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Columbia University Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :21 Apr 
International :21 Apr 

MA Philosophical Foundations of Physics (Part-Time)

 Course Level
Masters / PG
Part Time

3 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

29452 USD
29452 USD

Application fee

International 105 USD
National 105 USD
Department of Philosophy
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)7.5
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
TOEFL-PBT (min)600
GRE (avg)315

World University Ranking

About this course

The free-standing M.A. program is intended for students who wish to develop an advanced competence in Philosophy.  Some of our free-standing M.A. students do not plan to go on to Ph.D. programs in Philosophy.  Other free-standing M.A. students do plan to go on to Ph.D. programs in Philosophy, but do not yet have the background in Philosophy to win admission to a Ph.D. program; for these students, the free-standing M.A. program provides the opportunity to begin graduate studies by taking classes alongside the students enrolled in our Ph.D. program.

Students who do well in the free-standing M.A. program will be in a good position to apply to Ph.D. programs.  However, the free-standing M.A. program in Philosophy at Columbia is not intended as the first step toward earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Columbia. M.A. students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. should plan to apply to Ph.D. programs at other universities. Any M.A. student who wishes to pursue a Ph.D. at Columbia must apply separately to the Ph.D. program; they will be evaluated competitively with all of the other applications we receive. There is no guarantee that they will be admitted to the Ph.D. program, nor should there be any expectation that their chances of being admitted are improved by the fact of having obtained an M.A. degree in the Department.

Students who are pursuing the M.A. in order to enhance their chances of being admitted to a Ph.D. program should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies about how best to pursue that goal. Usually, it is wise to plan two years for the M.A. rather than one. That will allow more time to produce a record at Columbia, and to become known by the faculty members from whom they will be requesting letters of recommendation. If there are financial or personal reasons for trying to complete the degree within one year, we advise students to wait until after they have completed the M.A. before applying to Ph.D. programs.

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Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for admission, applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree by the date in which they enroll at the Graduate School.

Applicants who hold American doctorates or their international equivalents in the same or similar fields as those to which they propose to apply, or who have completed most of the work required to earn the PhD elsewhere, are not eligible for admission to the Graduate School.

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Course Modules

The requirements below should be read in conjunction with the general requirements of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Residence Units (two terms of full-time study or four terms of part-time study) 30 points of coursework: 18 E-credit points (six courses) and 12 R-credit points (four courses). 

Distribution requirements:

3 E-credit courses in Physics and 3 E-credit courses in Philosophy
1 E-credit course in each of the three main areas of the foundations of physics below:
Relativity; Quantum Mechanics; Thermodynamics

Here are some specific courses that would satisfy the second distribution requirement:

Relativity: The Philosophy of Space and Time, Special and General Relativity; Early Universe; Cosmology and Particle Astrophysics; General Relativity and Black Holes.
Quantum Mechanics: The Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics; Quantum Mechanics; Quantum Field Theory.
Thermodynamics: The Direction of Time; Thermal and Statistical Physics; Statistical Mechanics.


Thesis Requirement

In addition to completing the above course requirements, students in this program must submit and defend a written Master's Thesis which presents original research on some aspect of the foundations or philosophy of physics. The Master's Thesis is to be completed under the supervision of a member of the Physics or Philosophy departments at Columbia. It must be presented as part of the program's colloquium series, and it must be defended before a committee consisting of the supervisor and two faculty members (one from Philosophy and one from Physics).

A typical two semester, ten course program can be structured as follows:

First Semester:
Quantum Mechanics (E Credit)
The Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (E Credit)
Probability and Induction The Scientific Revolution (R Credit)
General Relativity and Black Holes (R Credit )

Second Semester:
Thermal and Statistical Physics Special and General Relativity (E Credit)
The Direction of Time (E Credit)
Philosophy of Science (R Credit)
Geometrical Concepts in Physics (R Credit)

For further information and planning, please be certain to meet with the Program Directors at the beginning of each semester. 

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How to Apply

All prospective students must apply using the online application. Printed applications are not available.

You must specify in your application the department, doctoral program subcommittee, or free-standing master’s degree program in which you wish to study. If required, you must indicate the sub-field of study and the term for which you are applying. A complete application includes: 

  • transcripts of all previous post-secondary education 
  • a statement of academic purpose
  • a curriculum vitae or résumé
  • three letters of recommendation from academic sources 
  • GRE scores and, if applicable, results of the TOEFL or IELTS examination to fulfill the English Proficiency Requirement
  • a sample of scholarly writing, if required by the department or program
  • payment of the application fee

Check further details on University website

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