Master of Arts in Philosophy

We are a nationally recognized M.A. program with a thriving community of engaged philosophers in the heart of the Bay Area.

The Master of Arts in Philosophy is designed for students wishing to extend their knowledge of, and competence in, philosophy; for students seeking a teaching career where the master’s degree is required; and for students who are planning to do further study elsewhere. The program is wide-ranging and flexible, enabling students to concentrate on a number of different areas within philosophy.

We offer a two-year program leading to a Master of Arts in Philosophy. We admit students who have a B.A. in Philosophy, but we also admit students with undergraduate degrees in other fields. 

Because our world-class graduate faculty are active members of the philosophical profession, we are able to offer our students a number of unique learning opportunities in addition to the wide variety of course offerings that reflect the most state-of-the-discipline research interests of the faculty.  Among many other things, students can participate in the Bay Area Feminist Approaches to Philosophy and Bay Area Philosophy of Science Workshops, or take PHIL 881: Advanced Philosophy Publishing in which students work with a faculty member on some aspect of philosophical publishing.

Admission Criteria


  • 3.0 GPA
  • Cal State Apply Application
  • Writing Sample


  • The GRE is neither recommended, or encouraged


  • The application deadline for Fall is April 15th
  •  The application deadline for Spring is December 1st

Apply to Our M.A. Program Online at CalStateApply

We are excited that our entire M.A. Program application now happens through SF State's new system: Cal State Apply.

Please complete all four quadrants of the application.

In submitting the Department of Philosophy's portion of your application, you will be required to provide the following materials:

  • A brief description of your teaching experience (if you have any). (Note that teaching experience does not have any impact on admission into the M.A. program).
  • Unofficial transcripts, which you will upload.
  • A short statement answering at least one of the following questions:
    1. Briefly describe the areas of philosophy, philosophical problems and/or philosophers you wish to study.
    2. Briefly discuss your interest in one area of philosophy, philosophical problem or philosopher you have enjoyed studying.
  • Attach a writing sample representative of your academic work, preferably in philosophy, though it can be from any discipline.
  • Prerequisite Grid (PDF)

Letters should be uploaded using the online system provided by Cal State Apply. If there are any issues, the letters can be emailed directly to

Graduate Standing and Classified Standing

Students admitted into the program are considered either "Classified," "Conditionally classified," or "Unclassified."

Classified Standing

If the student's undergraduate work meets the department’s criteria and shows promise of a successful completion of the graduate program, he or she will be admitted to classified standing. Only those who have already satisfied all the prerequisites prior to admission are "classified" graduate students.

Conditionally Classified Standing

Most applicants who do not have a degree in Philosophy or who lack any of the above prerequisites are admitted as conditionally classified graduate students. Status as a conditional graduate student does not affect a student’s general financial aid. Some University scholarships are restricted to classified students. Students in either category - classified or conditionally classified - are still considered "real" graduate students

We generally recommend that students who are admitted as conditionally classified finish their prerequisites before commencing on graduate level work.

Unclassified Standing

Students who do not meet the requirements for conditionally classified standing may wish to apply to the University through Open University/College of Extended Learning in order to correct deficiencies in their record.

Degree Requirements

To earn a M.A. in Philosophy, students must complete at least eleven courses:

  • Four Philosophy seminars
  • Three additional courses within or outside of the department with Graduate Coordinator approval
  • PHIL 715 – Seminar in Graduate Writing
  • Pedagogical Training*
  • PHIL 896 – Comprehensive Exam
  • PHIL 898- Master’s Thesis

Pedagogical Training is a new requirement effective Fall 2023. This can be satisfied in a number of ways including in enrolling in PHIL 718. Discuss with your advisor on the best way to fulfill this requirement. 

33 units total

Academic Standards

Academic standards for Graduate Classified, Graduate Conditionally Classified, and Post-Baccalaureate Students are as follows:

Good Standing:  Maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better in any term.

Probation:  Will be subject to probation when cumulative grade point average falls below 3.0 (B) in any term.

Will be subject to declassification from the graduate degree and/or advanced credential program and from further enrollment in the university if, during the semester of probation, there is a failure to achieve the minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B).


First Level Advising: Graduate Coordinators

Olivia Walters, Graduate Program Coordinator

Office: HUM 388
Phone: (415) 338-1596

Olivia handles the administrative aspects of the graduate program and is the first point of contact for general inquiries and assistance. Please consult with her regarding your graduation paperwork and scheduling your thesis defense.

Dr. Jeremy Reid, Graduate Coordinator for Incoming Students 

Office: HUM 360

Make an appointment by emailing Dr. Reid directly.

Dr. Reid handles all matters regarding recruitment and admissions and serves as the advisor for students before they have completed  PHIL 715. 

Dr. Carlos Montemayor, Graduate Coordinator for Continuing Students

Office: HUM 327

Dr. Montemayor handles all matters regarding continuing students. This includes petitions concerning prerequisites, Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) and Proposal for Culminating Experience (PCE) forms, and to move from Conditionally Classified to Classified Standing. Additionally, he handles paperwork regarding probation, declassification, and disqualification. 

Second Level: M.A. Thesis Chair

Once a student has completed a Proposal for Culminating Experience (PCE), the chair of their thesis will serve as the student’s advisor.

Note:  Special paperwork is required to allow semi-retired faculty and lecturers in Philosophy or other departments to serve as readers (no such faculty may serve as thesis chairs).

Eligible chairs are the following:

Students are strongly urged to consult with the graduate coordinator and their faculty advisors at least once each semester.

The following advising schedule should be kept by new and continuing graduate students:

New students should seek out advising with Dr. Jeremy Reid prior to registering for courses.

Continuing students should meet with their advisor at the beginning of each semester in order to discuss their progress in the program.

Students should consult with Dr. Carlos Montemayor about when to take PHIL 896, which is the comprehensive examination. In addition to this, continuing students should consult with either Olivia Walters, the Graduate Program Specialist, or Prof. Montemayor on graduation paperwork such as the ATC and PCE forms.

Evaluating Prior Coursework

Students need not have completed an undergraduate major in philosophy to be considered for the M.A. program.

Applicants’ prior academic work will be evaluated to see that a number of undergraduate courses have been fulfilled with a grade of 3.0 or better (B) and that the courses reach the level of upper-division coursework in philosophy at SF State. The sole exception to the upper-division coursework criterion is for the Logic (PHIL 205), a lower-division course. Please note that the Department of Philosophy offers a Formal Logic Challenge Exam.

Required Undergraduate Courses:

These are required beginning in the Spring 2024 admissions cycle. Please refer to your admissions letter for clarity. 

  1. Logic (must be equivalent to PHIL 205)
  2. Ancient Philosophy (PHIL 301) [or PHIL 410 in Fall 2021]
  3. Modern Philosophy (PHIL 303)
  4. Being and Knowing (PHIL 321)
  5. Ethics (PHIL 450)

Please see the current schedule of classes.

Placement as of Fall 2022

Six out of eleven students who applied to Ph.D. programs accepted offers from the following schools:

  • Syracuse University
  • UC Davis
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • University of Georgia
  • UC Irvine

Placement as of Fall 2021

Three out of seven students who applied to Ph.D. programs accepted offers from the following schools:

  • University of California Santa Cruz
  • University of Nebraska - Lincoln 
  • University of Illinois

Placement as of Fall 2020

Ten of our M.A. students began advanced studies as of fall 2020 at the following schools:

  • Boston University
  • State University of New York, Binghamton
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of California, Santa Cruz
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison

Placement as of 2019

Eleven of our M.A. Students accepted offers at following schools: 

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Syracuse University
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Pennsylvania (2)
  • University of Western Ontario
  • University of Arizona Law School 

Financing Your Degree

The Department of Philosophy at SF State values our university’s role as a public institution and we are dedicated to providing a philosophical education to all those who desire and are qualified to receive it. Consequently, while we do not currently offer tuition remission, there are multiple ways that students can mitigate the already relatively low cost of attendance.

California Residents can apply for:

Out-of-State Applicants from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming: You pay in-state tuition!

  • For more on this: Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), a program that enables students in 16 Western states and territories to enroll in participating public graduate programs as nonresidents, yet pay the lower resident tuition rate
  • You can also apply for Scholarships posted on Academic Works (and described below).
  • You can apply for residency in your second year. If you do so, and if you apply on time and are eligible, you might also receive the State University Grant, which covers almost all tuition.
  • Read more on applying for residency.

Other Out-of-State Applicants can apply for:

  • Provost Scholar Award, which reduces tuition to the (very low) in-state level.
  • You can also apply for scholarships posted on Academic Works (and described below).
  • You can apply for residency in your second year. If you do so, and if you apply on time and are eligible, you might also receive the State University Grant, which covers almost all tuition.
  • Read more on applying for residency.

International Applicants can apply for:

  • Scholarships posted on Academic Works (described below in the section below, "Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards".

Cost of Attendance:

These two websites will help you calculate your tuition and fees. (Note that students who are not paying in-state tuition will need to pay an additional $396 a unit.)

SF State Financial Aid: Cost of Attendance
SF State Bulletin: Fees and Expenses

1. Financial Aid

Students seeking the maximum in financial aid for fall entry should submit a FAFSA by the end of February, even if they have not yet applied to the Philosophy M.A. program.

Students are often surprised to find how much assistance they are eligible for from the state and federal government. For example, State University Grants (SUGs) provide gift aid that covers almost the entire cost of tuition to eligible California residents (see below).

Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is free and relatively painless, so we strongly encourage prospective students to file a FAFSA as early as possible (even if you haven’t yet decided whether or not to apply!). Visit the FAFSA government website to get started.

Another reason to get started on your FAFSA early is to avoid running up against important federal and state deadlines.

Our school code is:  001154

The University has put together a helpful guide to financial aid.

2. Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards


Please visit our Scholarships page to view department and university scholarships. 

Provost Scholar Award

The Provost Scholar Award provides selected domestic, non-resident students with an out-of-state tuition waiver for one year (recipients pay in-state tuition for their first year). 

California Pre-Doctoral Program (Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholars)

The California Pre-Doctoral Program is designed to increase the pool of potential faculty by supporting the doctoral aspirations of CSU students who have experienced economic and educational disadvantages. Announcements and application forms are circulated early each spring. Students are selected by a committee of faculty from the California State University and the University of California. This is a one-time award. Current or former pre-doctoral scholars are not eligible to reapply.

Graduate Student Award For Distinguished Achievement

The San Francisco State University Graduate Student Award for Distinguished Achievement is conferred on students who have earned a distinguished record of academic performance and contribution in the major field. Nomination for the award is based on criteria that are specified by the faculty in the respective graduate major subject areas.

Other Fellowships and Awards

The SF State Fellowships Office keeps an extensive list of National and CSU fellowships and scholarships, many of which could be of interest to graduate students.

Financial Assistance Links

3. Teaching Opportunities

There are three types of teaching opportunities available to graduate students in the Department of Philosophy:

  • Projects in Teaching Philosophy (PHIL 717): students receive course credit for assisting faculty in large lecture classes,
  • Instructional Student Assistant (ISA) Positions: students assist professors for remuneration
  • Graduate Teaching Associateships (GTAs): students teach their own courses.
    • GTAs usually teach PHIL 110: Intro to Critical Thinking, however, advanced GTAs may be assigned sections of PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy, PHIL 105: Introduction to Philosophy and Religion, PHIL 130: Social and Political Philosophy, or PHIL: 160, Introduction to Philosophy of Art.
    • In assigning these courses, we strongly prefer GTAs who have assisted a faculty member with the course (or something similar) and who have related research interests.

Students who are interested in assisting faculty for credit or remuneration should contact the professor with whom they wish to work and submit an application (for a paid position) online. Those interested in GTA positions should fill out an application at the same link and submit it by the department deadline. The deadline occurs about a month before the end of the semester.

4. Housing

The cost of housing in San Francisco can be intimidating to some students, but there are a number of ways to mitigate these costs. For example, SF State makes on-campus housing available to many students and provides resources for finding affordable off-campus housing. Visit the main housing webpage for more information. The earlier you apply for on-campus housing the better! Finally, for those students planning to begin attending in the fall semester, the graduate coordinator overseeing admissions will put incoming philosophy graduate students seeking roommates in touch with one another via email.

Qualifying Exam (PHIL 896)

PHIL 896 is the Department of Philosophy qualifying exam for graduate students. The course tests the student’s ability to comprehend, explain, compare, and explore the views of philosophers working on topics selected by the Department faculty. The course also satisfies the University’s Written English Proficiency Requirement for graduate students.

  1. Students will work on one topic throughout the semester.
  2. Each topic will have four readings assigned to it.
  3. Students working on the same topic will participate in four study sessions throughout the semester (one on each reading).
  4. Following each study session, each student will submit a summary of the discussion at the session.
  5. Additionally, each student will submit a final exam for the course.

Students can access the PHIL 896 packet. We highly recommend that students review this document in order to better acquaint themselves with the structure of the exam.

All meetings will be held online over Zoom.

Phil 896, Fall 2023
Week # Date Event
1 Fri, Aug 25th

Introduction (No Class)

2 Fri, Sept 1

Orientation with Montemayor

3-5 p.m.

3 Fri, Sept 8th

1st Study Group Meeting

3-5 p.m.

4 Fri, Sept 15th

1st Meeting Summary Due


5 Fri, Sept 22nd  
6 Fri, Sept 29th

2nd Study-Group Meeting

3-5 p.m.

7 Fri, Oct 6th 

2nd Meeting Summary Due

By 3 p.m. 

8 Fri, Oct. 13th  
9 Fri, Oct. 20th

3rd Study Group Meeting with Faculty

3-5 p.m.

10 Fri, Oct 27th

3rd Meeting Summary Due

by 3 p.m.

11 Fri, Nov 3rd  
12 Fri, Nov 10th

4th Study-Group Meeting

3-5 p.m.

13 Fri, Nov. 17th

4th Meeting Summary Due

by 3 p.m.

14 Fri Dec 1st

Final Exam Due

by 3 p.m. 

Master's Thesis (PHIL 898)

Master's Thesis (PHIL 898). Each student's culminating experience is the Master's Thesis (PHIL 898). The semester prior to beginning the thesis, students need to meet with several faculty to form a committee for the thesis. A committee has two or three faculty, at least two of which must be from the Department of Philosophy. Committee chairs must be Tenured or Tenure-Track Faculty members of the Philosophy Department.

If the committee formally approves the proposal, they will then sign the Culminating Experience Form (PCE), which the student may then file. Remember, students must submit an ATC to the Graduate Division the semester before they take PHIL 898. (Students may file the ATC and PCE the same semester.)

Regarding enrollment in PHIL 898:  Once students enroll in this course, they do not re-enroll, even if the thesis is not completed in one semester. If at the end of the PHIL 898 semester a student has not completed and successfully defended the thesis, she or he will receive a grade of RP — “Report in Progress” — and does not need to pay an additional fee for the subsequent semester for work in this particular class. Note SF State's policy about continuous enrollment for graduate students.

Different faculty members may have varying expectations about the process of mentoring a thesis candidate, so it is important for students to find out what their committee members require and consult with them frequently in the process.

To coordinate the scheduling of your thesis defense, please email your scheduled date, time and location to Olivia Walters at .

Philosophy Graduate Student Handbook and Deadlines

Students: Download the Philosophy Graduate Student Handbook, which covers in-depth steps involved in the progress toward the degree.

You are responsible for meeting all of the internal deadlines for paperwork.

Important departmental and university deadlines are listed on page two of the Philosophy Graduate Student Handbook.