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Department of Philosophy|College of Arts & Sciences

Why a Degree in Philosophy

 A major in philosophy is an excellent foundation for a range of nonacademic careers, including business, computers, consulting, education, engineering, finance, government, insurance, journalism, law, marketing, medicine, publishing, real estate, religious ministry, research, sales, and technical writing.

An undergraduate major in philosophy is widely considered to be an excellent preparation for law school and a career in law.  In a study of test performance by undergraduate major, the philosophy major ranked in the top three on the LSAT.  Philosophy courses stress  skills of critical thinking and analysis that a career in law requires.  Pre-law students who do not choose to major in philosophy would nonetheless do well to take courses such as Critical Thinking, Introduction to Symbolic Logic, History of Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Epistemology, and courses on human values (Ethics in Practice, Political and Social Philosophy, Ethical Theory, and Topics in Social and Political Philosophy).

Say you wish to major in philosophy and hope to go on to obtain an M.B.A.  You are worried about the GMAT.  In a  study of test performance of undergraduate majors, Philosophy majors ranked in the top two on the GMAT! In contrast, business majors ranked 19th and last. Philosophy is an excellent preparation for a career in business.  Employers often look for people who can write well and think critically.  All philosophy courses emphasize writing and critical thinking. You should round out your degree with some business courses and attempt to obtain internships working in business during the summers.

Many medical schools look for candidates who possess, in addition to the requisite scientific background, an understanding and concern for humanistic issues.  Course work in philosophy is an excellent grounding for a career in medicine.

Aside from preparation for the traditional profession of the philosopher as teacher, a major in philosophy is also highly valuable for a wide range of nonacademic jobs. The American Philosophical Association notes that people well educated in philosophy have a number of general abilities that employers value in an information age. The following web page describes why it is valuable to "hire a Philosophy Major:"

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2006/06/why_hire_a_phil.html

They can do research on an almost unlimited variety of subjects. They can, for instance, get information and organize it.  They can write clearly and effectively.  They can communicate well, usually both orally and in writing. They can generate ideas on many different sorts of problems.  They can formulate and solve problems.  They can elicit hidden assumptions and articulate overlooked alternatives.  They can persuade people to take unfamiliar views or novel options seriously. They can summarize complicated material without undue simplification.  They can formulate and defend policies on a wide range of important issues in business, education, social legislation, and other areas.  They can integrate diverse data and construct useful analogies. They can distinguish subtle differences without overlooking similarities.  They can also adapt to change.


Will you hurt your chances of getting a job if you major in such an “impractical” field?  The answer is “No,” for philosophy is not at all impractical.


After all, compare philosophy with other traditional humanities majors, such as anthropology, art, English literature, history, and political science.  None of these majors is pre-professional, yet all are excellent preparation for a job and philosophy is especially noteworthy.  Indeed, it is preferable to select a major, such as philosophy, that fosters these generally valuable skills and then acquire the particular skills required by the job being sought, rather than selecting a major that will train for a particular job. You might decide on a different career from one you specifically train for now, and the nature of your job might change, making your training obsolete.

An indication of the general abilities that philosophy helps to develop is the placement of its students on the Graduate Record Exam.  Of all students who took the GRE between 1990 and 1993, those who said they planned to pursue further study in philosophy scored sixth out of 50 disciplines.  (From the proceedings of the American Philosophical Association, 1995.)

 

Besides a major in philosophy, the department offers a variety of options to suit student interests:

•Minor in philosophy
•Double major in philosophy
•Self-designed major
•Humanities/Fine Arts or Social Sciences
•Minor in Ethics

 

Further reading in support of why a Philosophy Degree can be essential to a students education can be found on the following sites:

"I Think, Therefore I Earn"
http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,2213665,00.html

"there it is . org"
http://thereitis.org/displayarticle633.html

"Philosophy is Back in Business"
http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/jan2010/ca20100110_896657.htm

"In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined"
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/education/06philosophy.html?_r=3&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

"Think On"
http://www.cep.unt.edu/times.html

"How Students Performed on Graduate Admissions Tests"
http://www.philosophy.eku.edu/scores.htm

"Philosophy Valued at One Community College"
http://www.npr.org/2011/01/04/132633254/philosophy-valued-at-one-community-college

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