Graduate Program FAQs

How do I apply?

See our application page. Applications for the fall are due in January.

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 André Ariew, the Director of Graduate Studies. 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, a woman student, or a student who works 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 them an especially appropriate committee member in that area)

What are the department’s areas of strength?

History of Philosophy, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Science, 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.

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.

For more information, consult the Mizzou Graduate School.

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 and the Evolution, Science and Society Series. These provide an opportunity to meet with speakers informally, and graduate students get to start the question-and-answer session after every talk. 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, Psychological Sciences, 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 which draws philosophers of science from across the country, allowing graduates to talk informally with the speaker. 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. 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 2024 will be $19,000 a year, plus a full tuition waiver (however, most student fees are not covered in the waiver) and a subsidy for health insurance. We usually offer five years of funding, conditional on satisfactory performance.

We nominate several applicants each year for university fellowships. Fellowships come with higher stipends than the standard stipend. For some fellowships, there are no teaching duties for the first, second, and fifth years. More information is available on the Mizzou Graduate School webpage.

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. The average cost of living in Columbia can be found here. On average, our graduate students pay $700 or less in rent and utilities per month for a 1-2 bedroom apartment, which is less than half of the standard yearly stipend for our department.

For more information on comparing the cost of living here in Columbia versus other cities, there are online guides to 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. Mizzou provides excellent support through the Teaching for Learning Center.

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.)

The Graduate School offers a variety of helpful programs and courses to prepare graduate students to teach. 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.

Our students typically have an impressive array of presentations and publications. Since fall 2021, our students have (in total) presented on 60 occasions at national and international conferences, published eight articles in journals, eight book chapters and organized five conference events.

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

Although the department awards an M.A., it admits students to the Ph.D. program only, with students obtaining the M.A. in the process. The M.A. requires 30 credit hours of graduate work plus a research project, which can be either a thesis or two substantial papers. The Ph.D. requires 72 credit hours, including 41 credit hours of graduate courses, writing and defending a dissertation proposal and a dissertation. The M.A. is intended to take two years and the Ph.D. five years; most of our students complete the Ph.D. within five years. (Of the 19 students who completed the Ph.D. 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 Ph.D., 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. For more information on our degree plan visit

In the first semester, students take our three-credit Protoseminar which develops core philosophical skills for reading, analyzing, and writing philosophy.

Does the department help graduate students find jobs in philosophy?

We work to make our students attractive prospects for the job market throughout the program, beginning in the protoseminar in the first semester. We help students draft application materials for the job market and prepare for looking for a job. Mizzou offers excellent job support through the Grad Essentials Program. 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 academic and industry jobs. See our placement history.

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

    We work to provide a supportive environment 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 2023, Hannah Rubin initiated our participation with the Minorities and Philosophy Program, whose mission is to address structural injustices and remove barriers that impede the participation of marginalized groups in academic philosophy. There are more than 180 autonomous chapters worldwide. Our chapter focuses on providing access to mentoring and opportunities to interact with external speakers.

    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 a deli with their own bagels.

    Columbia's music scene includes an eclectic program at the Blue Note and Café Berlin, the "We Always Swing" jazz series, and classical music at Jesse Hall, the Missouri Theatre, and the School of Music, often with tickets priced for students. Columbia has the RagTag Cinema that screens independent films, the True/False film festival and the Unbound Book Festival, which features a variety of speakers including Salman Rushdie in 2017, Michael Ondaatje in 2016 and George Saunders in 2019. 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 a lot 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 and as one of the ten Best Places to Live. 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.

    I am not interested in earning a Ph.D., but would like to earn an M.A. May I apply only to your M.A. program?

    Everyone applies to the Ph.D. program, and earns the M.A. along the way. However, some students leave after completing the M.A.

    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?

    We do not require the GRE.

    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 26 (internet). View requirements for international applications.

    Your department is ranked outside of the top 50 overall in the Philosophical Gourmet Report. Does that mean that I would be better off at one of the top 50 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 André Ariew , Director of Graduate Studies and Director of Graduate Admissions.

    Department of Philosophy

    241 Middlebush Hall | Columbia, MO 65211

    Phone: 573-882-2871

    Fax: 573-884-8949

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