Why Study Philosophy?
First, the bad news: You are never going to pick up the newspaper and see an ad that says “Philosophers wanted!” Does this mean that taking Philosophy classes has no practical value for your post-graduate career? No. It turns out that for most collegiate majors there is not a direct pipeline from graduating with that major to acquiring a specific kind of job. For the overwhelming majority of college graduates, the route from degree to a good, long-term job is far less direct. In this regard, then, Philosophy is no worse off than most other majors.
What are employers actually looking for?
The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently asked this question in a national survey of business and non-profit leaders. The key findings are that employers are looking for innovative employees who can think critically, communicate effectively, and solve problems. Employers say that these skills are more important than the particular major of an undergraduate employee. (For more information, click here: National survey of employers.)
Given this, an obvious follow-up question is: Are Philosophers good at innovation, critical thinking, communicating effectively, and problem solving?
Are Philosophers innovative?
Frankly, it’s difficult to quantify whether someone is “innovative” or not and, if so, how innovative he or she is. But as a discipline, Philosophy is certainly not afraid challenging assumptions or of “outside of the box” thinking. Here’s a recent article, published at the Huffington Post in 2014, which claims that studying philosophy fosters the kind of creativity and innovation that are necessary to succeed in the business world. (Huff Post article) Here’s a similar article, published in he Guardian in 2007. (Guardian article)
Are Philosophers good at critical thinking? Communication? Problem solving?
- Here’s an article discussing the performance of Philosophy majors on the 2013 GRE. (2013 GRE)
- Here’s a document, authored by the American Philosophical Association, summarizing the performance of Philosophy majors on the LSAT and also giving some data about acceptance rates of Philosophers into law school. (LSAT)
- Here’s a document, produced using data from the Graduate Management Admissions Council, summarizing the recent (2009-2010) performance of Philosophy majors on the GMAT (GMAT)
How do I get a job with my Philosophy degree?
Despite the absence of a straightforward “pipeline” job for Philosophy majors/minors, there is evidence that the skills developed by the undergraduate philosopher can pay dividends over the long run. Here’s an article, recently published by the Wall Street Journal, that shows that the mid-career salaries of Philosophy majors compares favorably with the mid-career salaries of other majors. (Wall St Journal)
Another possibility is to consider a double major. Philosophy is a discipline that spends a lot of time contemplating issues from other disciplines. A philosophy major can enhance your education in a number of fields including art, the computer sciences, English, mathematics, medicine, and the sciences. The Philosophy major/minor here at UMD has been tailored, in terms of its required classes and overall hours requirement, so that it can be easily combined with a number of other majors/minors.
Employment success of recent UMD Philosophy majors/minors (from 2011-2019)