Our graduates have taken up an impressive variety of occupations, from Oregon Supreme Court justice to software engineer, US diplomat to NPR reporter, specialty coffee roaster to medical doctor, business consultant to community organizer. They have earned, or are currently earning, advanced degrees in medicine, education, law, linguistics, religion, fine arts, physics, business, political science, and, of course, philosophy. Few disciplines can boast of contributing to such varied pursuits.
Philosophy majors not only weigh diverse career options, they enjoy significant advantages once they choose a career. As a group, philosophy majors earn entrance to medical school at a higher rate than all other majors, including chemistry and biology; score at or near the top on admissions tests like the LSAT and GMAT; gain employment on completion of their undergraduate degree at higher than average rates; and, more generally, enjoy a well-earned reputation for clear and rigorous thinking. While the best reason to major in philosophy is that it interests you, philosophy turns out to be a smart career move, too.
more on the practical advantages of a philosophy major
"Philosophy majors are tied with mathematics majors for the highest percentage in salary increase from beginning to mid-career salary. This is not surprising to those of us who are philosophers, however, because the skills that a philosophy degree cultivates — critical thinking, excellence in written and oral communication, clarity of thought, careful analysis, and problem-solving skills — are precisely the skills that enable one to do well and advance in their chosen career."
"Is a Philosophy Degree Useful?", Psychology Today
"By mid-career, the median salary for Business Management majors has risen to $72,100, while the median salary for Philosophy majors has jumped to $81,200."
American Philosophical Association, reporting results of the 2015-2016 PayScale survey
"I now wish that I had strived for a proper liberal arts education. That I'd learned how to think critically about the world we live in and how to engage with it. That I'd absorbed lessons about how to identify and interrogate privilege, power structures, structural inequality, and injustice. That I'd had opportunities to debate my peers and develop informed opinions on philosophy and morality. And even more than all of that, I wish I'd even realized that these were worthwhile thoughts to fill my mind with — that all of my engineering work would be contextualized by such subjects."
"A leading Silicon Valley engineer explains why every tech worker needs a humanities education", Quartz
"Training in any discipline or area of expertise teaches you habits of mind that — hopefully — lead to better performance in that domain. But philosophy is unusual in its explicit focus on the structure of arguments across a broad range of topics, from the meaning of words to the nature of knowledge, from ethics to animal minds. It makes sense, then, that training in philosophy might be unusual in its potential to yield general-purpose tools for better thinking."
"How (And When) To Think Like A Philosopher", NPR
"Philosophy students reigned supreme in two of the three sections [of the GRE], suggesting a 'love of wisdom' will serve you well."
"Best Majors for GRE Scores in 2013: Philosophy Dominates", American Physical Society
"Philosophers are the smartest humanists, physicists the smartest scientists, economists the smartest social scientists."
"Verbal vs. mathematical aptitude in academics", Discover Magazine
"But if I could do it all over, one thing I would not change is my choice of a philosophy degree. In the end, it turned out to be very useful, and it helped make me successful. Today, I thought I would outline some of the ways in which it helped me and should help all of you..."
"UW Graduation Speech", Nick Hanauer
"A recent comprehensive study of college students' scores on major tests used for admission to graduate and professional schools shows that students majoring in Philosophy received scores substantially higher than the average on each of the tests studied. Philosophy majors' scores on the verbal portion of the GRE were higher than in any other major, even English; and although several science majors showed higher averages in the quantitative portion of the test, philosophy majors scored substantially higher than all other humanities majors and were alone among humanities majors in scoring above the overall average. Philosophy majors received higher scores on the LSAT than students in all other humanities areas, higher scores than all social and natural science majors except economics and mathematics, and higher scores than all applied majors. Moreover, the differences are in most cases substantial: for example, philosophy majors scored 10% better than political science majors on the LSAT. On the GMAT philosophy majors outperformed business majors by a margin of 15%, and outperformed every other undergraduate major except mathematics."
"Philosophy Students Score High on LSAT, GMAT & GRE", Andreas Teuber
"Among those with bachelors degrees, the median earnings of those who majored in philosophy exceed those of majors in any other humanities field, and are the 16th highest in a study comparing salaries across 50 majors in the United States."
"Philosophy Majors Make More Money Than Majors in any other Humanities Field", Daily Nous
"[M]any leaders of the tech world — from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman to Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield — say that studying philosophy was the secret to their success as digital entrepreneurs."
"The unexpected way philosophers are changing the world of business", Huffington Post
"'So many people think philosophy isn't practical,' says Shoener, who also is studying biomathematics for a double major and plans to be a women's health advocate. 'It's the most practical thing I've ever done'."
"Top Students Commit to Using Their Knowledge", USA TODAY
"'There is an enormous part of the economy hungry for graduates with skills in analysis and communication — skills students are honing as they conduct close readings of texts, persuade their classmates in seminars and hone the style and structure of papers,' Sentz said. That might not be clear to students, however, or to college leaders. 'Students outside STEM fields often lack the sense that they are gaining discrete, in-demand skills in the course of their studies,' he said. 'Consequently, they do not perceive a clear line between their education and the working life for which it laid the foundation.'...The report shows that disciplines that don't seem to directly apply to the labor market (think the welders-versus-philosophers canard) often do."
"Philosophy Degrees and Sales Jobs", Inside Higher Ed
"...the numbers are powerful: a 50 percent chance of admission means that a philosophy major can fill out a med school application, then flip a coin to determine whether or not to send it in: heads, they're accepted; tails, they're not. The rest have to take their chances with even more unreliable probabilities."
"Major Anxiety: If you think biochemistry is your ticket into medical school, think again", American Medical Student Association
"[W]hat a continuously giving gift philosophy has been...It has helped me in immeasurable ways along my trajectory from philosophy to an academic medical career."
"A Harvard Medical School professor makes the case for the liberal arts and philosophy", Washington Post
"'Jobs change. But if you teach students to think clearly first, they can do whatever else they want to do,' was the argument he made. At the time I considered him biased. In retrospect, he was right."
"Be Employable, Study Philosophy", Salon
"When a fellow student at Rutgers University urged Didi Onejeme to try Philosophy 101 two years ago, Ms. Onejeme, who was a pre-med sophomore, dismissed it as 'frou-frou'. 'People sitting under trees and talking about stupid stuff — I mean, who cares?' Ms. Onejeme recalled thinking at the time. But Ms. Onejeme, now a senior applying to law school, ended up changing her major to philosophy, which she thinks has armed her with the skills to be successful...Once scoffed at as a luxury major, philosophy is being embraced at Rutgers and other universities by a new generation of college students who are drawing modern-day lessons from the age-old discipline as they try to make sense of their world...'If I were to start again as an undergraduate, I would major in philosophy', said Matthew Goldstein, the CUNY chancellor, who majored in mathematics and statistics. 'I think that subject is really at the core of just about everything we do. If you study humanities or political systems or sciences in general, philosophy is really the mothership from which all of these disciplines grow'."
"In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined", New York Times
"Experts say that while philosophy majors might not come out of college with the skill-set that business majors have, they have creative problem solving abilities that set them apart."
"The Earning Power of Philosophy Majors", The Atlantic
"Although I pursued my philosophical studies because I was inspired by the subject, I also reached a conclusion that led me to found LRN, a company that helps businesses develop ethical corporate cultures: Philosophy is powerful enough to tackle sprawling issues. The discipline remains amazingly practical after existing for more than 2,000 years. When LRN posted the job listing for the New York office administrator position that Emily recently stepped into, we included a specification designed to let candidates know that we valued what they might contribute to our company, beyond their administrative skills: 'Philosophy major preferred.' We hoped to find someone like Emily, who could truly connect with our mission and not just 'do the job.' That qualification seemed a bright idea. It turned out to be a practical idea."
"Philosophy is Back in Business", BusinessWeek
"Brian Karalunas, a three-time all-American in lacrosse, graduated from Villanova with a philosophy degree in the spring - and in September was drafted by the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League. He thinks his major has helped his playing. The ability to make logical decisions, to explore several possibilities for the best option, comes directly from philosophy, he said. 'It helps you to think slowly in fast situations,' said Karalunas, 22, expected to debut as a pro in January. He never planned to major in philosophy, but found that early courses 'cultivated critical thinking and spurred imagination. Those life skills, I thought, were the most valuable I could get.' There's not much question that philosophy students are smart. From 2001 to 2004, philosophy majors had the highest average score on the verbal reasoning and analytical writing sections of the GRE, the standardized test for graduate school."
"Study of Philosophy Makes Gains, Despite Economy", Philadelphia Inquirer
"Philosophers have always come in handy in the workplace with their grounding in analytical thinking. Why, only now, are they so prized by employers?...Lucy Adams, human resources director of Serco, a services business and a consultancy firm, says: 'Philosophy lies at the heart of our approach to recruiting and developing our leadership, and our leaders. We need people who have the ability to look for different approaches and take an open mind to issues. These skills are promoted by philosophical approaches.'"
"I Think, Therefore I Earn", Guardian UK
"'Most people don't want to figure out what a company is worth,' Miller said. 'They want to know where the stock is going. We're always trying a Rubik's Cube approach, looking at something from all different directions. We want to know, 'What's the best description of what's going on?'."
"To Beat the Market, Hire a Philosopher", New York Times
"Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good."
"The Problems of Philosophy", Bertrand Russell