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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study philosophy?

Studying philosophy is all about asking questions, and your first one may be why you should do it. If so, we have the answers. Learn all about what the subject is, which universities offer degrees in it and what careers can follow them.

Three sculptures of men sit illuminated by the blue glow of a digital screen as they hold their fists to their chins contemplatively

Are you an inquisitive person? Always thinking about the fundamental nature of the world? Studying philosophy could be your calling. Along the way, you’ll develop skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and effective reasoning – which all make you highly employable. Use our guide to discover what a degree in philosophy involves, where you can study one and whether it is right for you.


What is philosophy?


Philosophy is the study of essential matters: the whats and whys of anything and everything. Throughout a philosophy degree you will consider and debate topics such as existence, reality, knowledge, the mind, ethics and time, to name just a few. Common philosophical questions include:


  • What is knowledge?
  • What is truth?
  • What is freedom?
  • Do we have free will?
  • What does it mean to be real?
  • Can computers be creative?
  • Does time exist?


In philosophy, there are no definite answers. The field is really all about considering and assessing different arguments. This means training your mind to think critically and analytically, which is one of the many benefits of studying the subject. Making decisions and reflecting on your worldview will soon become second nature.


Some other top reasons to study philosophy include:


  • Taking a close look at some of the world’s most fundamental questions
  • Looking at life from every possible perspective
  • Learning how to argue effectively
  • Developing strong writing skills
  • Analysing complex information, theories and viewpoints
  • Learning about some of the most influential thinkers in history



How long is a philosophy degree?


A bachelor’s degree in philosophy typically takes three to four years to complete, depending on the type of programme, the university and the country. In the UK and Australia, a bachelor’s will generally last for three years, whereas in Canada and the USA you can expect to study for four. Most philosophy graduates will be awarded a Bachelor of Arts (BA) qualification, as it is a humanities subject.


If you want to further your interests, you can study philosophy at postgraduate level. For this, you can expect to enrol for one year full-time or two years part-time. At PhD level, the duration of study varies depending on the programme, but they can take up to six years to complete.


What are the entry requirements for a philosophy degree?


According to the UK’s University and Colleges Admissions Service, applicants for philosophy degrees need grades between BCC and AAB at A-level (or equivalent) depending on the institution to which they are applying. However, entry requirements can differ widely – particularly between countries – so make sure to check the grades you will need and whether you are on course to achieve them.


Here are a few universities that offer BA Philosophy degrees in some of the world’s top study destinations. Remember to check the specific information on entry requirements:



What will I study on a philosophy degree?


While modules differ depending on the institution, there are common topics that you are likely to cover in a philosophy course. Here are some of the most typical:


  • Ancient philosophy
  • Reason and argument
  • Ethics
  • Logic
  • Knowledge and reality
  • Philosophy of the mind
  • Existentialism
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of science
  • Philosophy of art
  • Philosophy of language
  • Philosophy of religion
  • Political philosophy


Make sure you research modules carefully when comparing universities, as you may prefer the course content of one programme over another. In general, though, you can expect to attend weekly lectures and seminar groups for class discussion, alongside plenty of assigned reading. Most philosophy courses will assess you using a combination of exams and coursework, but the weighting will depend on the specific degree.


Studying philosophy at postgraduate level


If you want to expand your philosophical enquiries, you may like to study a master’s in philosophy. Even if you have taken only a related subject at undergraduate level, this is a definite option.


Typically, to be accepted onto a master’s in philosophy you will need to have achieved a 2:1 (or equivalent) in your undergraduate degree. If your undergraduate course was taught in English, you may not need to provide proof of your language proficiency, but some universities may still ask for your TOEFL or IELTS scores. This is more often the case when your prior study was completed more than two or three years ago.


At postgraduate level, you will generally be expected to write a dissertation of 10,000 to 15,000 words, to be completed at the end of your course. In addition, you will be assessed on a mixture of exams and coursework. As with any master’s degree, you will be expected to work more independently than on your undergraduate course, putting in plenty of private study for each module. At the end, you will be rewarded with an MA, MRes or MSc, depending on the course.


What can you do with a philosophy degree?


Studying philosophy provides you with many highly transferable skills for a range of careers. Some of the professional fields most commonly entered by philosophy graduates include:



As this indicates, there are many varied careers that you could pursue after studying philosophy. In some cases, you may need to take further training – such as if you wanted to become a lawyer – but elsewhere, your highly employable skills will quickly provide you with access to opportunities across a range of sectors.


Now that you know more about what to expect from a philosophy degree, why not find the ideal one for you? Start your study abroad journey with our simple course matcher tool.

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