Online PhD in Literature and Philosophy

A doctoral program in literature and philosophy encourages critical thinking, awareness of cultural diversity, effective writing, and skillful analysis of written works. There are many areas of study that rely on contributions from literature and philosophy that students can pursue, including social and critical theory, literary criticism, theory of language, linguistics, value theory, women's studies, hermeneutics, narrative, semiotics, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, African-American studies, and cultural studies.

Students typically enter this doctorate program with a master's degree. There may be a foreign language requirement or component, depending on the focus of the program. Students rely on their school's academic resources and faculty guidance, and at this point online PhD programs in literature and philosophy are not common. However, schools may offer courses online or in a hybrid format. Once they graduate students are prepared for scholarly, professional pursuits in research and teaching.

About Online PhD Programs in Literature and Philosophy

A doctorate degree program consists of core and elective courses and work on a dissertation, and it takes about four years to complete. Students earning a Ph.D. in literature and philosophy need to complete a specific number of courses in both disciplines, though they typically will have a home department in one of these disciplines and a concentration in the other. For an idea of what courses you may come across, here are some of the current offerings from Purdue University's Philosophy and Literature Ph.D. program:

Year One:

  • Symbolic Logic. This course is an introduction to metatheoretic studies of formal axiomatic systems. Basic set theory is developed for use as a tool in studying the propositional calculus. Further topics include many-valued logics and metatheory for modal or predicate logic.
  • Studies in Greek Philosophy. The subject matter in this course alternates between the intensive study of a topic in Greek philosophy, such as Plato's theory of knowledge or Aristotle's ethics.
  • Phenomenology. This course is a critical examination of some major issues in phenomenology. Attention is given to either the historical development or contemporary relevance of phenomenological philosophy. Readings will be drawn from the works of Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and others.

Year Two:

  • Existentialism. This course is a detailed exploration and examination of the existentialist movement in modern thought, including its historical roots, philosophical formulations, and influence and expression in art, literature, psychology, social criticism, and religion. Readings will be from some of the major existentialists, such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Heidegger, and Sartre. In addition, texts from existentialist thinkers in other areas will be used.
  • Studies in Metaphysics. This is an intensive examination of one or more of the basic problems of ontology and cosmology, such as substance, existence, causality, change, time, space, teleology, freedom, and universals.
  • Deconstructionist and Postmodernist Philosophy. This course is an examination of deconstructionist and postmodernist thought in the latter part of the twentieth century.

Once doctorate students complete their core and elective courses they can begin work on their dissertation. This consists of original research and writing that is overseen by a faculty advisor and must be of publishable quality. Before they begin students must successfully defend their dissertation prospectus before a committee. When it is completed the dissertation is judged by its originality and contribution to scholarship, and the student may need to defend it before a dissertation committee a second time.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Literature and Philosophy

The decision to pursue a doctorate in literature and philosophy is both a personal and professional one. A Ph.D. can be an exciting academic challenge that culminates in a prestigious degree, original research that advances the humanities fields, and life-long connections with students and esteemed faculty. For students interested in careers as professors at a college or university, a Ph.D. may also be necessary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most post secondary teachers have a Ph.D.

For all the benefits of pursuing a doctorate degree, there are some downsides to consider. The degree is often a full-time commitment, limiting your opportunity to earn an income and putting you in debt, which, if you already have debt from your undergraduate and master's degrees, can be stressful. And unlike professional degrees in high-paying fields such as medicine and law, the humanities doctorate may not lead to a significant salary increase. The degree may also take several years to complete, competing with other commitments and obligations you may have. Since online doctorate degrees in literature and philosophy are rare at this point you may also have to uproot yourself to attend the program.

Application & Admission Requirements

Admissions requirements and application processes vary from school to school. As a prerequisite, you may need to have earned a master's degree in English, philosophy, or a relevant foreign language.
In addition to submitting an application, application fee, and official transcripts from previously attended institutions of higher education, you may also need to submit official GRE scores and letters of recommendation. An admissions interview may also be required.

Career Options & Job Market

Like many Ph.D. programs, a doctoral degree in this field may lead to a career in academia. As a professor in a college or university you can teach courses in your specialty as well as conduct research and write professional papers and academic books. According to the BLS, employment of post secondary teachers is expected to grow 17% from 2010 to 2020, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is anticipated due to increasing enrollment in colleges and universities. However, some specialties, such as nursing and engineering, may experience better job prospects than those in the humanities, including literature and philosophy. Professors can expect to make from $30,720 to $130,510, according to the BLS.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

If you're working towards a Ph.D. you know your away around a FAFSA form by now. But it doesn't hurt to review your financial aid options when you're earning an advanced degree. At the doctorate level there are research fellowships or teaching assistantships to apply for that would cover your tuition and offer you a stipend. There's also federal aid, which you must be attending an accredited institution of higher education to be eligible for.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. Students can receive up to $20,500 per academic year at a fixed interest rate of 6.80%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. This low-interest loan awards an average of $3,500 per academic year. It has a fixed interest rate of 5.0%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Students can check with their school's financial aid office and department for any scholarship, fellowship, and graduate and teaching assistantship opportunities.

Essential Advice

  • A doctorate degree is a big commitment. You're devoting several years of your life to completing courses and a dissertation, which can leave you with little time for other commitments. Of course, there are wonderful positives about earning the terminal degree, so if you're considering applying make sure you have a plan in place for covering your tuition and living expenses and making other adjustments in your life, as well as determine what the degree can do for you in the long run.
  • It can take several months to have all the materials required for your graduate school application, such as letters of recommendation or required test scores. To that end, it's important to leave yourself enough time to get everything you need in on time by the deadline.
  • Know your financial aid options when you're applying to graduate programs. Is there a fellowship you're perfect for? A teaching assistantship you can land? Any merit-based scholarships for qualified students? Each program is different, so you'll want to make sure you know what's available and that you don't miss out on any potential aid.
  • It's common for students to jump into a graduate program after they graduate with a undergraduate degree. But don't discount the value of work experience. By taking some time between degrees, you can recharge, see what the demand is for Ph.D.s in your field, and make contacts with professionals who could serve as mentors or references during your application process.