Best Online Degrees in Philosophy: Guide to Online Programs for 2022

Best Online Degrees in Philosophy: Guide to Online Programs for 2022
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Many of the 1,216 colleges and universities in the United States that offer on-campus degrees in philosophy also offer online programs (College Tuition Compare, 2021). Fully accredited, they prepare young people to explore what many consider the mother of all disciplines or sciences while suiting them up for meaningful careers after earning their degrees.

Pursuing wisdom while eschewing Socratic mendicancy is your guarantee to make it far in the modern world. Thankfully, newly-minted philosophers emerging out of their contemporary lyceums can look forward to well-paying occupations, with the best of them even competing for the most lucrative pay rates out there.

In this guide, we’ll fashion out the state of online degree in philosophy programs so you’ll know if this is a route that best suits your needs and temperament.

Best Online Degree in Philosophy Table of Contents

  1. Can you get a philosophy degree completely online?
  2. Will employers take my online degree seriously?
  3. Are online degrees recognized all over the world?
  4. Online vs. Traditional Degree/Program in Philosophy
  5. How much does an online degree/program in philosophy cost?
  6. What are the requirements of an online degree/program in philosophy?
  7. Courses to Expect in Online Degree/Program in Philosophy
  8. Things to Look for in an Online Degree/Program in Philosophy

Can you get a philosophy degree completely online?

The explicit answer is yes, you can get a philosophy degree completely online. For example, 2020 online education statistics indicate that of the around 3,000 colleges in the United States, 34% intended to run classes primarily online, 21% in hybrid format, and 10% completely online (Hanson, 2021). While the COVID-19 pandemic forced some colleges to conduct classes online, online education has been trending for some years prior. For example, 15% of all college students in the U.S. studied exclusively online in 2018.

More importantly, you can get a job with your online degree. In fact, thousands who graduated from online programs have been successful in landing meaningful occupations in their chosen field.

A significant finding indicates that 41% of students see their online college-level learning experience as better than college-level classroom instruction. On the other hand, 15% believe it was inferior to in-person learning.

What factors should you look out for when choosing an online philosophy degree program? More or less, you should look out for the following factors:

  • Affordability
  • Reputation of the school and program
  • How long the program would take
  • Option to take on-campus courses along with online ones during the program

U.S. Colleges that Offer Online Classes

Based on 3,000 U.S. Colleges, 2020

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Source: Hanson, 2021

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Will employers take my online degree seriously?

Yes, employers will definitely take your online degree seriously. Thousands of students have joined the workforce and found meaningful occupations after completing their online education. In fact, online degrees have not only gained credibility that’s on par with traditional degrees, but also rose in popularity in the past few years. In addition, online degrees have become a necessity in the ongoing COVID-19 educational climate.

A landmark 2008 online survey by Excelsior College and Zogby International involving more than 1,500 U.S. CEOs and small business owners reported that more than four out of five of them strongly believe a degree earned online is as credible as one earned through a traditional brick-and-mortar educational program. This was followed by a July 2009 survey of human resources professionals, conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, which showed that 76% of the respondents view online college degrees more favorably than they did five years ago (Rickard, W. , 2010). These studies were from a decade ago, at a time when online education was relatively young. With the advances in technology and lessons learned, the figures should be more favorable these days.

Mind, however, that employers are historically wary of diploma mills and seedy schools, many of which operate online. Watch out for red flags associated with these online program offerings. If the online program offers a degree that you can complete quickly or easily, if it shows no sound support and library services and a guidance counselor, you are better off avoiding them.

Finally, remember that your skills and professional experiences are what actually matter to employers. At the end of the day, where you earned your degree from is not really the most crucial factor that matters in gaining the nod of employers.

Are online degrees recognized all over the world?

Online degrees have been recognized all over the world for some time now. When it comes to online colleges and universities, any organization can easily verify if the issuing institution is legally recognized and properly accredited. This is true whether the institution is a renowned one or not. Indeed, global colleges and universities have been adopting and offering online courses for some time now. These universities range from top Ivy League institutions in the U.S. and their international counterparts to community colleges and their equivalents worldwide. Indeed, all eight Ivy League universities have been offering online courses for sometime now (Inside Higher Ed, 2019).

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions worldwide had no other recourse but to institute a distance online learning modality. In the U.S. alone, 97% of students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree found themselves shifting to online education (Chen, C., 2021).

An extensive study by the Northeastern University provides ample things to think about if you are considering pursuing your post-secondary education online. Your main concern would be about how hiring organizations would perceive your online credentials. As it turns out, the attributes of the credential issuer—i.e., the college or university—plays a crucial role in influencing their decision to hire you:

Source: Northeastern University

Online vs. Traditional Degree Program in Philosophy

Except for the missing element of face-to-face interaction, online degree and certificate programs in philosophy center around courses students in traditional settings are already acquainted with. These courses are similarly designed to hone the abilities of students in critical thinking, logical reasoning, and communication skills.

As with their traditional counterparts, online degree programs in philosophy are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate level. The online bachelor’s degree requires 120 credits that students are expected to complete in 4 years.

Expect to find more students like you lining up for online classes. Various statistics report a 7% increase in online enrollment with the corresponding 4.5% decline in traditional enrollment as a result of stringent COVID-19 containment protocols (Hanson, M., 2021).

Standard Requirements

You will find many universities and colleges offering an online degree in philosophy. If you decide on one, be prepared to go through an admissions test. After that, you must have the standard requirements in order. These include your high school diploma or GED, as well as application essays and letters of recommendation. If you are thinking of pursuing a graduate degree, then the bachelor’s degree is the only option for you.

Course Components

Being a bachelor of arts degree, your philosophy program will have a liberal arts component. These would be general education component courses spread within the first two years of your program. The last two years, meanwhile, will have you taking on courses specific to your major.

Learning Experience

Regardless of the mode of delivery, connection, engagement, and communication remain at the heart of your relationship with your teachers in their respective classes. In place of physical blackboards, however, you will interact with them through digital technologies. The more you and your teachers adapt to these technologies, you will acquire the flexibility that is key to the online learning experience.

Flexibility is the defining advantage of online learning programs. For adult students who are taking on multiple roles like working and studying at the same time, online programs afford them the time to take on these roles. The instructors can simply upload course materials following a planned lesson. The teachers can have the students complete the coursework at their own time. The flexibility gives teachers and students the time to attend to other tasks in their homes or work.

The Importance of Learning at Your Own Pace

Once study materials and deadlines are established, students have 24 hours to attend to them and comply with the due dates. If you are earning a living while committing to continuing education, this convenience is simply not available or very limited if you are attending a traditional campus. You can, for example, access your coursework anywhere, anytime without the need to rush for home or school.

Instead of giving up on your educational goals to help further your career, you now have full help from online education that affords you the chance to achieve your life goals.

Education that You Can Afford

With rising college education costs and mounting student debt, colleges and universities are seeing a significant downturn in enrollment in recent years. Coupled with the raging pandemic, students and educational institutions everywhere have no choice but to go online or shut down and stop schooling, which was what happened in the case of campuses and students, respectively. In many cases, the shift allowed schools to bring down tuition. This works to the benefit of students who are turned off by the high costs of traditional enrollment. In general, the average cost of online tuition is lower. Most of it, however, depends on the school.

Some universities took the online education path early. Specializing in this nascent area, they have developed the capability to handle sizable classes while eschewing the costs associated with sprawling campuses, dorms, sports complexes, and other facilities. Without the need to employ maintenance crew, they were able to keep their books from being plagued by steep overheads. All of these translated to their ability to offer affordable tuition to aspiring learners.

A case in point is that of Southern New Hampshire University. Adopting the online education approach early, the private university is able to offer programs at a cost of just $320 per credit hour. The difference is notable when you consider that on-campus tuition stands at $1,025 on average (Manville, S., 2020).

Is an online degree cheaper?

For schools that specialize in offering only online degree courses, the cost is decidedly cheaper. Fewer expenses in utility bills, rent or maintenance of large swaths of real estate properties, and management and maintenance personnel allow schools to bring down the cost of their degree offerings considerably.

The same may not be said of traditional universities and colleges that were forced to conduct online courses as a way to deal with the pandemic. In fact, you might be surprised to find that for these schools, on-campus tuition is virtually similar to its online counterpart.

Many private online degree programs are cheaper than on-campus programs. A survey of 168 private colleges, for example, showed online price per credit at $488, while on-campus price was at $1,240 on average (Manville, S., 2020).

Is an online degree as good as a regular degree?

There is nothing to indicate that a regular degree is better than an online degree or vice versa. Online degree programs typically follow their brick-and-mortar versions, with either programs handled by the same faculty.

There might be instances when students do better at either traditional or online setting; either way, student performance will depend on how well students deliver on academic metrics. This, in turn, will depend on the hours and the quality of work students contribute to their studies.

Four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, and internet-based college programs generally enjoy a reputation for fair to excellent quality of education (EDsmart, 2020). For higher educational level, a landmark study by the U.S. Department of Education reported that online higher education is more effective than traditional face-to-face instruction.

Finally, around 75% of faculty see online learning as on equal footing with face-to-face learning, if not better. The finding was established way back in 2011. With the advancement in technology and the faculty mastery of the technology, the figures could only go up in favor of online learning (Elaine Allen, I., & Seaman, J., 2013)

Source: Cengage, 2021

How much does an online degree program in philosophy cost?

You can easily discover any school’s tuition for online philosophy programs through their official websites. What you will see is a level of tuition that differs from one college or university to another. In general, each one determines its own pricing according to its funding, student population, and other business metrics. You must also factor in the fact that schools will charge tuition differently for in-state and out-of-state students.

If affordability is an overriding factor in your pick of school to study for an online degree in philosophy, you might want to take a look at Fort Hays State University (annual tuition: $6,560), the American Public University System (annual tuition: $8,100), the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (annual tuition: $8,400), and the University of Southern Mississippi (annual tuition: $8,624) first, all of which offer the lowest online tuition and value for an online philosophy degree (OnlineU, 2020). Among them, the American Public University System scores well in terms of an average student-faculty ratio of 20 to 1, which allows for a better learning environment and an individualized approach (Great Value Colleges, 2021).

These online rates compare favorably against the rates of traditional campuses with their $8,268 and $29,419 average tuition rates for traditional in-state and out-of-state undergraduate students, respectively. For graduate students, the rates become $11,429 for in-state students and $20,599 for out-of-state students.

Per-Credit Costs of an Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership at Selected U.S. Universities

 Per-Credit Costs
Lincoln Christian University$466
University of Northwestern-St Paul$499
Colorado State University Global$500
Arizona State University$543
Southern New Hampshire University$627
University of Colorado Boulder$725 (in-state)
$795 (out-of-state)
Quinnipiac University (CT)$1005
Pepperdine University (CA)$1320

Hidden Costs

In most cases, online education programs will save you on tuition, board, and lodging. However, they also open up new expenses in the form of computing hardware (including laptop, desktop, or tablet; audio and video accessories) and software (office or distant learning applications, productivity solutions, virtual classroom platforms). In addition, you would have to invest in furniture for a good study setup and more importantly, a capable internet connection, which is your bridge to your instructor.

Is an online degree worth it?

Careerwise, an online philosophy degree is absolutely worth it. For example, post-secondary philosophy teachers earn a mean annual average of $78,790, which is significantly higher than the average for all other occupations (BLS, 2018). The lowest 25% take home $51,710 on average, while the top 10% command a huge $129,490 annual wage, both markedly higher than the U.S. national average for all occupations.

Beyond earnings and career, an online degree in philosophy brings us back to the first questions that sparked the ancients’ interest in the nature of human existence, preparing the vast compendium of knowledge and the priceless body of wisdom that continue to instruct and enlighten us today.

Conceived as the search for wisdom, philosophy arms students with knowledge that they can use to further their personal and professional lives. The tools they learn to untangle the problems that confound humanity are highly sought by employers. These include critical thinking, focused reading and research, clear exposition, and logical analysis. The same tools allow them to see the world from another perspective and define their place within it.

Consider, too, the developing attitude of organizations when it comes to their hiring policies.

Alongside work experience, degrees have long served as central hiring qualifications. They stand as evidence and signals of knowledge, skills, and ability. However, in recent years, many parties have posited that the value of educational credentials might be declining given a highly competitive market for professional talent, the rise of alternatives to traditional college study, and an increase in the supply of college graduates.

In a historically tight job market, many employers have begun to re-evaluate their hiring and recruitment processes and embrace skills-based hiring strategies that de-emphasize degrees and pedigree. Often enabled by technology, this growing practice is also being advocated and pursued for equity and inclusion reasons – and may indeed transform employers’ historical reliance on degrees and educational credentials in hiring.

Northeastern University’s Sean R. Gallagher, Ed. D., the executive director of the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy and executive professor of Educational Policy, noted that “skills-based or competency-based hiring appears to be gaining significant interest and momentum, with a majority of HR leaders reporting either having a formal effort to de-emphasize degrees and prioritize skills underway (23%) or actively exploring and considering this direction (39%).

“Previous research has suggested that employers’ policies and processes for setting the educational requirements for job roles are often not optimized. Some firms’ policies and approaches are carefully calibrated and data-driven – while others’ are inconsistent or based on gut instinct.

“One area in which the application of technology and the desire to bring rigor to setting job qualifications is manifesting itself is the rise of ‘skills-based’ or ‘competency-based’ hiring.

“A growing group of employers, non-profits, foundations, and technology firms are championing skills-based hiring and providing the tools to support it—with key examples including IBM’s ‘New Collar Jobs’ effort, Skillful, [email protected], Lumina Foundation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Pipeline Management Initiative, among many others.”

Under the setup, “the quality of content/curricular materials and alignment with real-world work are reported as the factors given the greatest weight. It is also clear that brand/reputation matters – and that the level/extent of faculty interaction remains an important dynamic.

“Relatively speaking, selectivity in admissions is lower on the list, as well as program duration. These responses suggest that the drivers of perceived value and quality are nuanced—and that the market may be slowly evolving from one that prioritizes long programs with selective admissions (the traditional higher ed model) to one that places more value on work alignment and application and outcomes.

“This is precisely the value proposition of microcredentials—and it is the growth of online education that has spawned a variety of new ‘microcredentials’—short-form, sub-degree awards that represent the completion of a learning module, course, or series of courses.  Microcredentials include both generic offerings such as digital badges as well as proprietary credential constructs such as ‘nanodegrees’ or ‘MicroMasters.’ Given the trend in postsecondary education toward more targeted, affordable, and work-aligned offerings, great excitement has developed as millions of students and professionals have earned these non-degree credentials in just the last few years.” (Gallagher, S. R., 2018)

What are the requirements of an online degree in philosophy?

Aside from submitting the typical admission requirements, you must have available the hardware and software prerequisites that will allow you to join virtual classes and commununicate with your instructors. You will also need to secure an ideal study place and the furniture to match it.

Admission Requirements

Standard admission requirements equally apply for those who want to take the online option in earning a degree in philosophy. These include a high school diploma or GED, admissions test scores, and the minimum GPA set by the admitting college or university.

Some schools might limit their admissions to the top percentile of the high school class, as well as placing a quota on the number of online philosophy degree students, so watch out for those. Verify with the college or university early on so you can take the necessary alternative if you have not made the cut to their requirements.

If you are coming from another school, you need to request a transfer credit evaluation.

General Requirements

These could include the following:

  • A recommendation letter from a recognized officer of your high school.
  • Your own application letter.
  • Identification forms.
  • TOEFL or IELTS for international students.

What are the technological requirements of students for online learning?

The technological requirements of students for online learning will include the following:

  • Desktop computer or laptop
  • Fast internet connection capable of hosting virtual meetings.
  • A noise-cancelling headphone.
  • Software platforms for task management, online meeting, messaging, document editing, document storage, and file sharing, among others.

Courses to Expect in Online Degree in Philosophy

On average, expect to take 30 or so credit hours on philosophy major courses and an additional 90 or so credit hours on general education and elective courses for a total of around 120 credit hours.

In an online philosophy degree program, you can access the course materials, discussion boards, teaching, and others 24/7. As for the program content, more or less you are going to take up the following concentrations:

  • Critical Thinking – For all intents and purposes, the starting point for all philosophy majors, online or traditional. Philosophy is about clear thinking, to find errors in reasoning and judgment and forging ahead with lucid and well-crafted presentation of ideas. Philosophy encompasses all bodies of knowledge that require clarification and explanation.
  • Ethics/Morality (including modern issues of bioethics and ethics in the professions and business) – The course will introduce you to the evolution of ideas that pertain to the fundamental problems of human life, ranging from the nature of existence, limitations of knowledge, and the role of moral precepts. You are expected to approach these from a rational perspective and deliver equally rational arguments.
  • Epistemology (theory of knowledge or philosophy of mind) – The subject explores the relationship between the mind and reality. Specifically, it asks the validity of human concepts built around what the mind makes of the reality it perceives. Along the way, expect to tackle the nature of knowledge, belief, truth, evidence, and reliability.
  • Logic – The standard tool of philosophers, it attempts to draw the line between bad and good reasoning. It is a well-established field whose expressions find equivalents in math and music.
  • Classical Greek Philosophy – The Greeks championed close observation of the natural world and an objective approach to explain phenomena. As such, they were poised to play a critical role in developing and nurturing reason and inquiry, which is the essence of Western thought. It’s only natural, then, to explore their contributions to world development, especially along the lines of philosophy that eventually gave birth to many disciplines.
  • Political Philosophy – Individual human existence is inevitably entangled with groups. As the Greek philosophers discovered, philosophy is irresistibly connected to political life. As such, the nature of state, government rule, politics, justice, the nature of legal authority, and liberty must be explored in the context of groups. In essence, political philsophy is about ethics applied to groups of people.
  • Foundations of Modern Philosophy – Traces current thoughts about the role of experience in apprehending the world, the essence of physical reality, the role of the mind, and the concepts built around ourselves to the 17th century. The period is credited for the emergence of thinkers who sought to apply the emerging scientific approach to understanding the world and our place in it.
  • Philosophy of Law – Examines the nature of law in terms of its relationship to other established systems of norms in so far as they affect individuals and collective humanity. These systems, particularly political philosophy and ethics, are presumed to be the foundations of jurisprudence, reflecting the core tenets and morality that guide human action.

Things to Look For in an Online Degree in Philosophy

As you embark on starting an online degree in philosophy, consider the reputation of the school, its accreditation, the course content, the quality of the faculty, support services, and possible hidden costs that might stymie your goal of finishing the program on time.

Reputation of the School

You don’t necessarily have to shoot for enrollment in an Ivy League college, but you also do not want to graduate with diploma mill credentials. The first is not entirely impossible if you have the scholastic records to match, but if your GPA and your assessment of your own talents direct you to the middle of the way, then at least settle for a school whose brand and reputation can easily be verified online. This will play heavily when it is time for you to acquire a job after your graduation.

The role of school reputation and other educational credentials is one of the subjects of the study by Northeastern University. For a period of five years, the study noted a significant increase in how organizations value educational credentials alongside other job qualifications.

Change in Value of Educational Credentials in Hiring from 5 Years Ago

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Source: Northeastern University

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At this point, you must have realized that your career and where you complete your degree are necessarily linked. To ensure you get the best of both worlds, you have to see to it that you are going to an accredited school that offers relevant, respected programs that will make it easier to further your career.

Higher education institutions in the U.S. are accredited by either specialized or institutional agencies (Higher Learning Commission, n.d.). The latter are further classified as regional or national.

National agencies include accreditation associations that focus on trade and technical institutions or religious colleges, such as bible colleges and seminaries.

Regional accreditation agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit degree granting colleges and universities. They validate the quality of an institution as a whole, evaluating an institution’s academic offerings, governance and administration, finances, and resources.

The Higher Learning Commission (LHC) is a regional accreditation agency tasked to evaluate higher learning institutions against its Criteria for Accreditation that institutions must meet to receive or maintain accredited status. The accreditation process follows a system of peer review involving 1,600 educators from all over the country.

With such a stringent process for accreditation, it is no wonder that you will be safer from the scrutiny of prospective employers once your academic records come under review.

Hidden Costs

Nothing about online degree programs indicates that you are automatically spared from the myriad fees and expenses that are only too familiar to students attending campus lessons.

Computing and Internet Expenses

You might have gotten room and board fees beat, but you have acquired new expenses in the form of internet subscription fees, computer and electronic peripheral fees, to go along with the application and tuition fees. That line about internet subscription is not just about your regular home subscription too: if you are away, you will have to top up with mobile data subscription or pay Wi-Fi charges while on the road.

Travel Fees

You might have enrolled in an online program, but you did not check thoroughly for special courses that require you to attend in-person. If you happen to live four flights away from the campus, that long-distance travel could be a lifetime lesson in itself for you.

Variable Tuition Rates

Check for two items here:

  1. Does the school charge separately for in-state and out-of-state students?
  2. Does the school offer a way for you to pay less if you take more credit hours a term than taking them piecemeal?

For the first item, do not assume that tuition rates are fixed for online learning and that the state you are from no longer figures in the computation. In short, some colleges and universities still apply the state rule even to online learning.

The second item is more interesting in the fact that not only does it allow you to finish your degree quicker, but it also offers an effective discount on your tuition. If your schedule allows it, then it might be a compelling route to take.

The Mother of All Disciplines Is Well Alive Online

Despite many savants declaring liberal arts a dead pursuit, the success of graduates clothed in the traditions of the discipline continues to defy them. This is true for philosophy degree holders as with many others. As the article showed, there is no reason for lovers of this mother of all disciplines to forsake it for other money-centered education.

The job market outlook for philosophy degree graduates remains healthy, with many going on to become lawyers, post-secondary educators, and managers of organizations across different industries.

If you are the type who takes questions about our place in the universe seriously, then what better way to pursue your investigations while getting rewarded for it handsomely.



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