The Ph.D. program at CU Boulder Philosophy consists of approximately 2.5 years of coursework and 2.5 years of work on a dissertation, with 5 years of guaranteed funding (for details see Funding). We are both a research and a teaching department; teaching appointments are not only the principal means of supporting graduate students but are also the way that we train graduate students for a career of teaching as well as doing research in philosophy.

Ideally, Ph.D. students in their first two years will take and complete three courses per semester, for a total of 12 courses (36 credit hours) by the end of the second year. The minimum number of courses Ph.D. students can take to be making good progress in the first two years of the program is five courses per year. At the beginning of the third semester in the program, students turn in a Diagnostic Paper on which they get feedback from three faculty members. At the beginning of the fifth semester in the program, students turn in the Qualifying Paper, which will be evaluated anonymously; this is a qualifying event that the student must pass in order to be considered for advancement to candidacy in the Ph.D. program. In the fifth semester, students continue to take courses in order to complete the required 45 hours of coursework (typically 15 courses). Ideally, students should have completed coursework by the end of their fifth semester and should begin work on the Prospectus, defending it in a Prospectus Oral Exam some time in their sixth semester. Students are eligible to sign up for up to 10 dissertation hours before they pass their Prospectus exam. The remainder of the required 30 dissertation hours will then be used in the fourth and fifth years in the program, while completing the Dissertation. (For more details, see Official Ph.D. Requirements.)

Over the years, we have had good success at placing Ph.D. students (see Ph.D. Placement). Recent graduates have received tenure-track jobs at both leading research universities and smaller colleges, and it has been rare for one of our students not to receive any offers (tenure-track or temporary) at all. Graduates have also gone on to successful professional careers outside academia.

Overview of PhD Requirements:

  1. Course Work: Students must take a minimum of 45 hours of approved graduate study, in addition to the 30 hours of dissertation credit hours required by the Graduate School.
  2. Distribution Requirements: 27 hours must be devoted to satisfying specific distribution requirements.
  3. Language and Technical Requirement: Students must satisfy any language and/or technical requirements that the Department judges to be necessary given the area of the dissertation.
  4. Logic: Students must demonstrate proficiency in propositional and first-order logic.
  5. Diagnostic Paper: Students must submit a Diagnostic Paper, generally at the beginning of the third semester of graduate study.
  6. Qualifying Papers: Students must submit a Qualifying Paper, generally at the beginning of the fifth semester of graduate study. Students may advance in the program only if the qualifying paper is judged acceptable by the examining committee and approved by the Department.
  7. Prospectus and Oral Examination:  After passing the Qualifying Paper, students must assemble a Prospectus Committee of five faculty members, including a Chair/Advisor and (typically) an outside member. Students must submit a written Prospectus to this Committee, who, after judging the Prospectus acceptable, will conduct an oral exam on the Prospectus and related topics.
  8. Dissertation and Oral Defense: Students must write a Dissertation that is acceptable to the Dissertation Committee, and defend the Dissertation in a public, oral defense at a time deemed appropriate by the Committee.
  9. Satisfactory Progress: Students are expected to make reasonable progress toward the Ph.D. and will be evaluated by the Department in this regard each spring.

Official Ph.D. Requirements (and Additional Program Information)