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M.A. Program Details

Duration of M.A. Program

It is possible to complete the M.A. Program in 3 terms (one calendar year), but the vast majority of candidates take at least 5 terms to complete it. The Department has prepared a detailed M.A. Program timeline.

Note: Regarding the maximum time allowed for the completion of the M.A. degree at McMaster, please see the Graduate Calendar.


For tuition and other fees, please see the financial section of the Graduate Calendar.

Program Regulations

In addition to the regulations of the program, the university has its own general regulations for M.A. candidates, which may be consulted in the Graduate Calendar, available online here.


Subject to the general regulations of the School of Graduate Studies, admission into the M.A. Program requires a B.A. (or comparable degree) with a minimum of “B+” standing, in Honours Philosophy or Honours Philosophy in Combination with Another Subject or the equivalent. In particular, the applicant must have at least a “B+” average in the Philosophy courses taken in the final year of study. In practice, generally only applicants whose averages are clearly within the “A” range are offered admission.

Those wishing to apply must complete the appropriate application form, details of which are available here.


Candidates are required to take six (6) graduate half-courses or the equivalent. A half-course lasts for one three-month term and classes are usually held for two to three (2-3) hours weekly during the term. Our graduate courses are normally seminars. In order to stay in the program, candidates must achieve at least a “B-” standing in all courses taken. M.A. candidates at McMaster may take graduate Philosophy courses at the University of Guelph or at Wilfrid Laurier University.


Candidates are also required to write a thesis and to pass an oral examination on it. Master’s theses must demonstrate a capacity for independent study and critical judgment. They are normally between 21,000 words and 35,000 words; a thesis which exceeds 35,000 words (including appendices, bibliography, and notes) will not be accepted unless permission is granted by the Department Chair and MA Advisor on the recommendation of the Supervisory Committee. Candidates are required to submit a one-page statement of the proposed thesis at the end of October, and shortly thereafter, based on this statement, the Department establishes a supervisory committee of two faculty members. Once the written thesis is judged acceptable for oral defense by the supervisory committee, a third examiner is appointed. The third examiner, together with the two members of the supervisory committee, constitute the Examining Committee. This committee is responsible for conducting an oral examination of the thesis. While the written thesis requires approval of both members of the supervisory committee, the performance of the candidate at the oral defence must be approved by a majority of the Examining Committee.

Note: The candidate’s progress is initially monitored first by the M.A. Graduate Advisor and/or the Chair of the Department. After a thesis topic has been decided upon and a thesis supervisor has been assigned, the supervisor also becomes involved in the monitoring process.

Employment of Graduates

The majority of our graduates continue to doctoral studies in philosophy. A sizeable minority do not continue in philosophy but find appropriate careers in which their philosophical skills will be useful. For information about the subsequent academic and professional career of our recent MA graduates, see here.