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California State University, Long Beach
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Masters in Philosophy

Program Description

The Department offers a program of study leading to the Master of Arts (MA) degree in Philosophy (code 5-6807). Our graduate program offers rigorous philosophical training in a supportive environment. The Department’s MA program 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 especially well-suited for students who were not undergraduate philosophy majors and need additional preparation or credentials before pursuing work at the doctoral level or in professional programs in medicine, law, technology and business, science, or architecture. With an enrollment of almost 38,000 students, Cal State Long Beach is one of the largest campuses in the CSU system; and with a record number of applications over the last three years (approximately 300,000), admission is fiercely competitive. It 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. The director of the MA program is Marcy Lascano.



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, Marcy Lascano.

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 University offers the Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral scholarship to qualified applicants. See <> to check for eligibility. The University also competitively awards small summer stipends for collaborative projects between students and faculty mentors. Projects may include editing a volume or collection, research support, bibliometric study, experimentation, etc. Previously, students receive about $5,000.00 if awarded the stipend. Graduate students are also eligible to compete in Liberal Arts Scholars Award program, sponsored by the alumni and friends of the College of Liberal Arts. The scholarship is $3,000, and is awarded to outstanding CLA seniors or graduate students planning to do research with a faculty member for the following academic year at CSULB. Similarly, the HOGAR recruitment scholarship is a one-time award of $4000 in the Fall semester. Continuing graduate students are also encouraged to apply for the competitive Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). 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.


Application Deadlines and Procedure

For admission into its post-baccalaureate programs, the University minimally requires the completion of a four-year college course of study and holding an acceptable baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution, plus good standing at the last college or university you attended. The University also requires a GPA of at least 2.50 in the last 60 semester- or 90 quarter-units attempted, excluding lower-division and extension coursework taken after the degree.

The application deadline for SP18 matriculation is November 1st 2017. (See also the deadlines listed on the CSULB Graduate Advising webpage.)

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
    • (nb: those who are not coming from a community college using Parchment, you can now have your schools send transcripts electronically to

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 materials should be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator at the address below:

Dr. Marcy Lascano
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 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.


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.


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 selectedin conference with the Graduate Advisor. The program of study must include a minimum of 18 units of graduate courses in Philosophy, with 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.



The Department of Philosophy at CSU Long Beach has awarded 127 MA degrees since 1988. Although some data is incomplete, to the best of our knowledge …

  • 58 of the 127 graduates chose to apply to doctoral programs.
  • 53 (or 91%) of these 58 were admitted to a doctoral program.
  • 45 of these 53 were admitted to a PhD program in Philosophy, and seven were admitted to doctoral programs in other disciplines (e.g., Law, Education, Film Studies).
  • 30 of the 45 admitted to a PhD program in Philosophy (67%) were admitted to one (or more) of the top-fifty PhD programs in the United States (as ranked by The Philosophical Gourmet Report).
  • Of the 69 graduates that chose not to apply to PhD programs, at least 21 (or more than 30%) went on to teach Philosophy as Full- or Part-time Adjunct Professors or Lecturers at various universities and community colleges around the United States and Canada.


Graduate Student Handbook, Policies, and other Resources: