Graduate Program FAQs

How do I apply?

See our application page. We are accepting applications for Fall 2017.

May I talk to a graduate student who is currently in the program to find out more about the atmosphere for graduate students at Mizzou?

Absolutely. If you would like us to make the connection for you, get in touch with Claire Horisk or André Ariew. Please say if you would especially like to talk to a student who you feel may be best suited to provide the perspective you would like, such as a student who shares your area of interest, or a woman student, or a student who is working with a particular faculty member. Here is a list of our students, and their email addresses.

Who could I work with in my areas of interest?

(A star * indicates that the faculty member could serve as a dissertation adviser; no star indicates that the person would not direct a dissertation in the area, but has background or experience that would make him or her an especially appropriate committee member in that area)

What are the department’s areas of strength as listed on the Philosophical Gourmet Report?  Are there other areas of strength not listed on the report?

Decision, Rational Choice and Game Theory; Ethics; Applied Ethics; and Political Philosophy. We also have notable strengths in Epistemology, Philosophy of Biology, and Philosophy of Mind and Psychology.

Is it possible to combine the MA or PhD with a graduate minor in a related field?

Yes, but it will, of course, take extra time for which you will need additional funding. Here are some graduate minors that could be listed on your transcript and that fit particularly well with philosophy:

It is also possible to put together a non-designated minor consisting of course work that constitutes a unified plan of study and that includes a minimum of nine hours of graduate course work. A non-designated minor should be listed on a student's plan of study, but it is not listed on a student's transcript.

Are there talks and conferences?

One of the most important things you will gain in graduate school is exposure to ideas at the forefront of your field, as well as the opportunity to make connections with people whose work you are reading. To this end, we host frequent talks and workshops with visiting speakers, including our regular speaker series, the Missouri Philosophy of Science Workshop and our series of Kline workshops. (The Kline workshop is intended for members of the department with particular interest in the topic, and space is sometimes limited.) All of these provide an opportunity to meet with speakers informally, and graduate students get to start the question-and-answer session after every talk. Also, the Kline Visiting Speaker program brings in one speaker a semester to meet with the graduate students enrolled in one of the seminars. The speaker leads the seminar that week, has dinner with the graduate students, and gives a talk to the whole department. The Philosophy Graduate Student Organization sometimes applies to campus funds to which they have access, to invite a speaker of their own. There are also talks organized by other departments which may be of interest, particularly students working on interdisciplinary projects -- e.g., Biological Sciences, Black Studies, History, Linguistics, Political Science, Psychology, and Women's and Gender Studies.

Will I have the opportunity to develop a professional network?

You can begin building a professional network through our speaker series, our series of Kline workshops, and the Missouri Philosophy of Science Workshop, which draws philosophers of science from across the state. All three allow opportunities for graduate students to talk informally with the speaker. In addition, the Kline Visiting Speaker program brings in one visitor a semester to meet with the graduate students in one of the seminars; students go out for dinner with the speaker, and you will have a chance to discuss your research with him or her. Graduate students kick off the question-and-answer period after every talk. You can present your dissertation work at the department's In-House Colloquium series and organize or participate in reading groups. There are sources of financial support for travel to conferences to present your work, and there is financial support from the Graduate Student Organization to help 4 to 8 students travel to the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association. Our graduate students would be happy to talk to you about other ways in which they have built professional networks.

Do you provide funding for graduate students?

All students who apply to the program are considered for funding; you do not need to submit a separate application. We fund our students with teaching assistantships or university fellowships; sometimes we fund students with research assistantships, but this is less common. We normally do not admit students without funding.

The standard stipend in Fall 2017 will be $18,000 a year, plus a waiver of educational fees (i.e., tuition; incidental fees are not waived) and a subsidy for health insurance. We also offer some supplemental fellowships to highly-qualified applicants for the first year ($2,000), and we have four supplemental Kline fellowships to offer to third and fourth year students ($1,000). We usually offer five years of funding, conditional on satisfactory performance.

We nominate seven applicants each year for university fellowships, and have been very successful in winning fellowships for our nominees. Fellowships come with higher stipends than the standard stipend. For some fellowships, there are no teaching duties for the first, second, and fifth years.

There are also university fellowships specifically for US citizens who are African American, Native American, Alaska Native, Hispanic American or Mexican American (these offer a higher stipend and no teaching duties in the first, second, and fifth year), and for students who have served in the Peace Corps, Americorps, VISTA, or Teach for America, or who have completed a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. Please let us know on your application if you think you might qualify for one of these fellowships. (Applicants claiming Native American eligibility must be at least 1/12th Indian; be affiliated with a federally or state recognized Indian tribe or group; and demonstrate through letters of recommendation and other credible means maintenance of his or her cultural heritage.) We do not take eligibility for these fellowships into account in our initial decisions about admissions, but it is helpful for us to know whether you are eligible for a fellowship like this when we begin putting together funding packages.

If you are comparing the stipends we offer with those offered at other departments, you should keep the cost of living here and there in mind. There are online guides that will help you compare stipends with regard to cost of living, such as

Will I learn how to teach philosophy?

In our program, graduate students learn how to be a researcher and how to be a teacher. Our first year students take a course, Teaching of Philosophy, in the fall semester. Once you begin teaching, you will receive intensive training in the first two years as you assist a professor with a large lecture. Teaching assistants begin to teach their own courses in the third year, and they receive ongoing training and advice from a faculty mentor, including observations in the classroom and written and oral feedback. Many of our faculty are themselves award-winning teachers, and we will help you emerge from our program as a successful teacher, with classroom experience in at least three introductory courses.

Almost all our students get at least two years of teaching experience while here; some get five years of experience. (We offer five years of funding, but some students win university fellowships or research assistantships, and they do not teach every year.)

You may also wish to earn a Graduate Minor in College Teaching, or to participate in the Preparing Future Faculty Program.

Will I learn how to get papers accepted for presentation at conferences and publication in journals?

As a PhD program, we believe it is important for graduate students to learn the professional skills needed to succeed as a professional philosopher, including the skills of getting work accepted for presentation or publication. Our graduate students have presented their work at national conferences like the American Philosophical Association, regional conferences like the Central States Philosophical Association, and in some cases international conferences. As graduate students, they have had papers accepted at a variety of journals including Mind and Philosophical Studies. (See Graduate Student Achievements for a partial list of presentations and publications.) As alumni, our former students have continued to publish in excellent journals, including papers in Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and Synthese.

Our faculty have published books with top university presses, such as Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, have published articles in all the major philosophical journals, and have given talks all over the world. They have served as reviewers for the same presses and journals, on editorial boards, and on program committees for conferences such as the American Philosophical Association. Many of our faculty members use their knowledge of conferences and journals to tailor the writing assignments in seminars with an eye towards future publication or presentation, and the Graduate Student Organization provides a venue for students to practice presentation skills.

What courses do you offer?  How is the program structured?

Although the department awards an MA, it admits students to the PhD program only, with students obtaining the MA in the process. The MA requires 30 credit hours of graduate work plus a research project, which can be either a thesis or two substantial papers. The PhD requires 72 credit hours, including 41 credit hours of graduate courses, writing and defending a dissertation proposal, and a dissertation. The MA is intended to take two years and the PhD five years; most of our students complete the PhD within five years. (Of the 19 students who completed the PhD between 2011 and 2016, the average time to completion was 5.6 years with a median of five years.

There are distribution requirements for the PhD, in five areas: Logic; Metaphysics, Mind and Language; Epistemology and Philosophy of Science; Ethics and Political Philosophy; and History of Philosophy. The remainder of the required credit hours are elective; students often use them to pursue areas of special interest to them in depth.

In the first semester, students take our three-credit Protoseminar, which develops core philosophical skills for reading, analyzing, and writing philosophy. All doctoral students take our one-credit Dissertation Seminar, usually at the beginning of the third year, which gives advice on how to succeed in research and helps students begin to plan for finding a job in philosophy. As a result of these seminars, and the significant feedback given on students' MA research and course work, our students typically have an impressive array of publications and conference presentations. In addition, our students have been quite successful in finding jobs. [Placement History]

For a full description of the program, see the Graduate Handbook; for a listing of courses, see Course Descriptions. Courses numbered 7000 and above are graduate level courses. However, most of your coursework will be in courses numbered 8000 and above, with the main exceptions being 7110 and 7120.

Does the department help graduate students find jobs in philosophy?

We talk about ways to make oneself an attractive prospect for the job market throughout the program, beginning in the twice-yearly advising meetings for first and second year students. We help students draft application materials for the job market, and prepare for looking for a job, in the Dissertation Seminar in the third year. In the fall of the fifth year, the Placement Committee helps students polish application materials and provides practice interviews. The department supports the job search financially as well. We are happy to report that we have placed many of our students in tenure track jobs, and that our track record is above the national average reported by the Academic Placement Data and Analysis (APDA) project.  (See Placement History)

I know that women are under-represented in philosophy?  Is your department a good place for women students?

We very much welcome applications from women students, and members of other groups who are under-represented in philosophy, and we work to provide a supportive atmosphere for all our students, including women. In 2012, Professor Claire Horisk was honored by the MU Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women for supporting and mentoring women in the graduate program; she was nominated for the award by our women graduate students. She also won the Alumnae Anniversary Award in 2015, for teaching excellence and contributions to the education of women. In addition to Claire, there is one other woman on the faculty. Both are highly committed to providing specific mentoring for women students when it is needed. The women graduate students and faculty get together occasionally, to eat, drink, and talk. If you would like to talk to a woman graduate student to get more information about what the program is like for women students, please get in touch.

What is it like to live in Columbia?

Columbia is an attractive and inexpensive place to live, with all the charms of a college town and none of the disadvantages of a big city. Many of the faculty and graduate students live within a few miles of campus, and commute to work by bike or on foot. The department building is close to the campus recreation center — one of the best in the nation — and you can go there before or after class to work out in the gym, swim, or take an exercise class. For lunch, you can go next door to the newly-renovated Student Commons, or walk a few blocks to Columbia's lively downtown area, where there are restaurants, cafés, microbreweries, and even an artisanal doughnut store. 

Columbia's music scene includes an eclectic program at the Blue Note and Café Berlin, the Roots and Blues Festival in the fall, the "We Always Swing" jazz series, and classical music at Jesse Hall, the Missouri Theatre, and the Music School, often with tickets priced for students. Columbia has two film festivals, True/False and Citizen Jane, and the Unbound Book Festival, which features a variety of speakers including Salman Rushdie in 2017 and Michael Ondaatje in 2016. There is an extensive network of trails in Columbia for running and biking, and you can swim for free at Stephen's Lake, just a mile from campus. There are lots of parks, including one with extensive leash-free trails for walking dogs. In the summer there are two farmer's markets for local and organic produce; or you could buy a share in a community farm. There are several international grocery stores. A few miles south, there is hiking at Rock Bridge State Park or Gans Creek Conservation area.

Columbia has been ranked as one of the top ten college towns (American Institute for Economic Research, 2009), and as one of the ten Best Places to Live (Outside Magazine, 2008); Boone County is one of the most educated counties in the United States. There is excellent health care, the unemployment rate is well below the national average, and Columbia has a strong school system, making this a good place to move with a partner or with a family. 

The cost of living here is relatively low. To compare the cost of living here with other programs you are considering, try an online index such as

May I visit the department?

Please get in touch with the Director of Graduate Studies or the Director of Graduate Admissions if you would like to visit the department prior to application. Our Department cannot provide travel stipends for students who have not been admitted to the program, but we can arrange meetings with faculty members and graduate students and the opportunity to attend a seminar, and our Friday afternoon talk series is free and open to the public. We provide a modest travel stipend for students who have been admitted to the program to visit the department.

In addition, students from underserved, low income and/or underrepresented minority backgrounds should consider applying for the Graduate School Emerge Initiatives prior to application. The Emerge Initiatives can provide financial support for visits and other resources for students who are considering applying for the PhD program here.

I am not interested in earning a PhD, but would like to earn an MA.  May I apply only to your MA program?

No. Everyone applies to the PhD program, and earns the MA along the way. However, some students leave after completing the MA.

How many students are in a typical entering class, and how many apply?

We enroll between four and seven students each year. We usually receive around fifty applications.

My GRE scores are lower than the average scores for your applicants.  Do I have a chance of being admitted?

Verbal scores for admitted students typically range from 158 to 170 (or 570 to 800 under the older scoring scale), and GRE Quantitative scores from 147 to 166 (or 580 to 800 under the older scale).

The average verbal and quantitative GRE scores for admitted students are 163 and 155, respectively. and GPA in the major (normally philosophy) 3.9.

The GRE is only one factor used in our admissions decisions. It is not a "make or break" factor. Our decisions are also based on the writing sample, letters of reference, personal statement, and other factors, such as fit with the department. 

In evaluating GRE Verbal scores, we consider whether English is a student's first language; admitted international students sometimes have GRE Verbal scores substantially below the typical range.

I am an international student, and my TOEFL scores are lower than you mention.  Do I have a chance of being admitted?

We regret that we cannot admit students who have a lower TOEFL score than 100 (internet) total with a speaking score of at least 23 (internet). 

Your department is tied at 47 overall in the Philosophical Gourmet Report.  Does that mean that I would be better off at one of the top 46 programs?

Maybe, but maybe not; it depends on your philosophical interests and on the kind of program at which you would thrive. The report does not attempt to measure many factors that are important to graduate student success.

The Gourmet Report is a reputational ranking. Professional philosophers are asked to assign a score of 'Faculty Quality' to PhD programs, and the scores are averaged for the report. Evaluators are not required to research the faculty whom they are evaluating . Also, while they are permitted to take into account whether the department provides good advising and training in philosophy, this is optional, since the evaluators are not likely to know about more than a few departments. They also do not take into account a number of issues that are relevant to your success as a graduate student, such as the overall atmosphere of the department, the faculty/graduate student ratio, the faculty's degree of commitment to the graduate students, the talent of the faculty as teachers, the department's ability to train students as teachers of philosophy, the placement record of the department, the publications and presentations produced by the department's graduate students, or whether stipends are adequate given the cost of living in that city. Finally, you should keep in mind that one thing that matters very much is whether there is a faculty member in the department who is the right adviser for you. The report cannot tell you whether you are a good fit for the department. In short, the Gourmet Report is one factor that you should consider, but not the only factor.

Here is how the author of the report, Brian Leiter suggests you use it:

  1. Attend to the actual mean scores, and not simply the ordinal rank of departments : some ordinal differences mark trivial differences in mean scores, others mark more significant differences.
  2. For programs whose mean scores are fairly close (roughly, .4 or less apart), choose a program exclusively on the basis of how well it meets your needs and interests and needs, i.e., because it better meets your intellectual goals, or offers you a better financial aid package, or provides a more supportive intellectual community, and so on. [Note from the University of Missouri: Programs in the top 50 with mean scores 0.4 or less apart from Missouri are those ranked 40 to 50.]
  3. It can make good sense to choose a much lower ranked program (say, more than 1.0 or more apart) over a higher ranked program if that program meets your special interests. Because Departments are increasingly specialized in their coverage and methodologies, it is quite possible for a lower-ranked program to offer a stronger program in a sub-field than a higher-ranked one. Where you already have a specialized philosophical interest (e.g., ancient philosophy or Kant or philosophy of biology), you should certainly consider choosing a program that is weaker overall, but stronger in your specialty, than others to which you are admitted. [Note from the University of Missouri: This means it can make good sense to choose Missouri over a program ranked as high as 23 if we meet your special interests.]

Before choosing any program, of course, make sure that the faculty there are committed to training graduate students. This Report only measures the philosophical distinction of the faculty, not the quality of their teaching or their commitment to educating young philosophers. (There is, alas, no reliable way to measure these factors.) Anecdotally, at least, it appears that some schools with excellent faculties do not take that much interest in their graduate students (though often their students still get good jobs!). After identifying programs of general interest, students should investigate the kind of work done in the Department with care. I can not overemphasize how very different the philosophical climate is at equally distinguished departments, say, Pittsburgh and Rutgers. While both have many distinguished philosophers, the difference in training is likely to be quite dramatic. That John McDowell (Pittsburgh) and Stephen Stich (Rutgers) are both among the most prominent philosophers at work today sheds no light on the fact that their conceptions of philosophy and philosophical problems are completely different.


You can find out more about our department by contacting us; we can put you in touch with a current graduate student, who can tell you about his or her own experience here. We encourage you to contact graduate students at other departments you are considering too.

My question is not on this list.  Now what?

Contact Andre Ariew, Director of Graduate Studies, or Claire Horisk, Director of Graduate Admissions.