The 10 Best Philosophy Schools in the US

One of the most underrated majors within a liberal arts school, philosophy is an exciting and expansive area of study that offers promising and fulfilling careers for its graduates. 

A recent survey of nearly 1.5 million college graduates identified philosophy as the top-earning humanities bachelor’s degree from the beginning to end stages of one’s career, with a median salary of $82,000. 

Philosophy programs emphasize skills in critical thinking, research, academic writing, and argumentative debate – companies in diverse fields highly desire these skills.

You’re likely familiar with many philosophy graduates

Within the government realm, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer obtained a philosophy BA from Stanford, and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg earned his BA in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University. 

Activists Malala Yousafzai and Angela Davis were philosophy majors, as were PayPal founder Peter Thiel, Pope John Paul II, and writer Simone de Beauvoir.

We have compiled a list of the ten best philosophy colleges in the US. The methodology for this list was created as an “averaged” & aggregated ranking. We assigned a score to every school on the list based on its positioning in other published ranking lists. We have included our sources at the end of the article. 

Read on to discover more about the 10 best philosophy schools in the country!

10. Duke University (Durham, NC)

Duke University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Duke University’s philosophy department comprises several hundred undergraduate students, and its faculty network has published over 65 books, including Emotion and Virtue, Neuroscience and Philosophy, and Clean Hands? Philosophical Lessons from Scrupulosity.

The school offers 11 philosophy and affiliate degrees, and learning objectives challenge undergraduates to develop a deep understanding of topics like deductive logic, metaphysics, and ethics. 

All philosophy majors will write several critical papers and are encouraged to produce a senior honors thesis, should their GPA qualify.

Various summer learning opportunities exist for philosophy majors in exciting locations like Switzerland and Greece. 

Duke’s campus is home to an array of programs and centers devoted exclusively to philosophy, such as the Kenan Institute of Ethics, an interdisciplinary “think tank” dedicated to promoting moral consideration within the policy-making realm.

9. University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN)

Notre Dame boasts the largest philosophy department in the United States. As a Catholic university, the school is committed to merging faith with reason. 

More than 150 students are enrolled in philosophy courses in any given semester, and the department regularly features in lists honoring the top 20 philosophy departments within the English-speaking sphere.

All philosophy majors take three foundational courses before branching into a specialized focus. Undergraduate courses typically take the shape of intimate, discussion-led seminars of fewer than 15 students. Honors majors must complete a year-long senior thesis in collaboration with a faculty advisor. 

One of Notre Dame’s newest interdisciplinary majors in philosophy, science, and mathematics is the only program of its kind in the nation and is ideal for students who wish to merge STEM studies with ethical considerations.

Employment prospects for Notre Dame graduates in philosophy are promising. 97% sustained full-time employment, enrolled in graduate-level programs, joined the United States military, or developed start-up organizations within six months of commencement.

8. Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Yale’s philosophy department was recently ranked first out of 143 peer departments, according to the Academic Philosophy Data and Analysis. 

The school’s philosophy curriculum is organized into three categories: the history of philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology, and ethics and value theory. 

Generally, philosophy majors are required to complete 12 credits in addition to electives in areas like linguistics, political science, and the classics.

Philosophy majors can enroll in a seminar to meet a senior requirement; in this scenario, they draft a final paper and collaborate in small tutorial groups to receive feedback and refine their writing. 

Yale emphasizes a significant focus on critical thinking and academic writing within its curriculum, and students can expect a heavy revision process.

The department regularly organizes undergraduate students’ special events, such as the Colloquium Series

Here, guest speakers from Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Rutgers, and other prestigious universities visit Yale’s campus every 3-4 weeks to discuss various topics in philosophy.

7. UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)

UCLA Dodd Hall
Beyond My Ken, UCLA Dodd Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

One of two institutions representing the west coast on our list, UCLA prides itself on maintaining a reputation as one of the top-ranked doctoral philosophy programs in the United States. 

Its particular strengths are in the philosophy of law, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mathematics, among other concentrations.

After taking four prerequisites, declared philosophy majors complete 13 courses in history, semantics, ethics, and metaphysics. 

Undergraduates are eligible for various prizes, such as the Gloria Rock Award for underrepresented groups who intend to pursue a graduate degree in philosophy, or the Kalish Prize, awarded to one or several of the department’s highest achieving undergraduates.

Outside the classroom, students can join the undergraduate Philosophy Club, which meets every Tuesday night to hold discussions, contribute to the Meditations philosophy journal, and hold debates and club-to-club discussions. 

Those curious about learning what careers exist for philosophy majors benefit from attending the Being in the World series, which interviews two alumni weekly. 

Previous guests have specialized in urban studies, user experience design, software engineering, and teaching.

6. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)

Stanford’s philosophy curriculum devotes special attention to interdisciplinary issues in collaboration with the literature, science, and gender and sexuality studies departments, to name a few. 

Undergraduates who major in philosophy choose from one of two subcategories: philosophy and literature or history and philosophy of science. There is an additional combined major in philosophy and religious studies.

Various affiliated academic programs distinguish Stanford’s philosophy department from its competitors. The interdisciplinary McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society studies ethical questions within the context of actual social problems. 

Philosophy undergraduates may be found attending lectures on recent topics like “AI and Human Values,” “Living in Utopia,” and “How a Pandemic Becomes a Story: Narrative and Social Crisis in the Platform Age.” 

The Philosophy Talk podcast hosts weekly conversations that challenge listeners to reconsider their assumptions in a fun, approachable context. 

Many alumni gain employment as professors at schools featured on this list and may even return to Stanford as podcast guests!

5. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

Undergraduates select from four concentrations, most of which entail 16 required courses. 

Those majoring in philosophy and science might enroll in a class like Bioethics, which prompts students to consider procreative responsibilities, sperm and egg marketing, euthanasia, and life-saving therapies.

Within the political and moral philosophy major, an undergraduate might take a class called The Social Contract, where they survey the works of celebrated thinkers like Hobbes, Mill, and Rawls. 

They also analyze an array of contract theories, criticisms, and alternatives, like utilitarianism. Penn’s philosophy program graduates enjoy successful careers in law, medicine, computer science, journalism, and teaching, among other fields. 

Penn stands out from peer institutions via engagements like the Project for Philosophy for the Young, where students work with K-12 public school teachers to instill philosophical themes into their daily lesson plans. The Prison Project offers free courses in philosophy and mathematics to incarcerated persons in the nearby area. 

Finally, the Galápagos Education and Research Alliance (GERA) works to protect the Galápagos against climate change by teaching conservation.

4. University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)

University of Chicago
Nicomachian, Harper Quadrangle, CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the oldest philosophy departments in the country, UChicago hired John Dewey as its first chair. 

Several eminent scholars like Hannah Arendt, Bertrand Russell, and Leo Strauss have worked as faculty members in the 100+ years since his tenure.

UChicago is another school on our list, taking an interdisciplinary approach to studying philosophy. 

Undergraduates are encouraged to take courses in psychology, foreign languages, and cinema and media studies, for example. 

The philosophy department is aware of its strengths, and its faculty are experts in German idealism, ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, and Aristotelian virtue ethics. 

The school does not offer courses in Eastern philosophy, though it does welcome visiting guest lecturers specializing in Buddhism, Islamic thought, and South Asian languages.

Typically, 150-200 UChicago students declare themselves philosophy majors each year. More than half of graduates gain employment in the business sphere, 20% become consultants, and many enter the nonprofit world. 

Awards like the Seidel Scholars Grant assist philosophy majors in completing a career-related independent project to translate their skills into fulfilling careers post-graduation.

3. Columbia University (New York, NY)

Columbia University’s philosophy department is chaired by Christopher A. B. Peacocke, who has enjoyed teaching positions at top universities like Oxford, Berkeley, NYU, UCLA, and Stanford. 

Peacocke and other acclaimed faculty support students in their endeavor to earn 30 credits in ancient, medieval, and modern philosophy, among other topics.

Undergraduates may also elect to pursue a joint interdisciplinary major in economics and philosophy, wherein they navigate topics of rationality, decision-making, social justice, and collective choice. 

All students will complete a senior thesis in their final year of study. They choose a topic of interest and conduct intensive research to pen a 30-40 page argumentative paper under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

Various extracurricular opportunities, such as the Meade Anderson Undergraduate Philosophy Forum, attract passionate philosophy majors. 

Any students may attend these informal discussions on a variety of philosophical topics. 

Other undergraduates contribute to “The Gadfly,” which serves as Columbia’s philosophy magazine. Its issues feature academic papers, interviews, and other pieces on topics like the rhetoric of American political power, violence, and the phenomenon of the “philosophy bro.”

2. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

If one were to peer inside a Harvard philosophy class, they might find studies immersed in discussions centered on the justification of punishment, interpretation of language in the United States Constitution, and ethical challenges of the climate change crisis. 

One of the department’s assets is that it stipulates minimal prerequisites: students can take courses in whichever order they deem appropriate for their pursuits.

Many undergraduates participate in self-funded independent research projects. The Harvard-Cambridge Scholarship Committee generally funds 8-12 eight-week summer scholarships to undergraduates interested in studying at Cambridge University in the UK. 

Harvard hosts several exciting programs on campus, such as the History of Philosophy Workshop, which meets irregularly throughout the year to discuss such issues as “Locke on Complex Ideas and Ethics of Belief,” and “Leibniz’ Theory of Space and the Newton Affair.” 

The Embedded EthiCS program infuses ethics modules into courses within the Harvard computer science curriculum, challenging students to consider whether or not certain technologies should be developed.

1. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)

Princeton University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Within 20-30 students in each senior cohort, Princeton philosophy majors enjoy intimate class sizes and lively discussions on a variety of topics.

In their junior year of study, undergraduates join independent work groups of 2-5 members that meet weekly to discuss class readings and develop a final paper of 5,000 words (minimum). 

Juniors choose their own topics, receive feedback from their peers, and give an oral presentation on their findings.

In an undergraduate student’s senior year, they devote significant time to completing a senior thesis of 10,000 to 15,000 words on a topic of their choice. 

At the same time, they prepare for a cumulative departmental exam and an oral exam on their thesis topic. Students are eligible to win thesis prizes that range from $500 to several thousand dollars.

Outside of their coursework obligations, philosophy majors attend a colloquium series called Friday Talks

Guest speakers – chosen by the previous year’s student and faculty cohort – come from world-renowned philosophy departments in schools like Georgetown, UC Berkeley, and the University of Toronto. 

Recent graduates of Princeton’s philosophy program excel in stimulating positions as lawyers, human rights officers, professors, researchers, and journalists. 

Here are the sources for our aggregated ranking.


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