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4+1  Degree Program

The 4+1 Degree Program offers a limited number of exceptional undergraduate philosophy and/or Philosophy, Politics and Law (PPL) majors the opportunity to enroll in a master's degree program that specializes in Social, Political, Ethical and Legal Philosophy (SPEL).

Through this program, you receive both the bachelor's and master's degrees in a total of five years. Your fourth year in the undergraduate program is also your first year in the SPEL master's program.

There are various reasons why the 4+1 Degree Program may be right for you:

  • You'll strengthen your application to law school.
  • It'll prepare you for further graduate education in philosophy.
  • You'll position yourself better in the job market.
  • You may simply enjoy an additional year of studying.

Program application and design

You should plan to apply to the 4+1 Degree Program in the spring of your junior (third) year or the fall of your senior (fourth) year.

During your fourth year:

  • you'll take two graduate seminars and enroll in the SPEL colloquium year

Prior to the beginning of your fifth year:

  • you must pass all proficiency requirements for the master's degree

During your fifth year of study, you'll take:

  • a full graduate load of three graduate seminars,
  • the colloquium each semester, and
  • the master's comprehensive exams or write a master's thesis

Program requirements

Completion of the 4+1 Degree Program is equivalent to the SPEL master's degree and you'll earn what is called a "terminal master's."

Required coursework

Please note that any one course may simultaneously fulfill more than one of these requirements.

You must complete a minimum of 32 credits, with a cumulative grade point average of at least a B.

This must include eight seminars, seven of which must be SPEL seminars, and one of which may be chosen from other Philosophy graduate courses.

  • two seminars must be taken in the fourth year and may "double-count" toward the undergraduate major
  • the remaining six seminars are taken in the fifth year

Seven required SPEL seminars:

  • one first year SPEL seminar in Social and Political Philosophy
  • one first year SPEL seminar in Ethics (may be taken in the fourth or fifth year)
  • at least two SPEL seminars emphasizing the history of philosophy - broadly construed ranging from the ancient world to the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, and may be in Western or non-Western philosophy
  • one SPEL seminar that draws mainly from the Anglo-American tradition
  • one SPEL seminar that draws mainly from the Continental European tradition
  • one SPEL seminar in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of science or philosophy of mind

Courses offered by other departments can be taken by consultation with your adviser.

The SPEL colloquium - four semesters:

  • Students who begin the program in the fall of their fourth year are expected to complete four semesters of the colloquium.
  • Students who begin the program in the spring of their fourth year may have one semester of the colloquium requirement waived.

Proficiency requirements

We encourage everyone in the 4+1 Degree Program to complete the following proficiency requirements before the beginning of your fifth year. It's very difficult to complete the proficiencies on top of a full graduate load, while also studying for comprehensive exams or writing a master's thesis.

A grade of at least B:

  • in an undergraduate course on formal logic, or
  • on the final examination in (undergraduate) Elementary Logic (PHIL 122)

A grade of at least B:

  • in undergraduate courses in ancient Greek philosophy and modern philosophy, or
  • on the final examinations in (undergraduate) Plato and Aristotle (PHIL 201) and Descartes, Hume and Kant (PHIL 202)

Comprehensive exams or thesis

In this program, you may choose between taking the master's comprehensive exams and writing a master's thesis.

Comprehensive exams consist of two written exams, one in Social and Political Philosophy, and the other in Ethics. Reading lists are provided to assist students in preparing for these exams. Students in the 4+1 Degree Program who choose to take the comprehensive exams must pass them by April of their fifth year.

Master's thesis. Students in the 4+1 Degree Program who choose to write a thesis begin work on the thesis at the beginning of their fifth year, and complete drafts according to a provided timeline. Each student works intensively with an advisor throughout the thesis process. The thesis must be passed by a committee of three faculty members, the majority of whom must be members of the Philosophy department. Students must defend the thesis in an oral defense by April of the fifth year.

Timeline for completion

While you're an undergraduate:

Complete all undergraduate requirements, with a major in Philosophy and/or PPL.

Apply to the 4+1 Degree Program in the spring of your junior year or the fall of your senior year.

Once you're admitted to the 4+1 Degree Program:

Complete all proficiency requirements (PHIL 122, PHIL 201 and PHIL 202) before beginning the fifth year of the program. Most of you will complete these requirements by the end of their fourth year, though it is possible to take PHIL 122 during the summer preceding the fifth year.

In the first year in the 4+1 Degree Program, (typically the fourth year as an undergraduate), you'll be required to take a total of two graduate courses and to enroll in the one-credit SPEL colloquium (a series of speakers and workshops). Although you can choose to take both graduate courses in one semester, it may be prudent to take one graduate course per semester if you've been admitted to the program before the fall of your fourth year. The two graduate courses taken during the fourth year may "double-count" towards your undergraduate major. You should enroll in the SPEL colloquium for both semesters of the fourth year, though if you're admitted in the fall of your fourth year, you may enroll in the SPEL colloquium beginning in the spring semester.

Fifth year:

During the fifth year of study, you'll be considered a full-time graduate student pursuing an M.A. in philosophy. The student must complete all remaining requirements for the SPEL M.A., including six more graduate seminars, two more semesters of the SPEL colloquium, and the M.A. comprehensive exams or the M.A. thesis.

Application procedure

Prior to submitting your application, please make an appointment to speak with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students seeking acceptance into the program should apply first directly to the Philosophy department. If you're accepted into the program, students must then apply formally to the Graduate School before enrolling in the program.

The following must be submitted to Joy Tassey, Administrative Assistant for the Philosophy Department:

  1. A cover-sheet stating that you are applying to the 4+1 Degree Program, giving your contact information (email, phone, mailing address), and listing the names and email addresses of the faculty members from whom you have requested letters of recommendation.
  2. A two-page statement of purpose. This statement should describe your philosophical interests and explain why you are interested in earning an M.A. in Philosophy in the program for Social, Political, Ethical and Legal Philosophy (SPEL) at Binghamton University. The statement may also give whatever other information about yourself that you think is relevant for the consideration of your application.
  3. A printed copy of your transcript or Degree Works.
  4. A writing sample; this should be the best paper you have written in a Philosophy course.
  5. Letters of recommendation from three faculty members. If possible, at least some of these recommendations should come from members of the SPEL faculty. These letters may be informal and may be sent as email messages to Joy Tassey with a cc to Charles Goodman. Faculty do not need to write formal letters such as those held at the Career Development Center.

Admissions are done on a rolling basis and applications will be considered as soon as they're complete. You should plan to apply in the spring of your junior year or the fall of your senior year. Applications must be completed no later than the day before Thanksgiving break in the fall of your senior year.

In your fourth year, you take both bachelor's-and master's-level courses, graduate with your bachelor's degree and formally apply to the Graduate School.  In your fifth year, you are admitted to the Graduate School and focus solely on graduate coursework. 

GRE scores are not required. The Philosophy department will forward letters of recommendation to the Graduate School, so students do not need to repeat that part of the process in filling out the Graduate School's application.

If you have any questions please contact the Graduate Director.

Last Updated: 6/15/20