In the first year, students focus exclusively on course work. Teaching responsibilities begin in the second year, continue through the fourth year, and return in the sixth year. After devoting two years to coursework, students begin their research in the third year by conducting literature reviews under the supervision of faculty members, and by enrolling in a seminar intended to promote work aimed at publication. These special courses help students identify dissertation topics.
Dissertation work begins in earnest in the fourth year. In that year and in succeeding years, students enroll every semester in a special seminar, the dissertation workshop, in which they present their research and receive feedback from faculty and peers. During this time they also work closely with dissertation advisers and other members of their dissertation committees.
In the fifth year, students set teaching aside so they can concentrate on dissertation research. In this year, they may, if they like, spend periods of time at other universities, interacting with faculty and students who share their interests. Teaching responsibilities generally take the form of work as assistants in courses run by faculty, but in the fourth and sixth years, students may apply to be teaching fellows, in which case they have full responsibility for undergraduate courses. There are also opportunities for summer teaching.
The preliminary requirements for the Ph.D. are satisfied by demonstrating competence in logic, philosophy of science, language, and mind, ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and history of philosophy. This may be done either by passing prescribed courses with a quality grade or through satisfactory completion of an individually tailored major-minors program, planned in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and submitted to the department for approval.
Within seven semesters of full-time or equivalent residency at Brown, the student must gain admission to Ph.D. candidacy. Admission to candidacy is granted after satisfaction of the preliminary evaluation and distribution requirements and upon approval of a dissertation prospectus by a dissertation committee. An oral defense of the dissertation is required once it is completed.
Any student who has completed the preliminary requirements for the Ph.D. is eligible to be awarded an M.A., either as an additional or a terminal degree. The degree may also be awarded to Brown undergraduates admitted to the A.B./A.M. program.
Financial support is guaranteed for the first five years of study, and also for the first four summers. It is not guaranteed for the sixth year, but in almost all cases thus far, applications for sixth year support have been successful.
The Brown Graduate School makes substantial awards in support of travel by graduate students.
The Open Master's Program allows students to apply to pursue an M.A. degree in another discipline while pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Students admitted in this program automatically receive an additional year of financial support to complete their M.A. degree.