A degree in philosophy prepares students to critically evaluate arguments and develop strong reasoning skills. Students also learn the history of philosophy and sometimes focus on a specific type of philosophy, such as philosophy of science or ethics. At the undergraduate level, a philosophy degree is typically a general degree that provides a broad background in basic concepts, while graduate students may specialize in a particular philosophical topic or conduct independent research. The time to complete a philosophy degree varies depending upon the program, type of degree, number of classes a student takes and what projects a student completes.
A standard bachelor's degree in philosophy takes four years for students who take a full load of courses each semester. Schools vary slightly in the number of hours and specific courses they require students to take. For example, at Georgia State University, students must take 27 course hours in philosophy-related electives and 18 course hours in required philosophy courses such as symbolic logic and introduction to philosophy. This amounts to three semesters of philosophy classes for a student who takes a full-time load of 15 hours per semester. These classes must be taken in addition to 65 hours of core classes.
A master's degree enables a student to learn more about the discipline of philosophy. Some schools require students to write a master's thesis or conduct research to earn their degree. On average, a master's degree takes about two years to complete, depending on the program. At Boston College, students must take 10 courses, or 30 credit hours, in philosophy and master a foreign language to earn their master's degree.
A doctoral degree is the highest level of training in philosophy and results in a Ph.D. Students must take highly specialized course work and complete research for a dissertation. At Seattle Pacific University, the course work for a philosophy degree can be completed in about four years, but the school's philosophy department emphasizes that most students take about seven years to complete the requirements.
Factors Affecting Time
At every level of education, students might choose to take on additional projects beyond the required projects. These projects might include an undergraduate thesis, graduate-level research or an internship. Because coursework in philosophy can be challenging and complex, some students may choose to take a part-time course load or remedial classes so that they can better understand the material. This can increase the time needed to complete a degree.