The M.A. program is intended to serve a number of purposes: to provide students with a solid foundation in all the core areas of philosophy, together with a thorough grounding in the history of philosophy, in preparation for more advanced and specialized work at the doctoral level; to provide philosophical training for those who intend to go on to work in interdisciplinary areas bordering with philosophy, such as cognitive science or applied ethics and public policy; to provide an opportunity for those who wish to explore more advanced study of philosophy for personal enrichment and satisfaction; or to provide the education needed for teaching philosophy at the secondary-school level or at a community college. We offer to M.A. students not only an outstanding education in philosophy, but also all the benefits of being in a large, active and collegial department, with numerous colloquia, conferences, workshops, and reading groups in many areas of philosophy.

M.A. students enroll in the same classes as Ph.D. students, and are treated as full members of the graduate program.

M.A. students do not receive guaranteed department funding, but in recent years most of our M.A. have received Teaching Assistantships in at least some of their semesters in the program. (TA-ships come with both a stipend and tuition waiver.) M.A. students are also encouraged  to apply through the university for financial aid and university scholarships. Moreover, all domestic graduate students qualify for in-state tuition after just one year of residency in Colorado. Applicants admitted to the M.A. program who are not residents of Colorado or of any of the Western states should consider petitioning to defer their enrollment for one year, during which time they can establish residency in Colorado, in order to avoid paying out-of-state tuition.

The Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder is a member of the Western Regional Graduate Program, which means that students from the Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) can enroll in our M.A. program at in-state Colorado tuition rates. Students need not demonstrate financial need. To be considered for the WRGP tuition rate, students simply apply directly to our program and identify themselves as WICHE WRGP applicants. WGRP students must fulfill all of our usual requirements for admission, meet all admission deadlines, and must be selected for admission.

Students considering both our Ph.D. and our M.A. program should apply to the Ph.D. program. Applicants not accepted to the Ph.D. will automatically be considered for the M.A. program. Those interested only in the terminal M.A. program should apply just to that program. Students applying to the M.A. program can expect to hear about admission some time in late March to early April.

The M.A. requires 30 hours of approved graduate study, demonstrated proficiency in the core areas of Philosophy, and a successful thesis defense. 4 to 6 hours must be for thesis hours; the remaining 24-26 hours are for coursework credit hours (roughly 8 courses).


  1. Course Work: Students must take a minimum of 30 hours of approved graduate study, including the appropriate number of thesis hours.
  2. Distribution Requirements: 9 hours must be devoted to satisfying distribution requirements.
  3. Logic: Students must demonstrate proficiency in propositional and first-order logic.
  4. Thesis and Oral Defense: After choosing a Thesis Committee of three members and clearly designating one of these as the Chair, students must write and successfully defend a thesis.

Detailed Requirements

  1. Course Requirements: A minimum of 30 hours of approved graduate study. Of these:
    1. All 30 hours must be at the 5000 level or above. (Philosophy courses taken below the 5000 level may, with approval, sometimes be taken as 5810.)
    2. No more than 9 hours of 5810 (Special Topics) may be counted toward the 30 hour requirement.
    3. No more than 6 hours of 5840 (Independent Study) may be counted toward the 30 hour requirement.
    4. Between 4 and 6 hours must be 6950 (M.A. Thesis).
    5. At least 18 hours must be Philosophy courses (6940 and 6950 do not count as courses).
    6. No more than 9 hours of credit may be transferred into the program from other graduate programs. Students who enter the M.A. program already holding an M.A. degree may not transfer into the program any credits that applied toward the M.A. degree already held.
  2. Distribution Requirements: Students must demonstrate competence in the core areas of Philosophy by passing with a grade of B or better appropriate graduate or upper-division courses (possibly not for credit, as auditors) in each of the following three areas.
    1. History of Philosophy, either Ancient or Modern (one course). Courses that fulfil the requirement: Phil 5010, Phil 5020, or Phil 6000 when those courses are on a philosopher or topic in ancient philosophy (5th c. BC through Augustine) or in early modern philosophy (17th-18th c., roughly from Descartes to Kant). Some courses, such as Phil 5800 Open Topics in Philosophy are sometimes taught in a way that emphasizes historical readings and methods; when such a course is in the area of ancient or early modern philosophy, it may also count for the history distribution requirement, subject to approval from the Graduate Director.
    2. Metaphysics and Epistemology (one course). The courses which satisfy this requirement are 5300 (Mind), 5340 (Epist), 5360 (Metaphys), 5400 (Science), 5490 (Lang), 5550 (M&E Proseminar), 6300 (Mind), 6340 (Epist), 6380 (Metaphys), 6400 (Science), 6490 (Lang); others upon approval of the Graduate Director. Courses that are primarily historical do not fulfill the requirement, nor does 5600 (Religion). Students are encouraged to take the M&E proseminar being offered for the year.
    3. Values (one course). The courses which satisfy this requirement are 5100 (Ethics), 5110 (Contemporary Moral Theory), 5120 (Philosophy and Animals), 5200 (Contemporary Political Philosophy), 5210 (Philosophy and Social Policy), 5230 (Bioethics and Public Policy), 5240 (Seminar in Environmental Philosophy), 5260 (Philosophy of Law), 6100 (Seminar in Ethics), and 6200 (Seminar in Social and Political Philosophy); others upon approval of the Graduate Director. Students are encouraged to take the Ethics proseminar being offered for the year (5100). 


  1. Logic: Students must demonstrate competence in logic by earning a grade of B- or better in PHIL 2440 Symbolic Logic or in some more advanced course in logic. Students may satisfy this requirement either 1) by taking all the examinations of 2440 and earning the appropriate grade or 2) by earning the appropriate grade on a comprehensive final examination to be offered in that course each semester. Students may be exempted from this requirement by the Graduate Director if they have done suitable work in formal logic at other institutions, or in other departments of this University.
  2. Thesis and Oral Defense: Each student must prepare a thesis plan acceptable to the Chair of his or her Thesis Committee, and proceed to write the thesis working as closely as necessary with the Chair. At the appropriate time, the Committee will convene to hold a final oral defense of the thesis. A copy of the thesis must be furnished to each committee member at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the defense.
  3. Non-Thesis M.A.: The Department will award a non-thesis M.A. to any student who has completed thirty-six credits of graduate-level coursework with a B+ average or better. Twenty-four hours of coursework must be in Philosophy. The student must also meet the standard logic requirement and take six credits in each of our three general areas: history, values, and M&E. Standard restrictions on the number of credits earned from Special Topics and from Independent Study apply. Please note that transfer courses applied toward the PhD can not count toward the non-theis M.A.
  4. Normal progress and readmission to the M.A. program: A master’s student who is not enrolled in courses and has not been enrolled for six consecutive regular semesters (fall and spring) must successfully petition to remain in the master’s program, prior to recommencing formal work toward the degree (that is, prior to enrolling in any courses, signing up for thesis hours, or scheduling a thesis defense). The petition will take the form of a substantial letter explaining the circumstances surrounding the student’s separation from the program and making a case that the student is in now in a position to complete the degree in a timely manner. Petitions will be reviewed by the Graduate Curriculum Committee. Any student whose petition is approved may enroll in classes or schedule a thesis defense in the semester immediately following approval or in the semester immediately following that one. (If the student does not enroll or defend in either of those semesters, the student must file a new petition if the student wishes to recommence formal work toward the degree.) A student whose petition is denied is allowed to re-apply to the graduate program, via the standard procedure, without any loss of credit from work previously done, if the student is readmitted.