The Ph.D. program at CU 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 below). 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 3 courses per semester, for a total of 12 courses (36 credit hours) by the end of the 2nd 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 5 courses per year. At the beginning of the 3rd semester in the program, students turn in a Diagnostic Paper, with feedback from 3 faculty members. At the beginning of the 5th semester in the program, students turn in the Fifth-Semester Qualifying Paper, which will be evaluated anonymously; this is a qualifying event which the student must pass in order to be considered for advancement to candidacy in the Ph.D. program. In the 5th semester, students continue to take courses, in order to complete the required 45 hours of coursework (15 courses). Ideally, students should have completed coursework by the end of their 5th semester, and should begin work on the prospectus, and defend it in a prospectus oral exam some time in their 6th 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 4th and 5th years in the program, while completing the dissertation.
Over the years, we have had good success at placing Ph.D. students (see placements below). 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.
The Ph.D. requires 45 hours of approved graduate study, in addition to the 30 hours of dissertation credit hours required by the Graduate School. 27 of the 45 hours (equivalent to 9 courses) must satisfy departmental distribution requirements. Other requirements include a logic requirement; satisfactory completion of third-semester Diagnostic Paper and fifth-semester Qualifying paper; and successful prospectus oral and dissertation defense.
27 hours must be devoted to satisfying distribution requirements:
Students must earn an average of A- (minimum 3.66 on a 4-point scale) over any 9 hours in each of the three categories in order to satisfy the distribution requirements. 5840 (Independent Study) may not count towards the distribution requirements.
Every Ph.D. student must discuss with his or her Advisor whether there are any language and/or technical requirements that the Advisor deems to be essential prerequisites to the dissertation research, and, if so, what they are. The Advisor’s recommendations must then be brought before the Department for its approval, at the earliest opportunity, and all requirements decided upon by the Department must be fulfilled by the student before the student is advanced to candidacy.
Students must demonstrate competence in logic by earning a grade of B- or better in PHIL 2440 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.
During the first week of the third semester of study in the PhD program, each student who did not enter our Ph.D. program with two years of prior graduate work in philosophy will submit a diagnostic paper in a core area of philosophy. It may be an expanded version of a paper written for a first year class, and should be 4,500-7000 words in length.
In the case of students who are entering our Ph.D. program with two years of prior graduate work in philosophy, a 4,500-to-7000-word diagnostic paper must be submitted during the student’s first semester in the Ph.D. program. This paper can be a paper produced for a course here. Students entering our Ph.D. program with an M.A. degree in philosophy from the U. of Colorado Boulder are exempt from this requirement.
In either case, a committee composed of three members specializing in the appropriate area and appointed by the Graduate Director will evaluate the work and alert students to any problems or difficulties.
During the first week of the fifth semester of graduate study, each student who did not enter our Ph.D. program with two years of prior graduate work in philosophy will submit two original papers in an area of the student's choice. Students who enter our Ph.D. program with two years of prior graduate work in philosophy should submit their qualifying papers during the first week of the third semester of graduate study in the Ph.D. program.
Well in advance of the time at which a student's Qualifying Paper is due, the student must arrange for a tenured or tenure-track faculty member to advise the student during the preparation of his or her paper. Although it is understood that a student might discuss informally, with other faculty members, the subject of his or her Qualifying Paper, the advisor shall be the only faculty member who reads and comments on written drafts of the student's paper. That faculty member will also serve on the paper's review committee but will not chair it. The other two members of the review committee will be selected by the Director of Graduate Studies and will remain anonymous, and the identity of the student will be withheld from them. The review committee shall provide the student with at least one set of written comments evaluating the student's paper.
The qualifying paper requirement consists of two papers. The first paper should be an argumentative paper with a clear thesis, between 5,000 and 8,000 words in length. It should have a narrow focus, with an original idea or criticism, and should evince the sophistication needed to lay it out clearly. It should be written for a professional reader, as is the case for a journal, and get to the thesis quickly, just as one must when writing a publishable paper. It should not be a comprehensive literature review. The paper should demonstrate original thinking and analysis, an attempt to make an original contribution to the question, and should not simply be a reporting of other people's views.
The second paper should be a literature review paper for the area in which the first paper is written. It should consist of the exposition of a problem or issue and the various positions and arguments relevant to it. For example, a paper on compatibilism might lay out some recent arguments for compatibilism, together with some objections and problems that have been raised in the literature. A literature review paper on Aristotle's theory of cause might lay out some recent major interpretations of the doctrine of cause, together with some problems and difficulties with these interpretations. The goal is to demonstrate a broad and critical grasp of the current literature on a problem or issue. The paper should be 4,000 to 7,000 words in length.
Qualifying papers must not have been submitted for a graduate course or seminar, including independent study courses. They may, however, be substantially revised and extended versions of papers submitted for a course or seminar. Students holding an M.A. before being admitted to the Ph.D. program may submit papers based on their M.A. thesis as qualifying papers only after revision in consultation with their Qualifying Paper advisor.
The student's Advisory Committee will grade the paper using the following categories:
If the papers do not pass, the student will have one semester to submit revised or distinct papers. Revised papers will be evaluated by the same committee that reviewed the student's initial submission; papers on a new topic might be evaluated by a different committee, depending on the topic of the new papers. If the papers do not pass again and the student chooses to appeal, the department will select another committee to re-read the same papers and make a final decision.
Students will advance to the dissertation stage only if the Advisory Committee recommends such an advancement. The decision then rests with the entire Department, and is normally voted on at the first Department meeting after passing the qualifying paper and completing any language and technical requirements that the Department deems to be essential prerequisites to one's dissertation research. In making this decision, the faculty will do its best to determine the student's prospects for completing the Ph.D. successfully and in a timely fashion. Factors considered by the faculty will include:
After being admitted to the dissertation stage, students must assemble a Prospectus Committee of five members of the Department (a Chair, two major members, and two minor members). The Prospectus Committee can include faculty members outside of Philosophy, with, and only with, the approval of the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies and the Graduate School. Students must submit to this Committee a written dissertation prospectus for examination.
At a time deemed appropriate by the Prospectus Committee Chair, the candidate shall establish a Dissertation Committee for the final oral defense, composed of the Chair and the two major members of the earlier committee, and two additional members of the graduate faculty, at least one of whom must be in a field other than Philosophy or be from outside the University and approved by the Graduate School. A dissertation being proposed for defense must be circulated to all members of the committee 2 weeks prior to the scheduling of any defense. A dissertation defense can be scheduled if and only if at least 4 of the 5 dissertation committee members vote to allow it to be scheduled. This vote is to be coordinated and tallied by the chair of the dissertation committee, after which point the defense can be scheduled. The candidate is required to furnish each member of the Dissertation Committee, as well as the Department, with a copy of the dissertation at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the oral defense. Public notice of the oral defense shall also be made at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the defense. The dissertation oral is a public defense of the Ph.D. dissertation before the Departmental faculty, graduate students, and other interested persons. After members of the Dissertation Committee and any other members of the graduate faculty present have concluded their questioning, Philosophy graduate students who have been admitted to the dissertation stage may, with the consent of the Committee Chairperson, address questions to the candidate.
A typical doctoral dissertation is 150–200 pages in length and takes the form of a monograph – a sustained, book-length argument in support of a single thesis. Students also have the option of writing a multi-paper dissertation, which consists of a series of at least three freestanding papers in addition to an introductory essay that frames the student’s project as a whole and explains the theme that binds the other papers together.
Ph.D. students may earn a terminal M.A. by fulfilling the requirements of the M.A. program. A Ph.D. student who is not advanced to the dissertation stage by the Department or who has decided to leave the program may apply for a terminal M.A. degree. Such a student will be awarded an M.A. when the student (1) has completed 36 or more hours of graduate-level coursework in Philosophy with an average grade of B+ or better or (2) has passed the qualifying paper and completed 27 or more hours of graduate-level coursework in Philosophy with an average grade of B+ or better. In either case the student must meet the standard logic requirement, and standard restrictions on the number of credits earned from Special Topics and from Independent Study apply. Ph.D. students who are advanced to the dissertation stage shall be awarded an M.A. degree upon request. The Department strongly urges students to apply for the M.A. degree.
The Graduate Studies Committee, and the Advisory Committee assembled to assess the student’s qualifying paper.
Students wishing to appeal a decision regarding advancement in the program must submit a written appeal to the Graduate Studies Committee, which will seek the advice of relevant members of the faculty. The Graduate Studies Committee may elect to advise the Department to overturn its decision regarding advancement; the final decision rests with the Department. Students wishing to appeal a decision regarding a Prospectus Oral or Dissertation Defense must submit a written appeal to the Committee which made the original decision.
The department provides various forms of financial support for students in the Ph.D. program. For AY 2017-18, normal support packages are approximately $20.2K to $23.3K for the year and include tuition waivers and partial payment of health insurance; students are responsible for additional fees such as the remainder of health insurance coverage and other university-imposed student fees. Support is guaranteed for a minimum of five years, conditional upon satisfactory progress in the program.
First-year Ph.D. students are typically given research assistantships while second and third-year Ph.D. students are typically given teaching assistantships. Teaching Assistants lead recitation sections and grade papers, exams, and quizzes in their assigned course. Research Assistants work with individual faculty members on philosophical projects of mutual benefit. For 2017-18, a TA-ship for 2 sections for 2 semesters comes with a stipend of $20,199.11, plus tuition waiver and partial health insurance; students are responsible for university-imposed student fees, which varies for each individual. Fees for 2017-2018, including the balance of health insurance not covered by the appointment, were approximately $1,330 per semester. RA-ships are funded at the same level.
Graduate Part-Time Instructors teach their own introductory-level philosophy courses, in which they are fully responsible for all teaching and grading for the course. Typically, students who are in the 4th year, and have taught two years as teaching assistants, will be GPTIs. Teaching one's own course is time-consuming, but also rewarding, and is important preparation for a career of teaching. In 2017-2018 a GPTI on standard appointment teaching two courses per semester for two semesters receives a stipend of $23,345.77 plus tuition waiver and partial health insurance.
Each year, the department awards approximately 3 Department Dissertation Fellowships. These fellowships provide support for one semester equivalent to the stipend of a 50% GPTIship. These fellowships help students work on their dissertations.
The department offers summer research assistantships to a limited number of students each year. Students are invited to apply early in the spring semester; they must work with a faculty member who will typically assign them a research project of interest to both parties.
Students are encouraged to apply for work study and get work-study eligibility. Such students are then eligible to be hired into various positions: as paid research assistants for faculty members, as graduate student assistants in the Center for Values and Social Policy, or as graders for courses on an hourly basis.
In addition to internal department funding for Ph.D. students, there are university-wide sources of funding which are available to incoming or current Ph.D. students. These fellowships are awarded through an open, campus-wide competition; some provide significantly more money than internal department funding sources. Our Ph.D. students have been quite successful in winning these fellowships. Visit University of Colorado Fellowships for more information.
Other forms of financial support, including work-study and student loans, are also available to both M.A. and Ph.D. students; in addition, TA-ships are frequently awarded on an ad hoc basis to students in our M.A. program. For more information, visit the Office of Financial Aid.
Finally, funds are available both within the department and from the university for travel to present papers at conferences.