Jump to content
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

MA in Philosophy: One year of two years?


Recommended Posts

Hi all, 


I'm considering programs in philosophy at the master's level. I'm looking at schools in Canada (where I'm from) because the funding situation for MA's is better here, and I did not write the GRE so schools in the US are out of reach. 


I majored in philosophy as an undergraduate and graduated with top grades. However, I want to pursue an MA because I want to study a certain subject area of philosophy and the undergraduate institution I attended did not offer enough courses in that area. So, I feel like my application will be weak if I apply straight to PhD programs because I have not done enough work in this area. Also, my undergraduate institution does not have the strongest reputation but graduates from here have gone on to top philosophy programs. 


I eventually want to gain admission into a well-respected PhD program. My question is: will a one year MA or a two year MA be more beneficial for me in the long run if my end goal is a PhD? Most of the top MA programs here offer one year MAs, with the exception of SFU. Some of the top schools offer two years, but it seems like they reserve it for those who did not study philosophy as an undergraduate. If I enter a one year MA and want to apply in the Fall 2014 for PhD programs, I won't have enough time to develop strong relationship with potential letter writers. If I do two years, the courses I take might not count towards course work in a PhD program. I'm really confused about this process and since funding deadlines and graduate school application deadlines are coming up, I was wondering if any of you could give me some advice on this matter? 


Thank you! 

Edited by slauren
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm Canadian, and did a one-year MA. I then took a year to prepare my PhD applications. Most of my MA cohort applied out that same year, but it was a tremendously difficult and draining process for them (at least for those with whom I remain in regular contact), and their applications weren't really any different than they were/would have been the year before.


Frankly, I don't think it's advisable to do what my cohort did and apply out the same year, precisely because your file isn't substantially different and because you've had virtually no graduate experience yet (so you haven't a clue what grad life is like, what the expectations are, and your writing hasn't really improved yet). Plus, it's really stressful to have to do that as you're negotiating a new and probably unfamiliar environment with a number of new pressures (e.g. TAing). If you end up at a 2-year MA, then great: you've got two years of funding ahead of you, and can take a little more time with your PhD applications in year 2. If you do a 1-year MA, then take that year to focus on it exclusively. And then take a year off, work outside academia, and take a full year (well... from whenever you defend 'til your application deadline... so probably August-December) to prep for the PhD application cycle. That way, you won't have any distractions, and you can minimize the stressors.



As for what's beneficial in the long-run... so far as I'm aware, most programs don't give much in the way of course credit for MA courses. At my institution, you end up having to do just one class less than those straight from a BA. Personally, I think it's desirable to have a large number of courses under your belt. I only did 6 as an MA student, and only had to do a further 12 before becoming ABD. Had I taken fewer courses, I would be much, much worse off, philosophically speaking. Even though they no longer count for credit, I've audited another 12 since then, bringing me to a total of 30 grad courses. From what I see on other people's cvs, that's actually on the high end. But the payoff is huge: grad courses bring you up to speed on a given topic, force you to engage quite critically with the literature, and develop your presentation and writing skills (to say nothing of the increased breadth of knowledge, which can prove to be a real asset later when you're trying to come up with paper ideas and that kind of stuff). 



In a nutshell, I don't a one- or two-year MA will make a huge difference for you in the long-run, but I do think that it's worth thinking of even the one-year MA as a two-year chunk of time. If you find one that works for you, fantastic. If you find a two-year MA that works for you, also fantastic: there's no harm at all in the extra coursework.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.