So, why study philosophy?
We can’t answer that question for you! What we can do, however, is celebrate your decision to embark upon this academic journey and share with you the benefits that come with studying philosophy.
Studying philosophy can help you succeed.
Philosophy majors do remarkably well while on the job. According to a survey conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, employers reported that the most attractive qualities in employees are things that take time and attention to build up. The rigor, critical and innovative thinking, communication skills, and demonstration of ethical judgment and clarity that comes with the study of philosophy proved to be some of the most important characteristics that employers look for in the hiring process. These characteristics, as well as others outlined in the expansive survey such as intercultural skills and complex problem-solving skills, carry students into the professional world and serve as the foundation for their successes in and out of the field. The qualities you learn and develop while studying philosophy will be important to your success long after you toss your graduation cap in the air.
In a comprehensive study, The Wall Street Journal charted salary increase by major over time and found that the pay gap between those who major in philosophy and those who studied science and engineering tended to shrink over time. In fact, philosophy majors ranked #1 for an increase between their starting and mid-career median salaries, an average bump of 103.5%. The study also found that half of all philosophy majors make more than $81,000 after their first ten years in the workforce.
What does this mean? It means that, no matter how much you stress about finding work after graduation when you find that job, you’ll find success in it. When students of philosophy take the valuable skills they’ve cultivated in the program and apply them to various professional fields, they are met with substantial professional and financial growth.
So Now We Just Have to Find That Job.
Here are Five Easy Steps to Your Dream Job in Philosophy!
- Be Honest. Getting a degree in a field does not guarantee you a job in that field. If there is some wealthy benefactor hiring you at a livable wage to spend forty hours a week wandering around like a modern-day Socrates, please let the rest of us know where to submit our applications. It’s a helpful tool at the beginning of your time in a philosophy program to reach out to people in your life who you admire or hope to emulate in your professional goals. Did they all start their first day at their dream job the day after getting their diploma? Are they all working in the fields they studied in, and was that work immediately and exactly what they expected? The answer will probably be no, and that’s good. Your professional journey, like your personal and academic journeys, will be shaped by the myriad of opportunities, challenges, successes, failures, and acts of kismet you encounter along the way. Take their advice, learn from their experiences, and use their wisdom to begin to shape your own.
- Be Open. Philosophy majors graduate with a toolbox of fantastic tools for the workforce: communication, critical thinking, and creative innovation are extremely attractive skills to prospective employers in any field. Philosophy majors become professors, writers, lawyers, doctors, activists, comedians, actors, politicians, theorists, entrepreneurs, journalists, filmmakers, and Alex Trebek. It is impossible for every single philosophy major to graduate and be immediately hired for a tenure-track teaching position at a top university. Be open to all the possibilities, known and unknown, in store for your career.
- Know thyself. As early as you can in your academic career, start taking a deeper look at what it is you’re most interested in. What drives you? Which conversation do you want to join? Use these interests and passions you discover to determine what you study, and thereby, what you will do for work. Most employers look for work experience and job recommendations related to the field you are applying to, so once you know what field it is you’re interested in entering, you can choose your classes, internships, extra-curricular activities, and other opportunities to fit that field of interest.
- Stay Involved. Your department, your faculty, your advisor, your department staff, and your peers are all here to help you as you define then work towards your professional goals. The academic world is an endless resource of experience that you can listen to and share with others. Boston University’s Center for Career Development is here for you, too.
- Get Really Good at Rejection. No matter how perfectly formatted your resumé looks, how great your GPA is, or how perfect you might think you are for the job you’ve just applied to, you might still get a no. It’s not you; it’s the statistics of thousands of students and young professionals just like you applying to the same job at the same time with similar resumés, GPAs, and experiences. The author Stephen King pinned every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. “By the time I was fourteen,” he writes, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” You will get a lot of rejection in your life and especially in your job search. No matter how many “no” you get, it only takes one yes.
Revenge of the Liberal Arts Major
In his essay “Revenge of the Liberal Arts Major“, J. Jennings Moss points out that liberal arts graduates are in higher demand than other degrees usually associated with job security, such as finance or accounting. “Thirty percent of surveyed employers said they were recruiting liberal arts types,” writes Moss, “second only to the 34 percent who said they were going after engineering and computer information systems majors.” Below are infographics created by Moss to detail the findings of employer surveys over the last decade.
Studying Philosophy Can Lead to More Opportunities.
Undergraduate students considering continuing their studies in graduate or professional schools will benefit from their time in the Department of Philosophy as much as students departing for the workforce.
The GREs are often the first step towards graduate or professional school enrollment, and philosophy students are found to easily dominate the analytic writing and verbal reasoning portions of the exam, coming in #1 over other Intended Graduate Majors. Doing well on these exams can be an important component of your application and eventual admission to the programs of your choice, like medical, business, or law school.
There’s a myth that in order to succeed in medicine, one must major in a STEM field (most often, biology). While medical schools do require a number of pre-requisite science courses, there is no need to major in them. This idea is best expounded on by Paul Jung in “Major Anxiety” wherein he outlines that there is a 50% acceptance rate into med school for Philosophy majors. The reasons for this are many, but his assessments are basically that Philosophy major applicants are more unique, and possibly more well-rounded than their STEM cohorts. Based on recent data released by the AAMC, his original breakdown still holds: 48.5% of Philosophy majors who apply to medical school get accepted. That is a much better rate than biology.
Philosophy majors are innovative and adaptable. As a Philosophy major, you will learn how to reason through and analyze a problem clearly, and often this level of clarity allows you to come up with unique and effective solutions. There are few skills more valued than these in the field of business, and students shifting from philosophy to business will be uniquely prepared for their new programs.
As is the case with the GREs, Philosophy majors tend to perform very well on the GMATs, consistently ranking in the top 5. The data cited by F1GMAT shows this very clearly. (Note: The original data cannot be accessed by students, but was provided by GMAC online here).
Law requires the highest level of critical thinking and logical acuity. Naturally, then, Philosophy and Law synergize incredibly well.
From a letter written by Nancy R Garmund, an Intellectual Property Lawyer and former Philosophy major posted by Rutgers University:
“…my education in philosophy has been invaluable, both professionally and personally – as a superb foundation for graduate studies in law and engineering, for my patent law career, and for daily life as well. I know that prospective majors (and their parents!) often fear that a philosophy major may be a completely impractical indulgence, but I’m here to attest that the exact opposite is the case.
“…Philosophy is the best background one could possibly have for law school – no other area of undergraduate education so fully develops a student’s expertise in logical argument, reasoning, and advocacy. From the first day of law school, I realized that I was considerably ahead of my classmates in recognizing, understanding, and analyzing legal issues, both because of these analytical and advocacy skills and because law is a very natural extension of so many areas of philosophy. Subsequently, as a partner in a national law firm, I often reviewed the legal work of associate attorneys and other partners. Those attorneys, with diverse educational backgrounds, were not as skilled in recognizing key legal and technical issues, creating a logical flow of ideas, and crafting a winning argument.”
Philosophy majors are no slouches at the LSATs either– in majors with over 1,000 applicants, they rank #1 in the results according to data collected and shared by Derek T. Muller, Associate Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law online here.
Studying Philosophy is fun.
You grew up asking questions about everything. You look at the world around you and wonder at how it works, why things are the way that they are in politics, in culture, in history, in nature, in everything. You want to find the answers, and you want to be a part of the movement that finds them. You have found the right place.
Philosophy asks the big, important questions that everybody wonders about. It also gives you the tools to make sense of those questions, and maybe even find an answer.
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
- Do we have free will? (And what would it mean if we do?)
- Does God exist?
- Is beauty subjective?
- What is our moral duty to animals?
And, generally, when people are exposed to philosophy, no matter who they are or what they do for work, they find something of value.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates
“To me, philosophy is simply sanity. It is what keeps me alive and going day-to-day… I am constantly forced to question and rethink certain concepts that I take for granted. The turbulent state that philosophy puts me in excites me and shows me different perspectives. Yet, it is also comforting when I find that others out there have thoughts and beliefs similar to my own. The knowledge that I gained through the vehicle of philosophy is something that I could and would never trade for anything else in return. It keeps me critical, creative, and happy. What more could I ask for?” – Nami Shin, CAS’15
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis
Have any questions or want to know more about anything on this page? Want to meet with a faculty member to discuss studying Philosophy more in-depth? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.