Best Philosophy Programs

Philosophy explores the fundamental questions of how to live. Discover the best bachelors in philosophy programs.

portrait of Blake Weil
by Blake Weil

Published on July 18, 2022

Edited by Jared McMasters
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Philosophy studies the "why" of the world. Touching on humanities fields such as law, ethics, and religion, philosophy is an analytical discipline that focuses on the fundamental questions of existence. A bachelor's in philosophy provides a survey of the field and introduces students to applying philosophical principles to real-world problems.

A bachelor's in philosophy generally takes four years to complete, but some online programs may be shorter. Net prices vary, but in 2020-2021, the average bachelor's program cost $9,375 in tuition and fees annually at a four-year public institution. A private nonprofit four-year school cost an average of $35,852 per year. Some online programs may cost less.

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Graduates of philosophy programs typically pursue careers requiring strong analytical and communication skills, such as in law and business. Salaries are generally good, with the average bachelor's graduate taking home a median of $69,370 per year, according to 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. Many people proceed to a graduate program, with many graduates going to law school.

Our Top Pick

Yale University - New Haven, Connecticut

Why It's #1: Yale University tops our list of the top bachelor's programs in philosophy. Boasting a stellar 97% graduation rate and a 6-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, Yale's reputation is well deserved. While tuition may be high at $62,250, about 64% of students receive financial aid. Admissions are highly competitive, with only 6% of applicants admitted. However, admitted students jump at the opportunity, with 69% of admitted students choosing to attend.

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Best Accredited Bachelor's in Philosophy Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

Yale University

School Information
Location New Haven, Connecticut
Admission Rate 6%
Graduation Rate 97%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 0% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $62,250

Course Credits to Graduate

36

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

Yale University's bachelor's in philosophy program trains students in examining questions on the nature of reality, morality, and human understanding. Coursework emphasizes philosophical analysis and how it can be applied to other areas of practice and to daily life. To graduate, students must complete either three philosophy seminars, or two seminars and an independent project.

Applicants must submit a full application, including transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation. Standardized testing is optional during the 2022-2023 application cycle.

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#2

University of Pennsylvania

School Information
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 8%
Graduation Rate 96%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $56,212

Course Credits to Graduate

32-36

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | Yes / No

Program Accreditation | N/A

University of Pennsylvania's bachelor's in philosophy students examine the fundamental nature of the world, the nature of knowledge, and humanity's purpose and nature. Students can choose coursework in general philosophy or a specialization in humanistic philosophy, philosophy and science, or political and moral philosophy.

Applicants must submit the Common App or Coalition Application. While ACT or SAT scores are normally required, they were made optional for the 2021-2022 application cycle. No announcement has been made about the 2022-2023 cycle as of July 2022.

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#3

Brown University

School Information
Location Providence, Rhode Island
Admission Rate 7%
Graduation Rate 96%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $62,680

Course Credits to Graduate

30

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

Brown University's philosophy concentration offers a survey of philosophy and lets students determine their specialization area. The program also emphasizes the history of philosophy. Students participate in a senior capstone process that involves completing either a thesis, independent study, or approved special project. Departmental honors are available for students who excel in the program and choose to complete a thesis.

Brown uses the Common Application for admissions. For the 2022-2023 cycle, standardized testing is optional.

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#4

Columbia University in the City of New York

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 5%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $60,514

Credits to Graduate

124

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

Columbia's undergraduate major in philosophy offers a full survey of philosophy. Students are encouraged to identify links between philosophy and other fields, and to find focus areas. Selected coursework includes the history of philosophy and systematic philosophy. Students also participate in at least one philosophy seminar. 

Columbia accepts both the Common Application and Coalition Application. Students must submit transcripts and personal essays. Standardized testing is optional through fall 2024.

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#5

Bowdoin College

School Information
Location Brunswick, Maine
Admission Rate 9%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $60,952

Course Credits to Graduate

32

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

Bowdoin College's philosophy program introduces students to the fundamental questions of existence. Students are taught historical philosophers' thoughts and encouraged to question and analyze their writings. Students can conduct independent research to pursue departmental honors.

Bowdoin accepts both the Common Application and Coalition Application and asks high school transcripts and personal statements. Standardized test scores are optional. Admissions are need blind, and financial aid packages include scholarships that do not require repayment.

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#6

Northwestern University

School Information
Location Evanston, Illinois
Admission Rate 9%
Graduation Rate 94%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $60,276

Units to Graduate

45

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

Northwestern University's bachelor's in philosophy gives students a background and basic skills in philosophy. The major has only four required courses out of 13 total, offering students a chance to focus on areas or periods of interest.

Students can apply to Northwestern through the Common Application or Coalition Application. In addition to transcripts, students must submit recommendations from both their counselor and at least one teacher. SAT and ACT scores are optional for the 2022-2023 application cycle.

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#7

United States Air Force Academy

School Information
Location USAF Academy, Colorado
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 85%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition

Federal | N/A, Tuition Free

Semester Hours to Graduate

131

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

The United States Air Force Academy's philosophy program focuses on philosophy as a way of training cadets in critical thinking and communication skills. As a military school, a unique philosophy course focuses on war and morality. 

Admissions to the Air Force Academy are complex. Students must be nominated to attend the academy. They must also submit high school grades and either SAT or ACT scores. Applicants are highly encouraged to begin the process early.

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#8

Duke University

School Information
Location Durham, North Carolina
Admission Rate 8%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $60,435

Credits to Graduate

34

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

The Duke University undergraduate philosophy program introduces students to both philosophical content and the field's history. Students learn to apply philosophy to other disciplines, with many students in the program choosing to also pursue another major. Students can either specialize in ethics and social philosophy or metaphysics and epistemology.

Duke accepts both the Coalition Application and Common Application. Applicants must submit transcripts and recommendations, but standardized testing is optional for the 2022-2023 application cycle.

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#9

California Institute of Technology

School Information
Location Pasadena, California
Admission Rate 6%
Graduation Rate 94%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $58,479

Units to Graduate

486

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

Caltech offers a major in philosophy focused on offering new perspectives to the scientific and technical training students obtain in the main Caltech curriculum. Students are trained in both analysis and argument. All students write a senior thesis and pursue independent research with one-on-one help from a faculty member.

Caltech applicants must submit either the Common Application or Coalition Application. Along with the application, students must send transcripts, recommendations, supplemental essays, and standardized test scores.

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#10

Cornell University

School Information
Location Ithaca, New York
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 4% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year

Private | $62,456

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Degree-Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | N/A

Cornell University offers a bachelor's in philosophy that introduces students to a variety of philosophical disciplines. In addition to coursework in epistemology, logic, and ethics, students participate in reading groups, conferences, and large public lectures. The program highlights strong career and graduate school outcomes for graduates.

Applicants must submit the Common Application, along with transcripts, supplemental essays, and recommendations. Standardized testing requirements are suspended through fall 2024.

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Popular Online Philosophy Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Bachelor's in Philosophy ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 801 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Philosophy Programs

Is a bachelor's in philosophy worth it?

Generally speaking, a bachelor's in philosophy is worth it. While it doesn't have a reputation as a money-making degree, it teaches useful analytical skills that graduates can apply in a variety of fields. Philosophy is also a discipline that enriches the lives of those who study it, leading to new perspectives on life. It also prepares students for diverse graduate programs.Of course, decisions of worth are based on an individual's financial circumstances. For those taking on a large amount of student debt to attend college, it is worth investigating post-college job prospects.

What can I do with a bachelor's in philosophy?

A bachelor's in philosophy is one of the most flexible undergraduate degrees. The fundamental skills a philosophy education teaches are communication, argument, and analysis. These are highly applicable skills in many fields, including writing, communication, marketing and market research, and law.Many graduates go on to pursue further degrees to specialize and apply their skills in a particular field.

What continuing education is available for philosophy graduates?

Philosophy graduates can continue their education with a graduate degree. The most popular next step is law school. The analytical and argumentative skills that philosophy programs teach make graduates excellent candidates to become lawyers.

Others pursue a philosophy master's degree or Ph.D. in the field. Ph.D. candidates conduct independent research and analysis projects. Many eventually go into academia and continue to develop the philosophy field.

Those who don't pursue further education continue to develop their skills in other ways. Many obtain career certifications to further specialize in their chosen field. They also continue to read philosophy journals and articles to keep up to date with current thoughts.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in philosophy?

According to Payscale data, people with a BA in philosophy made an average annual salary of $74,000 per year as of July 2022. But people with these degrees can pursue careers in various fields. For example, they can become journalists, who made a median annual salary of $48,370 in May 2021, according to the BLS. They can also begin careers as public relations specialists. These workers earned a median of $62,800 per year in 2021.

However, these numbers only apply to those who start with a bachelor's degree. Many philosophy students continue their education at graduate school and gain experience that may lead to high-paying careers.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in philosophy?

High-paying jobs that use a philosophy major's communication and analysis skills include market research analyst and human resources manager. These positions made median annual salaries of $63,920 and $126,230, respectively, as per May 2021 BLS data.

Many philosophy majors choose to pursue advanced degrees, particularly in law. For those who decide to become lawyers, they can earn median annual salaries of $127,990 per year, as of May 2021 BLS data.

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