Master of Arts

Masters in Philosophy

Program Description

The Department offers a program of study leading to the Master of Arts (MA) degree in Philosophy.

The program is named as being among the top 15 MA programs (out of approximately 189 such programs world-wide) by The Philosophical Gourmet Report. More generally, Cal State Long Beach is routinely ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top public Master’s universities in the West, and was also recently ranked among the top three best value public colleges in the nation by the Princeton Review.

Our graduate program offers rigorous philosophical training in a supportive environment, and is ideal for those who are looking to be more competitive in pursuing doctoral studies (either in Philosophy or related fields), as well as those looking seeking only a terminal MA. The program is also suited for students who were not necessarily undergraduate philosophy majors or else need additional preparation or credentials before pursuing work at the doctoral level or in professional programs in medicine, law, technology and business, science, etc. The current director of the MA program is Prof. Alex Klein.


Application Deadlines and Procedure

The application deadline for SP19 matriculation is November 1st 2018. (See also the deadlines listed on the CSULB Graduate Advising webpage.) The application deadline for FA19 matriculation is June 1st 2019.

The application process has two parts. First, apply to the University. To do so, submit the following:

  1. Cal State Apply application
  2. All official transcripts to Enrollment Services

Second, apply directly to the Philosophy Department. To do so, compose and submit the following:

  1. A copy of your Cal State Apply application
  2. A minimum of two letters of recommendation
  3. A statement of purpose
  4. A writing sample

These latter four items should be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator at the address below:

Prof. Alex Klein
Department of Philosophy (MHB 917)
California State University Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
Long Beach, CA 90840–2408

The norm for statements of purpose is approximate 2 pages (500–1000 words). We are keen to hear about why you want to study Philosophy at the graduate level, what you want to study in particular, and with whom. The norm for writing samples varies, but are typically between 5–15 pages. Preferably, your writing sample should be in Philosophy; however, the department wants to see the work that best represents your writing and research skills.

The Department does not require the GRE for admission; however, applicants may submit their scores at their discretion (stronger scores help students secure admission and funding).


Admission and Entrance Requirements

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 high quality students from various 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.


Many 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 some deficiencies in their background and rudimentary understanding of Philosophy. Typically, these are one of two sorts: (1) unit deficiencies, or (2) area deficiencies. Applicants have unit deficiencies if the number of units in Philosophy is insufficient to succeed in the program. Applicants 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.)

If an applicant’s unit or area deficiencies are problematic, the Graduate Committee may require applicants to rectify them in their beginning semester(s). Courses taken to rectify a deficiency do not 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 Department offers several sources of funding for both new and continuing graduate students. Graduate students may work up to a total of 20 hrs/week in all campus employment combined.

Graduate Assistantships in Philosophy (GAships)

In SP97, the Department began a new ‘teacher-in-training’ program for graduate student assistants to lead discussion groups and assist with grading in lower-division GE courses. The Department typically employs 3–6 Graduate Assistants each semester. For AY09–10, GAs were paid approximately $2,745–$3,140 per semester for 10 hours/week. A call for applications for GAships is made each semester. Please check the Department’s website for the announcement and application deadline; questions or concerns can be emailed to the Department Chairperson or the Graduate Advisor, Alex Klein.

Additionally, other Departments in CLA and other colleges occasionally hire Philosophy MA students to assist with grading and writing tutorials. The Graduate Advisor can provide more information about these and other campus employment possibilities. Further information can be found here.

Graduate Student Tutorialships

The Department occasionally receives funds for support success initiatives. In some semesters, the Department hires graduate students to provide tutoring support across all sections of GE courses such as PHIL170: Critical Reasoning. Rather than being assigned to a particular section, graduate student tutors run open advising and/or office hours (10 hrs/week) to help students with coursework and test preparation, improving their skills in critical thinking and mastery of basic logical concepts. Tutors are a support resource only, and they are not responsible for grading. Pay for graduate student tutorialships is equivalent to that of a regular GAship.

Supplemental Instructorships at the Learning Assistance Center (SIships)

The Learning Assistance Center (LAC) occasionally hires graduate students in Philosophy to serve as Supplemental Instructors. SIs help a segment of the CSULB undergraduate population (“Beach Learning Community”) to fill in gaps in their foundational knowledge and skills, so that they can better handle college-level coursework. SIships involve many of the same duties as GAships in Philosophy, and SIs frequently serve alongside GAs in the very same GE courses. The job is to facilitate learning objectives and to work collaboratively with the instructor to maximize student success among the Beach Learning Community. Interested students should consult the appropriate staff member at the LAC for futher details or an interview. Further information can be found here.

Student Assistantships (SAships) and Federal Work/Study

Some students apply for Work/Study programs as part of their Federal financial aid (a FAFSA must be on file); the Department sometimes has funds available to hire these students as SAs for both the regular academic year and summer sessions. SAs are responsible for assistance within the Philosophy Department Main Office, and may not work more than 20 hours per week. Application forms can be obtained fromt the Department Coordinator in the Main Office.

Resident Assistantships (RAships)

The Office of Housing and Residential Life (OHRL) has employment opportunities for graduate students who are looking for RAships or for finanical assistance for living expenses. See here for further information.

Scholarships and Awards

Besides employment, there are several opportunities for graduate students to apply for scholarships and grants (in addition to those offered interally by the Department). For instance, the HOGAR recruitment scholarship is a one-time award of $4000 in the Fall semester. (The HOGAR office allows faculty who will be working with PBAC students to compete for summer funds.) Continuing graduate students are also encouraged to apply for the competitive Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). The award is $9,000 for the academic year. The University offers the Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral scholarship to qualified applicants. The University also competitively awards $5,000.00 summer Research Assistantships for collaborative projects between students and faculty mentors. Projects may include editing a volume or collection, literature reviews and other research support, bibliometric study, experimentation, etc. The Center for Scholarship Information at CSULB has a variety of sources of award information for students who are interested in applying for awards. For further particulars, see here.

Note: For additional information, please consult the University’s financial aid page.


Basic Qualifying Exam (BQE)

The BQE is a diagnostic test to ensure that students are equipped with the basic skills prerequisite for the successful study of advanced Philosophy and related pursuits. Passing the BQE 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 current knowledge and abilities. 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. Students must be in classified status to advance to candidacy.
  2. Students must have maintained a minimum 3.00 GPA in all units undertaken in Philosophy.
  3. The Department faculty must approve the student’s prospectus for either the thesis or comprehensive examinations.


Degree Requirements

  1. A program of study consisting of ≥30 units of approved courses, of which at least 24 units must be in Philosophy. The remaining 6 units may be taken either in Philosophy or in another field of study related to the candidate’s educational objectives and selected in conference with the Graduate Advisor. The program of study must include a minimum of 9 units from the 600-level; and 3 of those 9 units must come from PHIL610. Students must enroll in PHIL610 in the first semester in which the course is offered after they are conditionally classified. PHIL697 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.


Graduate Student Handbook, Policies, and other Resources:

The university has a inaugurated a online compendium, called Navigating Grad Studies at the Beach, which offers a centralized location for prospective, current, and international students to learn about campus services and tools, funding, academic resources, etc.