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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study philosophy?

We answer all of your questions about studying philosophy to give you a better understanding of the subject.

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Are you an inquisitive person? Are you always thinking about the fundamental truths of the world? Studying philosophy could be your calling. Throughout this degree, you will develop skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, debating, effective reasoning and autonomous thinking which, as we’ll discuss later on, are traits that make you highly employable. Use this ultimate guide to find out what a degree in philosophy involves, whether it is right for you and why you should study philosophy.


What is philosophy?

During a degree in philosophy you will learn and debate topics such as existence, reality, knowledge, the mind, ethics, and time, to name just a few areas of inquiry. Typical philosophical questions include:

  • What is knowledge?
  • Who should be in charge?
  • What is freedom?
  • What is truth?
  • What is beauty?
  • Do we have free will?
  • Can computers be creative?
  • What does it mean to be real?


Often in philosophy, there are no definite answers, but it’s about considering different arguments and assessing their validity. Training your mind to think critically and analytically is one of the many benefits of studying philosophy, as it can help within your own life when making decisions and assessing your own values. Some other top reasons to study philosophy include:

  • Gaining a deeper understanding of some of the world’s most fundamental questions
  • Preparing for a wide variety of fields
  • Learning how to argue effectively
  • Learning about some of the most notable thinkers who have shaped how we think about the world today including Socrates, Descartes, and Aristotle.
  • Developing strong writing skills
  • Formulating your own opinions
  • Analysing complex information


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 and the university you’re studying at. In the UK and Australia, bachelor’s degrees will generally last for three years, whereas in Canada and the USA you can expect to study for four. Most philosophy courses will be awarded a Bachelors of the Arts (BA) qualification, as it is a humanities subject.


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


Study philosophy in Canada


University of Lethbridge

Lakehead University

Western University (Ontario)

York University

Trent University


What are the entry requirements for a philosophy degree?

According to the University and Colleges Admission Service in the UK, applicants for philosophy degrees need grades of BCC-AAB at A-level (or equivalent) depending on the institution being applied to. Entry requirements can differ widely, particularly between countries, so make sure you check the grades that you will need to get and whether you are on track to achieving these.


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


Queen’s University Belfast (UK)

University of New Orleans (USA)

University of Sydney (Australia)

University of Alberta (Canada)

Massey University (New Zealand)


What will I study in philosophy?

While course modules will 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 common:

  • Ancient philosophy
  • Reason and argument
  • Political philosophy
  • Ethics
  • Knowledge and reality
  • Philosophy of the mind
  • Philosophy of language
  • Philosophy of art
  • Existentialism
  • Philosophy of religion
  • Philosophy of science
  • Justice, violence and the state
  • Feminist philosophy


Make sure you research the modules carefully when comparing universities as you may prefer the course content of one programme over another. Some of these modules will be compulsory to set you up with foundational knowledge but others will be optional. You can expect to attend weekly lectures, seminar groups for class discussion and plenty of assigned reading. Most philosophy courses will assess you using a combination of both exams and coursework, but the weighting will depend on the specific degree.


Study philosophy in the UK


Nottingham Trent University

SOAS University of London

University of East Anglia

University of Kent

University of Southampton  


Want to study philosophy at postgraduate level?

If you want to expand on your philosophical knowledge, you may want to pursue a master’s in philosophy. Or perhaps you studied a related subject at undergraduate level and now want to explore your interests in philosophy. Either route is totally fine.


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, particularly if there is a gap of two to three years between studying.


At postgraduate level, you will be expected to write a dissertation of 10,000 to 15,000 words which is completed at the end of the course. In addition to your dissertation, you will also be assessed using a mixture of exams and coursework. A philosophy masters can be awarded as an MA, MRes or Msc depending on the course. 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 time for each module.


Study philosophy in New Zealand


University of Wellington

University of Waikato

University of Auckland

University of Canterbury

University of Otago


What can you do with a philosophy degree?

Studying philosophy provides you with many highly transferrable skills for a range of careers. Some of the most common professions to follow a philosophy degree include:

  • Law – solicitor/barrister/lawyer
  • Human resources
  • Communications
  • Civil service
  • Banking
  • Business
  • Academia - lecturing
  • Advertising, PR, marketing
  • Publishing
  • Journalism
  • Psychotherapy
  • Politics

As you can see, there are many, quite different careers that you could pursue after studying philosophy. In some cases, you may need to do some further training, such as if you wanted to become a lawyer. But, in other cases, you just need to gain work experience to help you land a job after graduation. Overall, philosophy students possess highly employable skills and have access to opportunities across a range of sectors.


Now that you’re equipped with a better understanding of what to expect from a philosophy degree and why it’s valuable, it’s time for you to connect to your university using our course matcher tool.

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