
In recognition of the hardships posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the GRE requirement for fall 2021 is suspended. GRE scores will not be considered during this admissions cycle. Ordinarily, the GRE is required for admission to our M.A. program. The department may waive the GRE requirement for applicants who have earned a graduate degree, for applicants completing a baccalaureate degree in philosophy at NIU with a GPA of 3.00 or above, and for applicants who have taken other standardized exams for admission to graduate or professional degree programs (such as the GMAT or LSAT). However, the department ordinarily encourages even those applicants who are eligible to request a waiver to take the GRE.
In recognition of the hardships posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the GRE requirement for fall 2021 is suspended. GRE scores will not be considered during this admissions cycle.The Educational Testing Service does not report scores that are more than five years old, so you must have taken the GRE within five years of the application date.
It is 1559. Note that, in recognition of the hardships posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, GRE scores will not be considered for fall 2021 applicants.
An applicant whose native language is not English must present an IELTS score of 6.5 or alternatively, a TOEFL score of at least 80 on the TOELF ibt, 213 on the scale of 0-300, or at least 550 on the older scale of 310-677 where applicable (in certain countries). The score must be for an examination administered no more than 24 months prior to the beginning of the academic term for which admission is sought. For further information, see the Graduate School website.
The writing sample is our primary source of evidence for judging an applicant's philosophical aptitude and fit with our program's strengths. You should send the best paper you have written on a philosophical topic. Most writing samples are in the range of 10 - 20 pages.
Then send us your best sample of academic writing on a topic as close to philosophy as possible.
Your statement of purpose should explain why you wish to pursue an M.A. in philosophy and describe your philosophical interests. This is particularly important if you do not have a primary academic background in philosophy. If you feel that some aspect of your application (your undergraduate GPA, for example) does not accurately reflect your abilities or potential as a graduate student, you should explain this.
Absolutely! An undergraduate degree in philosophy is not required for admission, and some of our most successful students have had undergraduate degrees in fields other than philosophy, such as English, mathematics, music, physics, and the fine arts. However, most have had some experience with philosophy in an academic setting prior to applying to our program, and it is very helpful to have a letter of recommendation from a philosophy professor or someone else in a position to evaluate you as a potential philosophy student.
A prior year's decision is not taken into consideration in the admissions process. A negative decision one year is no guarantee of a negative decision in a subsequent year.
We continue to accept applications after the January 15 deadline, but we can't assure them full consideration, particularly for offers of funding. The Graduate School's final application deadline for the fall semester deadline is May 1 for international students living abroad and July 15 for applicants residing in the U.S.
We do not routinely review fall applications for spring admission, but it is possible to be admitted to begin in the spring semester. If you wish to be considered in the fall for spring admission, you should contact the graduate advisor (at the email address at the top left of this page) to explain your circumstances. The Graduate School's deadline for spring admission is October 1 for international students living abroad and December 10 for applicants residing in the U.S. Please note, however, that graduate assistantship offers are made only in the spring for the following academic year.
Applicants and Admitted Students
Most admissions and funding decisions are made by early March, though in some cases a final decision may not be made until mid-April. (You can check the status of your application through MyNIU, in accordance with the instructions you received after completing your application.)
Applicants on the waiting list are often not made a funding offer until just before April 15, and in some cases even later. Because we often don't know how many students will accept our initial offers until the April 15 deadline, we often don't know whether we'll be able to offer you funding before that time. Please be patient: as soon as we have made a decision about your offer, we'll let you know what it is.
If you are on the waiting list and decide to accept an offer at another program, please let us know as soon as possible. Other applicants on our waiting list will appreciate it!
Human Resources maintains a list of student job openings on campus, and other departments and offices on campus occasionally list graduate assistantship openings.
Unfortunately, we have no funds to pay for admitted students to travel to DeKalb. But if you have been accepted to the program, we encourage you to visit us if you can. Please let us know in advance that you'll be coming, and we can schedule meetings with faculty, arrange visits to classes, and put you in touch with current graduate students.
Department of Philosophy
Zulauf Hall 915
Jessica Williams, Office Staff
Melinda Davis, Office Administrator
Prof. Steve Daskal
Prof. Lenny Clapp