Master of Arts in Philosophy

What, really, is the Big Idea?

Study the great thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to Darwin and Einstein and discuss the deepest problems. Is your brain/mind a computer? Can computers think? Are all your actions physically determined? Are you responsible for your actions? Must anything that thinks have a language to think in? What is the best form of government? Where do human rights come from? What aesthetic values should inform our city planning? Want to learn the big ideas? How Marx turned Hegel on his head? How Darwinian evolution replaces intelligent design by monkeys at typewriters? Why Nietzsche said that God is dead? How to think in the post-modern world?

These questions and more are pondered and discussed in course work that offers students challenges and prepares them for careers in government service, law, medicine, teaching, business and the ministry.

An examination of the intersection of morals, ethics and truth

Graduate students in the Philosophy M.A. program have the option to specialize their studies. The Ethics, Law, and Politics track is one in which covers basic philosophy with emphasis on topics in ethics, philosophy of law, and political philosophy. Our energetic and friendly small department of active teacher-scholars includes a number of faculty with expertise in ethics, philosophy of law or political philosophy, either contemporary or historical.

The department includes seven regular faculty members, plus part-time faculty. In recent years, we have had, on average, eleven graduate students.

Course Requirements

30-33 credit hours (see Course Catalog for latest updates of philosophy graduate requirements

Graduate students in our program take most of their classes in upper division undergraduate courses that are open for graduate-level credit (sometimes on the basis of extra work and/or outside discussions with the instructor). Graduate students sometimes earn a portion of the remainder of their philosophy credits by means of independent study arrangements with individual faculty members. Students who wish to pursue a Master's degree in philosophy at the University of Nevada, Reno may choose to take the general philosophy track or specialize in ethics, law, and politics. Both tracks are offered on either a thesis or non-thesis basis. Students work with their advisors to develop their program. A student who opts for a non-thesis plan must complete 33 graduate credits. A student who opts for the thesis plan must complete 30 credits of graduate course work including six credits of thesis course work.

Program at a glance

Admissions cycles: Fall, Spring
Application deadlines: Mar. 1, Nov. 1
Program Director: Benjamin Young


Many of the students accepted into the MA program in philosophy have completed undergraduate philosophy majors or minors, though we also accept students with degrees in related areas and students with compelling interests or strong undergraduate backgrounds.

Normally, applicants should have an undergraduate grade-point average of B or better both overall and in philosophy courses. We occasionally admit students with lower averages if they can provide strong evidence that they are likely to do well in our program.

We do not require GRE scores for admission into the program. However, such scores will be taken into consideration by the admissions committee if they are available.

The Philosophy Department has a two-part application to the MA. program:

    1. Applicants for admission must meet the University of Nevada, Reno Graduate School's admission requirements. Applications to Graduate School are only accepted online. Be sure to indicate M.A. in Philosophy. Your official transcripts must be sent to the Graduate School.
    2. In addition, please send the following directly to the Philosophy Department:
      1. Letter of Intent: a letter describing your interests and goals and explaining why you want to pursue your studies in our department. Be sure to indicate which program you are interested in General Philosophy or Philosophy specializing in Ethics, Law, and Politics.
      2. Writing Sample: sample of your recent writing in philosophy
      3. References: three letters of recommendation, preferably from philosophy instructors, may be submitted through the Graduate School or sent to the philosophy department.

If your record is unusual in some way and you feel as though you need additional supporting materials, we would like to consider them as well. Please send them directly to the philosophy department. If you have questions, please contact our Director of Graduate Studies, Benjamin Young.

Is funding available?

The Department of Philosophy has two full-time teaching assistant positions. Positions include salary and reduced tuition fees. The graduate program coordinator makes an announcement of available graduate assistant positions for the upcoming academic year in early April. Applicants are expected to be students in the philosophy graduate program. Preference will be given to applicants with an undergraduate major or minor in philosophy. Interested students must submit a letter of application explaining why they believe they would be qualified for the position. Students who are enrolled already in the M.A. program should include the names of three faculty members in the department of philosophy as references. The faculty will use the application letters of reference for applicants who have been accepted recently into the M.A. program. The deadline for the receipt of applications is typically in late April. Applicants should email their letter of application to the graduate program coordinator or to the administrative assistant. To be eligible for an assistantship, students must be admitted to the M.A. degree program in Philosophy and be in good academic standing. The student must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and must be continuously enrolled in at least six graduate level credits throughout the duration of the assistantship. For more information about graduate assistantships, please consult the Graduate School.

Related Degrees and Programs

Contact College of Liberal Arts

Phone (775) 784-6155
Fax (775) 784-1478
Location Ansari Business Building
Address University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557