The department no longer admits students to its MA program. Students who enter the graduate program with a BA in Philosophy are admitted directly into the PhD program.

There are three exceptions:

  • PhD students can decide to get an MA as part of their degree pursuit in order to make themselves eligible for additional professionalization opportunities, such as certain teaching positions outside the university or for higher pay within MSU.
  • PhD students who choose to leave the program before obtaining their PhD may apply for an MA degree instead.
  • Students who are funded in an MA or PhD program other than philosophy at MSU may be admitted to the MA track as dual degree students. Such students must be receiving funding from another program, as the Philosophy Department does not admit unfunded students and does not fund MA students itself. Students who want to pursue this option do not need to meet the official application deadline and are required to submit:
    • a personal statement (see below)
    • an academic statement (see below)
    • a writing sample (see below)
    • proof of being admitted to another MSU program
    • proof that they are funded for the period of the MA which is usually two years.

Admissions to our PhD program is highly competitive, as we are currently only admitting a small cohort of graduate students every year.

How to apply

The application for admission to the graduate programs is done online. To apply, go to and fill out and submit the appropriate application form.

Official transcripts from all post-secondary education institutions you have attended should be uploaded to MSU’s electronic application system, or are either to be sent by the institution directly to the philosophy department: Department of Philosophy, Graduate Applications, 368 Farm Lane, 503 S. Kedzie Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, or should be emailed to the Graduate Program Administrative Assistant, Melissa Arthurton, at

Other supporting materials can be uploaded directly onto the application website.

Pre-Application Contact

If you have questions or would like to learn more about our program, please contact the Director of the Graduate Program, Christian Lotz ( Video Meetings can be arranged.

Required materials include:

  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary education institutions you have attended are to be sent by the institution directly to the Graduate Program Administrative Assistant in the Philosophy Department.
  • Three confidential letters of recommendation (uploaded by the recommender).
  • CV
  • Personal statement (please use this statement to help us understand how you became interested in philosophy, what special challenges you might have faced, what relevant experiences you might have had, and what aspirations you have for the future); the personal statement should be 450-650 words.
  • Academic statement: Please explain the nature of your work in philosophy and/or related fields thus far, your developing areas of interest, and what studies or projects you would like to pursue in graduate school. Specify how the MSU philosophy department fits with your interests and/or whether there are particular MSU faculty with whom you would like to work. The academic statement should be 600-900 words.
  • One writing sample: One philosophical essay of 5000-6500 words.

Note: the department does not require GRE scores as part of the application, but you may have them sent to us, and if we have them, we consider them.


  • You should make a clear case for why you want to get a PhD in our program. You should have a good sense of departmental strengths and faculty.
  • Your academic statement should be tailored towards our program; i.e., it should not simply consist of a template that you might use for other programs.
  • Your writing sample can be based on work that you have done in courses but may need additional work for submission. Writing samples should be well written, clearly structured, present a clear argument, and demonstrate a solid grasp of relevant literature.

Application deadline

  • Admission is for the academic year beginning in the Fall semester. To be considered, all application materials should be received by the Department no later than December 5 of the previous year. The deadline for applications is so early because this permits us to nominate selected candidates for MSU’s prestigious University Fellowships. (
  • Admission decisions to the Ph.D. program are made by an admissions committee that considers all elements of the application dossier: academic record, letters of recommendation, academic and personal statement, writing samples, and any other materials that document capacity for graduate study in philosophy. This process is usually complete by the end of March, with acceptance or denials sent out by mid-April.

More Information

General information

Awards and Financial Support

Resources (such as seminars taught during the last five years)

Degree requirements

Past dissertations and doctoral placements

Current faculty

Strengths of our department

Application fee

Possible application fee waiver

Note: at this point, the philosophy department is not able to waive the application fee.

International applicants

Note: please make sure that you read the financial proof form.

Pre-arrival information for international applicants

English language competency

The TOEFL test or equivalent material that we can use as a proof of proficiency is not necessary at the first stages of the application process. We will ask applicants to provide supporting materials if we decide to offer international applicants admission to our program.

Note: we expect a high proficiency level, given that a PhD in philosophy requires an excellent command of English, both written and spoken.

Admissions FAQ

Can I submit revised or corrected materials after the deadline?

No, once the deadline has passed, do not send us any additional materials unless we request them (including revised papers, updated transcripts, or omitted documents). Unsolicited material will not be seen by the admissions committee.

What are my chances?

We typically receive around 75 applications for our Ph.D. program, and we aim for a class of about 3 students per year. We have many more qualified applicants than we are able to admit.

Do I have a better chance of being accepted if I already have an M.A.?

For students with strong undergraduate backgrounds in philosophy (this usually means having majored in philosophy) and excellent grades in their philosophy courses, acquiring a Philosophy M.A. will not necessarily help their prospects for admission into our Ph.D. program. For students who have taken fewer undergraduate courses in philosophy or feel they could have performed better in their philosophy courses, an M.A. is likely to increase the chances of admission.

What if my undergraduate degree is in an area other than philosophy?

This does not rule out a successful application. If you have taken philosophy courses at all, chances are slim, but your application will be given full consideration by the admissions committee.

Is there a minimum GPA required to apply, and what are my chances if I do have a low GPA?

There is no minimum undergraduate GPA. However, successful applicants nearly always have an average GPA higher than 3.5 in their philosophy courses.

How many letters of recommendation should I submit, and who should they be from?

We require three letters of recommendation. While we read all letters we receive, those written by professional philosophers who know you and have read your work are especially valuable. Ideally, at least two letter writers should have served as your professor in college classes.

Can letters of recommendation be sent electronically?

Yes, all applications need to go through MSU’s electronic admissions portal.

Do we accept letters of recommendation from Interfolio?

No. All letters should be submitted via the application system.

Can I visit the department?

Admitted students are invited to visit campus and our department over a two-day period, which typically occurs at the end of March for the Graduate Student Conference.

What financial support is offered to graduate students?

For more information, visit our Awards and Financial Support page. Contract rules and wages are determined by the Graduate Student Union negotiations and are not in control of the philosophy department.

Do you have non-teaching based Research Assistantships?

Yes. We usually have one Raship connected to bioethics, one connected to philosophy of science, and a “Tech TA” who is responsible for running workshops on online pedagogy and offer tech support for department events.

How much teaching will I do during semesters?

Graduate Students in philosophy are normally responsible for TAing in large course in philosophy and IAH (Integrated Arts and Humanities). The workload varies by course, but assistants are expected to work on average 20h per week. Advanced students have the opportunity to teach their own courses.

Will I receive health care benefits? What are the out-of-pocket costs to me?

All graduate students in good standing receive a standard package of medical benefits, negotiated by the Graduate Student Union.

If I am an international student, do I still receive financial support?

Yes, international students receive the Department’s standard support package.

If I am an international student, do I have to show that I can support myself financially?

Yes, the United States Government requires you to prove that you can support yourself during graduate school. However, you will be able to count the financial support package that you would receive from us. This and the I-9 will be set up by MSU’s office for international students and scholars once you have accepted the offer.

What is the typical timeline for achieving the Ph.D., i.e., when will I be done?

The Ph.D. requirements are designed to be completed in five years. Typically, the first five semesters are dedicated to coursework. 1-2 semester(s) are dedicated for preparing comps and the dissertation prospectus. Most students finish within 6 years.

How much of the program can be completed through online classes or distance learning?

None. You need to be in residence for all your course work. Students without teaching duties are permitted to meet with their guidance committees online, as long as they can prove that regular meetings with guidance committee chair and committee are done.

In what areas of Philosophy does MSU specialize?

Check our faculty page.

Do you offer interdisciplinary opportunities?

Yes! The philosophy department is very supportive of interdisciplinary work. MSU offers many certificates and specializations. For example, current students are involved in cognitive science, environmental policy, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Indigenous Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, etc.

Do you offer a degree in bioethics or medical ethics?

No. We are a classical PhD program. Students take seminars in all areas of philosophy. Students can focus on bioethics or medical ethics though and will receive support through faculty on their guidance committee or can setup independent studies with faculty in this area.

What are the Language Requirements for Graduate Students?

If guidance committees determine that a second or third language is required for the proposed research and/or dissertation area, it can be required. The vast majority of students in our program do not need to fulfil a language requirement.

Do you accept the more affordable Duolingo Language Test?

MSU temporarily accepts until fall 2024 the Duolingo English Test, the TOEFL IBT Special Home Edition and the IELTS Indicator. More information can be found on the web pages of the Graduate School.