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Master of Arts (M.A.) Requirements

M.A. in Philosophy (code 5-6807)
Graduate Advisor: Prof. Charles Wallis

Note: the candidate must satisfy the general requirements stated in the Course Catalog as well as the specific departmental requirements described below and more fully in the Philosophy Graduate Student Handbook (available upon request). Prospective students should see the Graduate Advisor for assessment and to plan a program of study.


Applicants must, in addition to satisfying the University requirements, have an academic background that provides evidence of philosophical promise in order to be admitted. Such evidence may include strong GRE scores, a significantly high GPA over the last two years, advanced or honors coursework, or demonstration of research abilities or scholarly commitment. Applicants need not have majored or even minored in Philosophy, and in fact we encourage students from all backgrounds to apply. However, admission is competitive, and each applicant is evaluated on the merits of her or his own application. In some cases, the Department may recommend or require additional coursework in Philosophy prior to advancement to candidacy.


Most applicants have a prior program of study that includes more than 15 units of upper-division Philosophy courses. Applicants whose records and transcripts to date do not demonstrate this level of upper-division coursework, but who are admitted because their records evince a high level of academic performance, may have deficiencies that need to be rectified.

Deficiencies are of two sorts: (1) unit deficiencies, and (2) area deficiencies. Students have unit deficiencies if the number of units in Philosophy is deemed insufficient to succeed in the program. Students have area deficiencies if they have not yet demonstrated proficiency in a diverse range of core areas, such as coursework covering the history of philosophy, as well as in epistemology and metaphysics, value theory, and symbolic logic. (A grade of ‘B’ earned in a semester or quarter course is sufficient for such demonstration.)

Deficiencies are determined by the Graduate Committee after a close examination of the student’s transcripts and other academic records, and must be rectified prior to advancing to candidacy. None of the courses taken to rectify a deficiency will count toward the minimum unit requirement for the MA degree. Students who anticipate being admitted with deficiencies should contact the Graduate Advisor early in the admissions process and upon beginning the MA program in order to facilitate assessment and to plan a program of study.

Conditionally Classified and Classified Status

All admitted students enter the program with conditionally classified status, and must enroll in the Department’s proseminar in the first semester in which it is offered. Students achieve classified status upon satisfying two conditions: passing the proseminar, and passing the basic qualifying exam.

The Basic Qualifying Exam (BQE)

The BQE is a diagnostic test to ensure that students are equipped with the basic skills that are prerequisite for the successful study of Philosophy at an advaced level, as well as related pursuits (e.g., teaching at the community college leve, entering a top Ph.D program in Philosophy). The BQE also invests both the Department and students’ thesis or exam committees with the confidence to continue supporting and working with that student. Additionally, the BQE provides the student with feedback as to their currect knowlege and abilities in Philosophy. The exam is comprised of an analytic portion and a text portion. The analytic portion assesses students’ abilities to extract, explain, and evaluate arguments from short novel passages. In reconstructing and evaluating these arguments, the student must demonstrate an understanding of basic logical concepts (validity, soundness, cogency, analogy, etc.). The text portion assesses the student’s ability to read, interpret, and critically evaluate a more lengthy philosophical text.

Conditionally classified students who at entry to the program as a graduate student have been determined to have no deficiencies in prerequisite preparation must attempt the BQE by the end of their second (academic year) semester in the program and pass it by the end of their third (academic year) semester in order to achieve classified status. Conditionally classified student who must rectify a deficiency must attempt the BQE by the end of their third (academic year) semester in the program and pass it by the end of their fourth (academic year) semester in order to achieve classified status. (Winter Term and Summer Session do not count as academic year semesters).

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to Candidacy is the next step after acquiring classified status (and cannot take place until then) and confers catalog rights to graduate students. Advancement to Candidacy also signifies approval of a plan of study by the student’s department and college. The requirements for advancement, which must be achieved at least one semester before graduation can occur and can only occur in a semester in which the student is enrolled, are:

  1. Fulfillment of the CSULB Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR)
  2. The student must maintain a minimum 3.0 overall grade point average in all units undertaken in the philosophy program
  3. Approval of a program of study by the Graduate Advisor, and approval by the department faculty of either a thesis proposal or a proposed set of three comprehensive examinations (see the Graduate Student Handbook for details).
  4. Although there is no formal language requirement, the philosophy department may require the student to demonstrate a foreign language proficiency if a language proficiency is appropriate to the area of study.

Requirements for receiving the degree

  1. The student’s graduate program must consist of not less than 30 units of acceptable upper division and graduate courses, of which at least 24 units must be in philosophy. The remaining 6 units must be chosen in conference with the student’s faculty advisor and may be taken either in philosophy or in another field of study closely related to the candidate’s educational objectives. The program must include a minimum of 18 units of philosophy graduate courses, with a minimum of 9 units from the 600 series. Students must enroll in PHIL 610 in the first semester in which the course is offered after they are conditionally classified. PHIL 697 and 698 may not count toward fulfillment of the 600 series minimum requirement. Undergraduate level courses in Philosophy do not count toward the MA degree requirements. However, under special circumstances and at the discretion of the Graduate Advisor, undergraduate level courses from outside the major may count toward the MA in Philosophy when such work is essential to the successful completion of the student’s proposed MA thesis or comprehensive examination preparation.
  2. A thesis and oral defense thereof, or a set of three comprehensive examinations.