Prospective Concentrators FAQs

How large is the department?

There are 20 to 30 majors in each class, and about 20 regular faculty (plus visiting and associated faculty). The student:faculty ratio is thus quite low. Faculty bios can be found at:

What is the prerequisite for entering the department?

One philosophy course, so you know what you are getting into. Usually it will be an intro (200-level) course since higher-level courses generally have as prerequisite a previous course in philosophy or instructor’s permission.

What are the requirements for the major?

At least eight courses, so distributed that there are at least two courses in each of at least three of the four areas into which philosophy courses are divided (metaphysics, ethics & value, logic & philosophy of science, history of philosophy) — plus independent work consisting of participation in a fall junior seminar, a spring JP, and a senior thesis. Details can be found at:

As current juniors and seniors have been informed, some of the procedures described there have been suspended or modified due to the closure of on-campus activities at the University. When more is known about operations next academic year, the guide will be revised.

Must everyone do those same course requirements?

There are special options for students interest in political philosophy, and for those interested in philosophy of science (linguistics, mathematics, computer science, physics, biology, psychology, economics). Details can be found on the web pages listed above.

What sorts of topics do students write on for their JPs and theses?

You can see for yourself. Lists of actual junior seminar and senior thesis topics for selected recent years are available on-line at:

Can I combine a philosophy major with a certificate program?

Many students do — in programs ranging from African-American studies to Linguistics to Theater & Dance and more — though it may take some planning in advance and care in selecting courses, and perhaps exploiting one of the special options just mentioned.

Can I major in philosophy and study abroad?

Study abroad has been suspended by the University. The following answer applied in the past and can be expected to apply in the future when the program reopens.

Yes, and each year there are some who do. Students who will be away one or both semesters of junior year can be assigned an adviser spring semester sophomore year so that they can begin work on their junior independent work before traveling (though they need not complete it until the usual time). For information about this “early concentrator” status, consult the departmental representative. For other matters pertaining to study abroad, go to:

Do most philosophy majors go on to graduate school?

No, only two or three a year go on to graduate school in philosophy or related areas, though these few generally end up at very good schools, often with very good fellowships (including a couple of years ago a Rhodes).

If I don’t plan to go to graduate school what can I do with a philosophy degree?

For some examples of the very different kinds of things that our impressive undergraduate alumni are now doing see:

Where can I get more information?

From the departmental representative, J. Burgess
in person at
224 1879 Hall, office hours 1-3 Tuesdays & by appointment
through his website at
by e-mail at
Or browse our department website

How can I get more information from students about what it is like to be a philosophy major?

Ordinarily, prospectives can meet current majors at the department’s sophomore open house. All open houses having been canceled by the University, the Office of the Dean of the College (ODOC) is maintaining a list of names and e-mail addresses of current majors who have volunteered to answer questions from sophomores, which we are told will be made available by the ODOC [for privacy reasons it cannot be made available here] along with up-dated information about University procedures for declaring a major. Look for e-mails from the ODOC.