A philosophy degree showcases the graduate’s well-developed critical, analytical, and communication skills, all highly desirable qualities to have in practically every professional arena. A master’s in philosophy further qualifies degree holders for top managerial and leadership positions, which often come with higher salaries as well. A master’s program in philosophy also serves as an excellent foundation for doctoral studies in the field itself or other fields such as law and public service.

Featured Programs

Advanced educational degrees often lead to higher wages and lower unemployment rates. For example, master’s degree holders earned higher 2019 median weekly salaries compared to bachelor’s- and associate-trained workers ($1,497, $1,248, and $887, respectively), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Master’s degree holders also enjoyed lower unemployment rates compared to the two other groups of employees (2%, 2.2%, and 2.7%, respectively).

In the search for the top low-cost online master’s in philosophy, students will find that many are offered by accredited and well-known institutions. Flexible and convenient online programs often also cost less since students do not have to pay for additional on-campus expenses. 

The list below includes some of the top low-cost online master’s in philosophy programs available today.


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

The Top Low Cost Online Master’s in Philosophy

#1 — Ohio State University

Columbus, OH

  • Tuition : $18,192 for full-time resident students; $18,792 for full-time non-resident students; $22,965 for part-time resident students; $24,165 for part-time non-resident students
  • Delivery Format : Asynchronous and synchronous classes

Students searching for a top low-cost online master’s in philosophy can explore Ohio State University’s master of arts in bioethics. Designed to be completed entirely without campus visits, the 30-credit program welcomes applicants from professionals in various fields of study including medicine, nursing, and biotechnology.

Full-time enrollees who take at least nine credits each semester can earn the degree in one year, or three semesters. The program accepts part-time enrollees.

The core curriculum includes coursework in bioethics theory and foundations, biomedical research ethics, and clinical bioethics. Degree candidates must complete a culminating experience prior to graduation. They can either complete an ethics practicum or write a thesis.

#2 — Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY

  • Tuition : $2346 per credit
  • Delivery Format : Synchronous

The master of science in bioethics at Columbia University comprises 36 credits. The program offers five concentration areas, including global ethics, research ethics, and clinical ethics.

Full-time enrollees can complete the program in three semesters, while it usually takes part-time students six semesters to earn the degree. The university gives part-time enrollees up to three years to graduate from the program.

Students sign up for courses on topics such as law and bioethics, reproductive ethics, and pastoral care and bioethics. The program requires degree candidates to maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the program to qualify for graduation. In addition, candidates must complete a thesis to earn the degree.

#3 — Rutgers University-Camden

Camden, NJ

  • Tuition : $900 per credit, plus $300 program fee per course
  • Delivery Format : Asynchronous

The master of arts in liberal studies at Rutgers University in Camden offers four concentration areas, including one in philosophy and religion. The 30-credit program requires students to enroll in 15 core and 15 concentration credits.

Applicants must show an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. The program does not require applicants to submit GRE scores. Students admitted to the program can transfer up to three courses for which they received a grade of B (3.0) or better from other accredited institutions.

The philosophy and religion concentration includes classes in contemporary moral issues, psychology or religious beliefs, and philosophy of social identities. The program requires candidates to complete a capstone project related to their concentration to earn the degree.

#4 — Holy Apostles College and Seminary

Cromwell, CT

  • Tuition : $375 per credit
  • Delivery Format : Asynchronous

Holy Apostles College and Seminary offers a graduate program for students seeking a top low-cost online master’s in philosophy. The 36-credit program includes 12 credits each of core and concentration coursework and six credits each of electives and co-requisite courses. Students can choose from five concentration areas including ethics, Christian wisdom, and systematic philosophy.

The program accepts up to six credits from other regionally accredited institutions for which transferees received a grade of 3.0 or higher. Degree candidates must complete a summative evaluation toward the end of the program. They can choose to take a comprehensive exam or write a thesis.

#5 — Clarkson University

Potsdam, NY; Schenectady, NY; Beacon, NY

  • Tuition : $998 per credit hour
  • Delivery Format : Asynchronous and synchronous

Clarkson University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai offer a master of science in bioethics with concentrations in clinical ethics, bioethics policy, and research ethics. A hybrid program, the MS in bioethics includes online coursework and on-site seminars, capstone, and practicum requirements.

All enrollees, regardless of the concentration area they choose, complete three courses: healthcare policy, bioethics and the law, and biomedical ethics. The program also requires degree candidates to complete an online practicum experience. Students pursuing the clinical or the research ethics concentration must also complete a one-week, on-site practicum experience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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#6 — Cambridge College

Boston, MA

  • Tuition : $3,035 per course
  • Delivery Format : Asynchronous

Cambridge College offers an online master of science in business ethics and compliance with tracks in corporate social responsibility, forensic accounting, risk management and insurance, and compliance. The program comprises 30 credits (10 courses). Regardless of the track a student pursues, they must complete an 18-credit core curriculum. Core subjects cover topics such as strategic leadership and management, legal issues and ethics in business, and regulations and regulators.

Students can request credits for any industry-recognized professional certification they possess. The college accepts several practice credentials including the Certified Supply Chain Professional and the Certified Financial Planner. Candidates must complete a capstone course prior to graduation.

#7 — Loyola University of Chicago

Chicago, IL

  • Tuition : $1,140 per credit
  • Delivery Format : Asynchronous

The Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Healthcare Leadership at Loyola University Chicago offers a master of arts in bioethics and health policy comprising 30 credits. Enrollees can complete the program entirely online, although the institute offers an optional on-campus summer session.

Most full-time students graduate from the program in one year. However, the university gives enrollees up to five years to earn the degree.

Students enroll in five required courses and five electives. The required coursework includes clinical bioethics, justice and healthcare, biomedical ethics and the law, principles of healthcare ethics, and the master’s research capstone course. The MA program does not require a thesis for completion. However, degree candidates must prepare a paper of publishable quality as part of the capstone course.

#8 — California Institute of Integral Studies

San Francisco, CA

  • Tuition : $1,206 per credit
  • Delivery Format : Asynchronous and synchronous

The master of arts in philosophy at the California Institute of Integral Studies comprises 36 credits, which students can complete entirely online. However, the program offers residential retreat opportunities and intensive courses in the San Francisco Bay area that MA students are encouraged to attend.

The curriculum includes coursework in spirituality and moral action, modern cosmology through the media, Christian contemplative traditions, and environmental ethics. The program requires degree candidates to complete an integrative seminar at the end of their studies that requires them to demonstrate mastery of the key learning insights of the program.

#9 — Biola University

La Mirada, CA

  • Tuition : $667 per credit
  • Delivery Format : Asynchronous and synchronous

The Talbot School of Theology at Biola University offers a 49-credit fully-online master of arts with a concentration in philosophy. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher from an accredited college or university. The MA program requires applicants to show completion of prerequisite coursework in the Old and the New Testament, however, GRE scores are not required.

The curriculum includes courses in philosophical anthropology and philosophy of the mind, hermeneutics and Bible study methods, and history and normative systems of ethics. Degree candidates must complete a capstone project to be eligible for graduation. Students must maintain a 3.0 average throughout their course of study and must not receive a grade lower than C to earn the degree.

About Online Master’s in Philosophy Programs

Online master of philosophy programs can prepare students for many different career paths, including research and teaching positions, as well as jobs in law, business, theology, and healthcare. Many online master’s in philosophy programs aren’t designed for a specific vocational path, though. Instead, they provide students with the foundation in advanced philosophy concepts that they’ll need to continue their studies in a doctoral philosophy program.

Graduate Philosophy Coursework

While specific classes and topics will vary, a graduate program in philosophy will generally cover the following topics:

Contemporary Philosophy

Coursework in contemporary philosophy will focus on philosophical theories beginning at the turn of the 20 th century and persisting until the present day. This subfield of philosophy is characterized by the acceptance of philosophy as a profession and the rise of continental philosophy. Some course titles associated with contemporary philosophy include the following:

  • Modern Philosophy
  • 20 th Century Continental Philosophy
  • Contemporary Social and Political Philosophy
  • Special Topics in Contemporary Philosophy

Ancient Philosophy

Ancient philosophy is the sub-field of the discipline that relates to philosophy as it existed prior to the fall of the Roman Empire. Studies in ancient philosophy usually emphasize Greek and Roman philosophy but may also include other cultures and civilizations such as Indian and Chinese philosophy, for instance. Course titles addressing this sub-field may include:

  • Aristotle’s Legal Theory
  • Ethical and Societal Implications of Ancient Philosophy
  • History of Ancient Philosophy
  • Classics of Analytic Philosophy

History of Philosophy

Coursework in the history of philosophy will track philosophical theories and traditions pre-Socrates to the present day. Classes tend to be broad and focus on distinct time periods in philosophical history such as ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary philosophy. Specific course titles may include:

  • Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Aristotle
  • Realism
  • Science and Values


Ethics classes address issues of morality and justice, some of the most important and thought-provoking topics in the field of philosophy. Students will discuss ethics in its broadest sense and apply it to specific aspects of society as well. Courses in ethics may include the following:

  • Ethics and Society
  • Theories and Applications in Contemporary Ethics
  • Ethics: Ethical Cultures and Organizations
  • Bioethics


Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that probes questions of existence. It is a highly abstract and theoretical area of the discipline that involves cosmology, time, the human mind, and more. Some course titles associated with metaphysics include:

  • The Metaphysical Psychology of Consciousness
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Phenomenology and Existentialism
  • Introduction to Cognitive Science


Students enrolled in an online master’s in philosophy will inevitably encounter courses in epistemology—the branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge and belief. These classes explore the nature of knowledge, including how we know what we know and the difference between truth and knowledge, for example. This part of the master’s philosophy curriculum may include course titles like:

  • Theory of Knowledge
  • Practical Reasoning and Choice
  • Philosophy of Mathematics
  • Logic and Anti-Realism

Capstone Element

Prior to graduation from a master’s in philosophy online program, students are typically required to fulfill a capstone element. Capstone elements facilitate reflection on the learning that has taken place over the duration of the program. They also give students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in the academic discipline of philosophy. Some schools define the capstone as a master’s thesis while others allow students to write a research paper or take a comprehensive examination, for example.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long does it take to earn an online master of philosophy degree?

A: Completion times vary depending on the program, but generally speaking, students can fulfill degree requirements within two to three years. Accelerated options are sometimes available as well, enabling students to earn their credentials in less time.

Q: Do online master of philosophy programs require a thesis?

A: This varies by school. Programs that do not require a formal master’s thesis usually require some other culminating element, such as a comprehensive examination or research project, for example.

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