Low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy confer many transferable skills, such as communication, teamwork, and flexibility. Graduates can use their education and skills to work as a lawyer, teacher, consultant, or foreign service officer. These and other careers may require additional education and training beyond a master’s in philosophy. 

Workers with a master’s degree earn a median weekly salary $200 higher than professionals possessing only a bachelor’s degree. This economic advantage encourages saving for long-term goals, such as a house and retirement. Individuals should keep in mind that geographic location, employer, and years of professional experience also affect salary. 

A master’s degree results in a 10% lower risk of unemployment compared to a bachelor’s degree. Professionals in both groups fare significantly better than workers with only some college, a high school diploma, or no high school degree. 

The following universities offer some of the most affordable philosophy programs in the United States. In-state students pay the lowest tuition rate at public schools. Out-of-state degree-seekers may qualify for a tuition waiver in specific circumstances. Please contact a school’s financial aid office to learn more.


To calculate our ranking of the best and most affordable master’s in philosophy programs, we applied our rating and ranking methodology . In cases of a tie, the more affordable program was awarded the higher ranking.

Affordable Master’s in Philosophy Programs

#1 — Purdue University

West Lafayette, Indiana

  • Tuition : $329/credit in-state; $600/credit out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Purdue’s master’s in philosophy program appeals to students who learned English as a second language. As a result, the program features a specialized curriculum with courses in writing to learn, reading philosophy, and reading to argue. Learners create a Ph.D. program application portfolio in the second year. Applicants take comprehensive language assessments, and advisors use the results to develop personalized language plans.

Like some other top low-cost master’s degree programs, Purdue’s offers degree-seekers two unique grant opportunities. They sponsor graduate research and fund international travel for learners attending conferences. Other institutional financial aid awards up to $16,000 to students teaching undergraduate courses.

#2 — University of Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Tuition : Free for students who meet academic requirements
  • Delivery Format : On campus

The U offers free tuition to students who maintain a minimum 3.1 GPA, earn the degree within four years, and attempt 12 credits per semester. The program requires only two seminar courses, meaning learners possess significant freedom in customizing their education. Degree-seekers select between a thesis and non-thesis track. Students who choose the latter enroll in two additional upper-division courses.

Prospective students researching top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy should consider the U for more reasons than just affordability. Degree-seekers who excel qualify for admission to the university’s Ph.D. in philosophy program.

#3 — Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, New York; New York City, New York

  • Tuition : $471/credit in-state; $963/credit out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Unlike other top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy, Stony Brook’s features an interdisciplinary curriculum focusing on the arts. The program’s theme changes each semester, and past themes include public and contemporary art. Field trips to art and cultural centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn complement classroom instruction.

The 30-credit curriculum requires 10 courses, and electives include feminist theories, theories of ethnicity, and art and its problems. Learners may take two courses outside the philosophy department. Other customization options include writing a thesis or completing an independent study project. Many degree-seekers who write a thesis apply to Ph.D. in philosophy programs.

#4 — Binghamton University

Binghamton, New York

  • Tuition : $11,310/year in-state; $23,100/year out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Binghamton offers two low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy. The first confers an MA, and students who select the second continue their education in the university’s Ph.D. program. Coursework in both degrees includes social and political philosophy, ethics, and classical philosophy. Learners graduating with a master’s go on to work in public policy, business, or law.

Binghamton degree-seekers complement their education by signing up for an on-campus internship or research project. Both provide the hands-on experience doctoral programs and employers expect applicants to possess. Learners work with advisors at the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development to explore these and other enrichment opportunities.

#5 — California State University-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

  • Tuition : $8,216/year in-state; $12,968/year out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Cal State LA’s master’s in philosophy students take three required courses in symbolic logic, social-political philosophy, and metaphysics. Learners then create a custom concentration by selecting seven electives. The program also features a thesis and non-thesis option. The university recommends learners preparing for doctoral program admissions forgo the thesis and develop shorter writing samples.

Students choose Cal State LA over other school’s top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy for the university’s commitment to academic excellence. Learners who do not write a thesis must pass three comprehensive exams. The program does not accept degree-seekers into the thesis track unless they maintain a minimum 3.7 GPA, as well.

#6 — Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Tuition : $385/credit in-state; $1,057/credit out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

IUPUI offers a master’s in philosophy with an optional concentration in bioethics. Electives include the philosophy of language, ethics and values of philanthropy, and the philosophy of religion. Like other top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy, IUPUI’s features thesis and non-thesis tracks. Degree-seekers not writing a thesis instead complete an original research project.

Learners reduce out-of-pocket costs by applying for a university fellowship or graduate assistantship. These opportunities award $9,000-$12,000 and provide participants with dental and health insurance. Degree-seekers performing original research may qualify for the $10,000 Brand Fellowship.

#7 — University of New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Tuition : $8,509/year in-state; $26,636/year out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Philosophy students choose UNM for the university’s commitment to providing all learners with individualized attention. Coursework falls under six focus areas, including epistemology, metaphysics, and the history of philosophy. The university offers learners three academic tracks, depending on their prior education. Students either write a thesis or take written and oral exams. Degree-seekers must complete all academic requirements in three years or fewer.

UNM’s graduate outcomes demonstrate that top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy prepare learners for academic and career success. Many MA students go on to earn a doctorate at UNM, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, and other leading institutions.

#8 — Arizona State University

Tempe, Arizona

  • Tuition : $11,720/year in-state; $23,544/year out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

ASU degree-seekers analyze contemporary and traditional philosophy through coursework in epistemology, metaphysics, and value theory. Non-thesis students take 18 credits of electives and develop a portfolio in the final semester. The university supports learners’ academic growth through colloquia on racialized forgiveness and proposed changes to the U.S. political system.

Admission requirements resemble those at other low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy. Applicants should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit three recommendation letters. The program considers prospective international learners with satisfactory TOEFL results. ASU makes graduate school more affordable by awarding merit-based scholarships and funding fellowship and grant opportunities.

#9 — California State University-Long Beach

Long Beach, California

  • Tuition : $8,280/semester in-state; $15,408/semester out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Students in CSULB’s master’s in philosophy program analyze analytic philosophy, the philosophy of sex and love, and modern tradition. Learners pass a basic qualifying exam before writing a thesis or developing a portfolio. Other academic requirements include maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA. CSULB’s program stands apart from other top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy by using the Socratic method in all courses.

Funding opportunities for graduate degree-seekers include graduate assistantships. Learners work 10 hours each week and receive up to $3,825 in financial aid. Research fellowships pay more but require a faculty recommendation.

#10 — University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

  • Tuition : $12,740/year in-state; $30,134/year out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

UF attracts both MA students and learners working toward a Ph.D. in philosophy. Required courses for the master’s degree include a proseminar, ethical theory, and epistemology. Unlike many top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy, UF’s does not offer a thesis option. Instead, second-year degree-seekers take an oral exam covering ancient and modern philosophy. Professors grade this assessment pass/fail.

Degree-seekers must complete the program within two years and may receive an invitation to the Ph.D. program. Master’s students do not receive departmental funding. However, UF undergraduates entering the university’s master’s in philosophy program may qualify for the James W. Kynes Scholarship.

#11 — West Chester University of Pennsylvania

West Chester, Pennsylvania

  • Tuition : $442/credit in-state; $663/credit out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

WCU’s 30-credit master’s in philosophy features an optional concentration in applied ethics and required coursework in epistemology and philosophical concepts and systems. Learners take a comprehensive exam at the end of the first year. Non-thesis degree-seekers work with an advisor to select four focused philosophy electives. These learners must also pass a final comprehensive exam.

WCU’s philosophy program differentiates itself from other top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy by offering optional graduate certificates. These certificates allow students to specialize in healthcare or business ethics. They also accept learners not pursuing a degree. Degree-seekers earning a certificate need an additional year to graduate.

#12 — Temple University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Tuition : $942/credit in-state; $1,297/credit out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Temple attracts students from other top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy by allowing learners three years to earn the degree. This advantage helps part-time degree-seekers work or raise children while in school. The degree allows for some customization, as students may select electives outside the philosophy department. Required courses include special topics in philosophy, the philosophy of science, and intermediate logic.

Students visit Temple’s Career Center to learn more about on-campus internship opportunities. Degree-seekers with exceptional grades may qualify for a Presidential, University, or Future Faculty Fellowship. The university funds university scholarships exclusive to graduate degree-seekers, as well.

#13 — Wayne State University

Detroit, Michigan

  • Tuition : $679/credit in-state; $1,470/credit out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Many top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy offer thesis and non-thesis tracks. WSU goes above and beyond by providing students with a master’s essay as a third option. The essay allows degree-seekers to hone their research skills while still exploring philosophy electives.

Other academic opportunities for philosophy degree-seekers include the 16-credit healthcare ethics certificate. Learners take courses in free will, ethics foundations, and justice and rights in healthcare. Application requirements for the degree and certificate include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. However, degree applicants with a minimum 2.75 GPA may apply as long as they submit GRE scores.

#14 — San Jose State University

San Jose, California

  • Tuition : $347/credit in-state; $743/credit out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

Prospective students researching top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy for personal enrichment purposes should consider SJSU . The program’s reading intensive plan caters to these learners by not requiring a thesis. Degree-seekers who select the thesis track work with an academic advisor to prepare for doctoral program admissions.

All degree-seekers earn 30 credits and must pass an exam before writing a thesis or taking additional electives. Learners may either transfer in six outside credits or take two courses outside the philosophy department. Students enhance their resume by joining the philosophy club or contributing to the university’s student journal of philosophy.

#15 — Eastern Michigan University

Ypsilanti, Michigan

  • Tuition : $10,260/year in-state; $18,240/year out-of-state
  • Delivery Format : On campus

EMU’s philosophy degree-seekers concentrate in methodology or social justice. The program differs from other top low-cost master’s degree programs in philosophy by emphasizing Eastern thought. Social justice students take courses in food justice and comparative ethics. Methods degree-seekers analyze metaphysics and the philosophy of language.

Prospective students on a budget choose EMU for the philosophy program’s two exclusive scholarships: a philosophy prize and an outstanding paper award. Award amounts vary by year. Other departmental financial aid includes the $750 Graduate Student Research Support Fund. The fund supports master’s and doctoral degree-seekers performing original research.

Frequently-Asked Questions About Master of Philosophy Programs

Q: How long does it take to complete a master’s degree in philosophy?

A: Completion times will vary by school and program. However, a master’s in philosophy program typically requires two years of full-time study.

Q: Are part-time master of philosophy programs available?

A: Yes. Most master of philosophy programs require full-time study, but it is possible to find programs that enroll students on a part-time basis. If you choose this option, keep in mind that it will likely take longer to complete your degree requirements.

Q: Can I earn a master’s degree in philosophy online?

A: Yes. Increasingly, colleges and universities are offering their graduate degree offerings online. This includes master’s in philosophy degree programs. For more information, check out our separate ranking of online master of philosophy degrees.

Q: Is a thesis required for a master of philosophy?

A: It depends on the program. Many colleges and universities, including many in our ranking, offer non-thesis options.

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