Philosophy PhD Programs: Washington University in St. Louis and Stony Brook University

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are Washington University in St. Louis and Stony Brook University. These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) This information comes from the APDA database, and was updated by my research assistant, Anna Durbin, using the program's placement page and what she could find online. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.


  • Wash U is a mid-sized program whereas Stony Brook is larger than average
  • Both programs have better than average placement into permanent academic positions, with a substantial proportion of Stony Brook graduates in nonacademic jobs
  • More students from Wash U are in Value Theory, but more are placed in Science, Logic, and Math
  • Stony Brook students tend to be/place in Value Theory and History & Traditions
  • Stony Brook has very good gender, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity
  • Yet, both programs have below average program ratings, with the exception of financial support at Wash U

Overall placement, 2012-present
Wash U had 25 PhD graduates in this period, whereas Stony Brook had 49. Of Wash U's 25 graduates, 22 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 11 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (50%), with 4 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (18%). Stony Brook placed 20 of 40 into permanent academic positions (50%), with 1 in a philosophy program with a PhD (3%).

Of Wash U's other graduates, 8 have temporary academic placements, 3 are in nonacademic positions, and 3 have no or unknown placement.

Of Stony Brook's other graduates, 16 have temporary academic positions, 9 are in nonacademic positions, and 4 have no or unknown placement.

Nonacademic positions held by graduates of Wash U include research analyst, actuary, and finance director, whereas those held by graduates of Stony Brook include work in nonprofits, software developer/engineer, and writer/author.

The average salary of Wash U graduates is $62,463 and 73% preferred an academic job, whereas this is $81,643 and 86% for Stony Brook.

The current database values for all 2012 and later graduates now in permanent academic positions, out of those in academic positions overall, is 42%, with 14% in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy. The average salary of all graduates who took part in the survey is $68,542 and 90% prefer an academic job.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 23% of Wash U students are in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), 43% are in Value Theory, 9% are in History and Traditions, and 26% are in Science, Logic and Math. 23% of Stony Brook students are in LEMM, 37% are in Value Theory, 32% are in History and Traditions, and 9% are in Science, Logic, and Math. For Wash U, the plurality of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Science, Logic, and Math (45%), whereas this is split between Value Theory and History & Traditions for Stony Brook (35% each).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 28% in LEMM, 33% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 15% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Including all past graduates and current students, 36% of those from Wash U are women, as are 41% of Stony Brook students.

The current database percentage is 31% for all past graduates and current students.

Including all past graduates and current students, 16% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Wash U and 43% from Stony Brook identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic.

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The percentage from the Diversity and Inclusivity survey is 14%. The current database percentage is 21%, but this is likely inflated relative to the true population due to some of our data gathering efforts.

9% of those from Wash U were first generation college students, as were 40% of Stony Brook students.

The percentage of all survey respondents who are first generation college students is 23.4%, compared to 31% for all United States doctoral degree recipients in 2015.

Students from Wash U provided public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

Emphasis on recruiting and hiring candidates from underrepresented groups is important. But this is only feasible where such candidates are available. Members of underrepresented groups must be recruited into philosophy as undergraduates and even earlier where possible.
I would appreciate it if more faculty members took active and professional interest in feminist philosophy, queer and gender critical philosophy, and philosophy of race. Issues addressed in these social philosophies can be relevant to and help support projects in other areas.
It seems to me that syllabi should be more representative of women and minorities, especially in intro-level classes. In conjunction with this strategy, it might help to refer to all philosophers by their first and last names, so that feminine names are made more salient. All too often, my students will refer to Thomson as he when referring to Judith Jarvis Thomson (despite the fact that I show them her picture in my classes AND introduce her as Judith Jarvis Thomson).

as did students from Stony Brook:

Actually support projects, advocate for underrepresented students, consider this when planning conferences, mentoring, and publications. Have open and frank conversations that does not put the burden of labor on said students.
Ensure diversity in instruction; include more diverse readings when teaching philosophy.

Program Rating

In response to the question: "How likely would you be to recommend the program from which you obtained or will obtain your PhD to prospective philosophy students?" past and current Wash U students selected "neither likely nor unlikely" (3.4, n=16), as did Stony Brook students (3.0, n=10).

Wash U did not have a moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program rating. Of 69 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates, 14 had moderate negative correlations between these values, 7 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.06.

"Somewhat likely," 4.0, is the average rating reported in 2017. The current database overall average is the same, with an average of 3.7 for teaching, 3.9 for research, and 3.7 for financial support. It is worth noting that some students give lower ratings to their program because they would not recommend a graduate education in philosophy to anyone or because they think it is more difficult to find employment from that program for reasons that have little to do with the quality of that program.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Wash U students selected "neutral" (3.2, n=11), whereas Stony Brook students selected "satisfied" (3.6, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Wash U students selected between "neutral" and "satisfied" (3.5, n=11), and Stony Brook students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, Wash U students selected between "satisfied" and "very satisfied" (4.5, n=11), whereas Stony Brook students selected "neutral" (3.3, n=7).

Public Comments
(Note that these comments primarily come from current students and recent graduates, but in some cases may be from non-recent graduates.)

Wash U students provided public comments on the program overall:

Outstanding faculty in all major areas of the field; Supportive environment among faculty and students; Good funding, especially relative to the local cost of living
Although there are a few faculty members who are supportive of graduate students, the department as such does nothing to actively support them, and in general, faculty members are extremely critical of and discouraging towards the students. The approach is generally sink or swim.
Increasingly good community of grad students, and committed faculty mentors.
Rigorous courses that covered all areas of philosophy from ancients to meta-ethics. Accessible professors. No comprehensive exams were required, but we were required to write qualifying papers that prepared us for publishing and our dissertations.

on preparation for teaching:

Advice and preparation for undergraduate teaching is given on a fairly ad hoc basis, if at all.
Preparation for teaching is largely self-directed. Since the teaching requirements are very minimal, graduate students must seek out high-quality teaching experiences for themselves. Such opportunities are available but not guaranteed.
You get a good amount of training as a teaching assistant, but there is no requirement to teach courses of your own. There are excellent University-wide resources for improving teaching, but they are not mandatory.

on preparation for research:

The program is well-designed to prepare graduate students for the challenges of academic research and publishing. Advancing through the program requires passing multiple qualifying papers, the review process for which simulates the standard publishing process. There is also a clear expectation that students will present work at professional conferences and submit papers to high-quality journals before graduating. Finally, course work and teaching requirements are usually completed in 2-3 years, leaving 3-4 years to focus primarily on independent research.

and on financial support:

The funding, plus benefits like subsidized health and dental insurance and free public transit passes, allows a typical graduate student to live alone or otherwise contribute meaningfully to household income. Graduate students can also supplement their income by taking on optional teaching and grading.
They provide a pretty generous stipend and summer funding, too.
This program pays more than most programs given the local costs of living. it also provides generous travel funding.

Stony Brook students likewise provided public comments on the program overall:

It depends on the student. I think market-wise it is difficult to recommend pursuing a PhD in philosophy to anyone. I do not think the faculty do enough to support students or support from faculty is extremely uneven.

on preparation for teaching:

The seminar on pedagogy was a farce, an obvious excuse for a course release. It is mandatory to get observed teaching twice but many faculty refuse or act like they are doing you an enormous favor. Even after the observation faculty would not submit a review for your record. This happened to multiple students.

on preparation for research:

The university has a research orientation. Doctoral students have direct mentoring relationships with advisors.

and on financial support:

Four years of funding is inadequate in that there are so many requirements that you cannot write your dissertation in those four years. After four years you lose your funding and health insurance.
The university offers both need-based and merit-based aid. For doctoral students, there are options for enhanced merit-based stipends.

Next week I hope to look at University of Otago and St Andrews and Stirling Graduate Programme in Philosophy. Feedback is welcome, at

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