Individuals pursue philosophy degrees for a variety of reasons outside personal enrichment. In fact, major companies increasingly value the analytical thinking taught in philosophy programs, and philosophy majors consistently outperform other majors in standardized test scores and midcareer earnings. Career options for philosophy majors can be found in areas like teaching and research, public administration, business, law, and journalism. Knowing what you want to study ahead of time can prepare you to take the most direct path toward success; this planning can be invaluable, as some philosophy degree jobs require many years of education.
The skills a philosophy major gains while completing college coursework can serve as valuable assets for the rest of their lives. In addition to examining life's deepest questions, the discipline cultivates many of the skills listed below.
Skills Gained in a Philosophy Program
The skills a philosophy major gains during the completion of their college courses hold value for the rest of their lives. In addition to examining life's deepest questions, the discipline cultivates all the skills listed below.
While this skill is typically associated with artists, writers, and musicians, thinking philosophically requires imagination and mental dexterity. Forming and expanding upon original thoughts is a vital skill; philosophy requires one to analyze, question, and argue different perspectives.
- Information Management
Developing your abilities in information management can boost productivity in all areas of your life. Academic research, note taking, studying, and completing assignments all rely on efficiently accessing helpful information. Consider adopting a note-taking method such as mapping, outlining, or charting.
Nearly every industry can benefit from professionals with excellent writing skills. Sharp writing can help you express information in a more precise manner and also help you read and interpret texts more efficiently. You can acquire better writing skills by reading well-written communications and practicing the craft yourself.
- Problem Solving
Philosophy concerns itself with knowledge, reality, and existence. People often use philosophy as a tool to help understand, analyze, and respond to issues in these areas, both great and small. Problem-solving skills become invaluable in the course of these complex discussions and debates.
- Analytical Thinking
Although everyone benefits from developing and maintaining critical thinking skills, philosophy students and professionals must possess an analytical mind. This ability opens the door to a deeper understanding of difficult or abstract concepts, new and interesting interpretations of ideas, and rich conversations with others.
Why Pursue a Career in Philosophy?
While people may question an individual's decision to study philosophy in college — or encourage students to choose a more "realistic" major — earning a degree in philosophy provides a valuable and transferable set of skills. Philosophy graduates can land entry-level positions in a variety of industries, and the number of high-paying job opportunities for a philosophy graduate increases with their level of education.
Philosophy professionals who conduct scientific research or work in academia enjoy an environment of ongoing, lifetime learning as they stay abreast of new findings, best practices, and research methods. Philosophy jobs often focus on important human conversations — both local and global — and professionals with a philosophy background serve participants by analyzing, responding to, and shaping the world around them.
How Much Do Philosophy Majors Make?
You can find philosophy majors employed in all types of jobs, including teaching and legal work. This means the earning potential of a philosophy degree can vary widely from one individual to another, as well as from industry to industry. Entry-level earners tend to make significantly less than more experienced professionals, but the exact amount depends on a worker's industry, location, supervisory or managerial level, and job function. The data from PayScale displayed in the graph below provide a glimpse at potential salaries.
Meet a Philosophy Graduate
Jason Barr Philosophy Major and Leader of Supply Chain and Operational Improvements
While in the Army, Jason Baar completed a BS in liberal arts with an emphasis in philosophy from Excelsior College in Albany, New York. He went on to complete an MBA in international management from Thunderbird School of Business in Glendale, Arizona. In addition, Barr holds a professional certification in production and inventory management from APICS. He has held jobs in the U.S. Army, as well as in the industrial radio hardware and semiconductor manufacturing industries. Barr is currently a planning program manager for a semiconductor manufacturer, dealing specifically with new product introduction. He has also been an adjunct faculty member for undergraduate and graduate-level courses in supply chain, operations management, and general business disciplines.
- What do you find most fulfilling about your career?
The thing I enjoy most about supply chain and operations management is the ability to impact the business in multiple areas. I've had the opportunity to work in planning, inventory, finance, and contract management, as well as managing programs and projects with cross-functional teams. There's never a dull moment and I'm always learning something new, which really excites me personally.
- What types of people excel with a philosophy degree?
You have to be curious. Not only about the world around you, but also about your own self. Much of philosophy, at least in my experience, arises from introspection. You need to enjoy writing and reading and thinking, as you'll do a lot of all three. You should also enjoy sharing your thoughts with others and be willing to discuss and refine your thoughts based on additional input and points of view.
- What was the job search process like after earning your degree?
My job search process was always guided by "does this sound interesting?" If I stay in a position for too long, I find myself stagnating. Lifelong learning really is something that I'm dedicated to, and if I'm unable to find new challenges where I am, I want to move on. My undergrad degree is often something that comes up in interviews, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the MBA goes a long way to getting my foot in the door. A liberal arts degree demonstrates you're a well-rounded individual who is capable of learning new things, not merely being a narrowly focused contributor.
- What challenges do you face at work on any given day?
My day is filled with managing processes and ensuring that the projects that I manage are on track. There is plenty of cross-functional discussion on deliverables, running status meetings, presenting findings to senior leaders, and recommending solutions to challenges. I've found I need to be confident in presenting my opinions and strong in my convictions. In my particular position there is also a lot of transition between 30,000 foot strategic thinking and down-in-the-weeds tactical alignment. These switches can occur multiple times a day and are probably the most difficult thing I face.
- What additional advice would you give to a philosophy student looking to start their career?
If you actually persevered to the end of a philosophy degree, you're obviously a well-rounded individual who isn't afraid of a challenge. Make sure that comes through in your discussions with potential employers. Because you do have the ability to understand problems at a fundamental level, employers will be able to use you in a multitude of positions. You'll be able to assimilate information learned in one position to lead projects in another. Best of luck!
How to Work in the Philosophy Field
Earn Your Degree
Industries like social work, law, banking, healthcare, and journalism all benefit from a workforce containing philosophy majors. However, undergraduate degrees in philosophy can only take an individual so far. Those interested in advanced careers in philosophy — such as a university faculty member or researcher — must hold a graduate degree to meet minimum education requirements.
Many master's and doctoral programs in philosophy require students to complete internship and practicum hours and/or extensive theses and dissertation assignments as part of their advanced study. Students earning their degrees online can find local settings to carry out these experiences.
How Many Years of College Does It Take to Work in the Philosophy Field?
Students pursuing a doctorate in philosophy should prepare for a lot of work. Depending on your status as a full-time or part-time learner, earning a Ph.D. in philosophy usually takes 5-7 years. The largest component of this is dedicated to completing a dissertation, which can take years to write.
Actual classroom study for a doctoral degree typically takes a few years. In an online format, students complete their studies at an individual pace or as part of a cohort, where a single group of students works through the degree plan together in lock-step. Students pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy gain skills and experience that prepare them for immediate employment upon graduation.
Concentrations Available to Philosophy Majors
- Cognitive Studies: This field of scientific study uses the combined knowledge of professionals in the fields of philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology to investigate the human mind. Philosophy students in a cognitive studies concentration develop a strong scientific foundation that complements their philosophical studies.
- Philosophy of Science: Philosophy of science concentrations focus on the relationship of the scientific method to human cognition, the world, and other academic disciplines. Students deal with the structure and historical development of scientific progress, studying issues like experimentation justification and the effects of science on society.
- Value Theory: Students in a value theory concentration typically focus on understanding how, why, and to what extent people value other people, objects, and ideas. This study frequently pursues questions such as, "What makes something art?" or "What gives an object intrinsic value?"
- Humanistic Philosophy: Humanistic philosophy concerns itself first and foremost with human beings: their value, agency, needs, nature, and experiences. Humanistic philosophy generally encourages a belief in rational evidence rather than dogma or superstition. These concentrations commonly require students to supplement philosophy courses with a selection of courses in the humanities.
- Political and Moral Philosophy: Political and moral philosophy studies topics such as liberty, justice, law, property, and authority. Different concentrations may focus on separate subdivisions, such as political policy making, ethics, free will, or justice.
- Philosophy and Cultural Theory: Useful for students interested in pursuing a more advanced degree in cultural studies, concentrations in philosophy and cultural theory emphasize interdisciplinary study that examines the meaning of cultures and how they develop. Students also explore philosophical critiques of cultural studies.
What Can You Do With a Philosophy Degree?
The careers available to graduates of a philosophy program greatly depend on the type of degree one holds. Master's and doctoral degrees can provide access to jobs with a higher seniority level than a bachelor's degree, and any concentrations you pursue can make you more hireable in a specific industry.
While graduates of a bachelor's program meet the minimum education requirements for a wide variety of fulfilling career occupations, philosophy professionals frequently benefit from earning graduate degrees — especially if they possess an interest in philosophy teaching jobs, executive positions, or careers in research. The selection of philosophy degree jobs listed in the table below relate more to the latter, requiring a master's or doctoral degree.
- Research Scientist
These professionals perform laboratory research in pursuit of particular answers or solutions. Research scientists work in many areas, including pharmaceuticals, technology, and environmental science. Individuals with a background in philosophy commonly work in studies focused on the human mind.
- Professor, Postsecondary/Higher Education
Upon earning a doctorate in philosophy, many graduates enter the higher education field as professors. In addition to teaching students, college professors may research and publish scholarly articles and books. This may be a fulfilling career for individuals who desire a lifetime of learning.
- Data Scientist
In order to interpret complex digital data and advise business decisions based on their interpretation, data scientists typically possess an advanced technological background. Philosophy professionals likely need a measure of relevant tech training to supplement their analytical skills before entering this occupation.
- Principal Scientist
Principal scientists typically work for one specific company and lead research teams in the pursuit of information relevant to their organization. With the right scientific background supplementing their philosophy education, professionals can find principal scientist work at companies with an interest in reaching and influencing individuals, small groups, or society at large.
Although the majority of professionals employed in this field focus their higher education studies on psychology, graduates of philosophy programs — with additional training — can make excellent psychologists. A deep understanding of the beliefs and ideas that drive the human experience allows philosophy graduates to examine the mind from unique angles.
Other Career Paths for Philosophy Majors
While not directly related to the discipline, the jobs in the industries described below rely on the same set of transferable, flexible skills that a philosophy education encourages. Strong proficiencies in creativity, analytical problem-solving, critical thinking, and written and oral communication places philosophy graduates in an excellent position to secure employment in many fields.
Some of these jobs may require additional training, certification, or professional development. However, philosophy — and philosophically minded individuals — tend to be incredibly versatile and adaptable. The broad and well-rounded liberal arts education of a philosophy degree prepares working professionals for lifelong learning.
- Advertising and Marketing
Professionals in advertising and marketing generate public interest in the products and services their clients offer. They typically work as part of a collaborative team within an independent firm or an in-house department. They plan promotional and advertising campaigns and develop content related to those campaigns for a variety of outlets, including television, radio, print, and various online media. In some cases, they may also initiate market research and meet with clients to provide advice and negotiate strategies for successfully disseminating new products among consumers.
The marketing and advertising industry relies heavily on strong communication skills and clear deductive reasoning. Philosophy graduates who are comfortable with the written and spoken word stand to benefit the most from this landscape, as do those with a keen sense for developing cogent, logical arguments for public consumption. These persons may find gainful employment as editors, copywriters, advertising managers, art directors, and marketing consultants.
Journalists help inform the public about developing news related to local, national, and international events. They do this by synthesizing relevant facts into public-facing news reports, editorials, and opinion pieces for magazines, newspapers, online media, television, and radio. Many journalists work in major newsrooms and local media outlets, although some may also work independently as researchers, fact checkers, or freelancers.
Journalism and journalistic endeavors rely on strong communication, much like marketing and advertising. The industry also requires a distinct sense of professional obligation to keep the public informed on events that pertain to their well-being and livelihood. Journalists must also be able to synthesize complex information and translate technical jargon in an intelligible manner. A philosophy degree encourages and refines these skills. Individuals with a background in philosophy who are interested in entering this industry can find work as reporters, broadcasters, news correspondents, and media analysts.
The legal industry encompasses a variety of roles, such as attorneys and judges, arbitrators and mediators, court clerks, and paralegals. Each of these positions requires different levels of training and education. However, these individuals work together to build, research, try, and defend legal cases at every level of the law, including civil and criminal aspects. Success in this industry requires a commitment to the service of justice and a working knowledge of legal institutions and their history.
A philosophy degree provides an excellent background for work in law. Graduates with strong research and communication skills are prepared to succeed. However, many of these positions do require additional education. Learners interested in pursuing work as an attorney or judge must complete law school, while those looking for work as court reporters or paralegals must obtain professional certifications to validate their competency in the field.
Nonprofit organizations are devoted to the advocacy and advancement of particular social causes. Careers in this field encompass a variety of interests and job sectors, from chief executives and finance officers to grant writers, teachers, and research consultants. Professionals in this industry work at every level of business and enterprise, often putting their skill sets to use in support of issues they find particularly important or meaningful.
Philosophy graduates possess a core set of skills and background knowledge that can find broad applicability in nonprofit contexts, depending on an individual's interests. Some individuals may be fully prepared for work as educators, writers, and market researchers, while others may opt to pursue additional training and professional certification to become strategic executives, finance officers, and legal consultants.
Where Can You Work as a Philosophy?
The variety of career options available to philosophy professionals means that you can typically find work anywhere you go, although the quality of your professional life will likely prove more satisfying in certain locations, industries, and/or work environments. As you decide where to pursue a career, consider your professional goals and how these different factors might ultimately affect your career trajectory.
Along with one's education and skills, location often serves as one of the most important factors in a professional's ability to find, secure, and maintain employment. Additionally, variables like salary potential and licensure rules often vary from one state to the next. Although professionals can find entry-level work just about anywhere, philosophy professionals with a specific, specialized career in mind may need to look at job openings outside of their state.
Philosophy graduates work as educators at all levels, teaching young children, high school students, and college students.
Average Salary: $58,000
- Advertising, Branding, and Sales Promotions
Thanks to their understanding of culture, society, and human interpretation, individuals trained in certain branches of philosophy can make excellent marketing professionals.
Average Salary: $62,000
- Law Firm
The concepts and practices of law, justice, authority, and ethics are related. After receiving some additional training for legal work, philosophy professionals can become invaluable assets to law offices.
Average Salary: $68,000
- Financial Services
The financial services industry requires an adherence to a strict set of professional ethics. Philosophy graduates boast strong analytical skills, which can benefit their work in a finance-related occupation.
Average Salary: $76,000
Philosophy graduates can find a satisfying workplace in the healthcare field. Working behind the scenes, these professionals can be found in areas such as hospital policy, administration, communication, and budgeting.
Average Salary: $77,000
How Do You Find a Job as a Philosophy Graduate?
Depending on your career goals, earning additional certifications to boost your resume might prove necessary. For example, aspiring educators may need a teaching certification, while those seeking employment in a tech-based or data-based field may need a certificate in computer technology or data analytics. Finally, professionals looking for employment in scientific research might benefit from earning certificates related to mathematics, environmental sciences, or biology.
The American Philosophical Association's PhilJobs website lists philosophy job openings at universities and organizations around the world. Philosophy professionals can find networking opportunities both online and in person. The Public Philosophy Network is an online social network designed to allow philosophers and interested parties (e.g., policy makers and community members) to engage in conversation. You may also consider membership in an organization like the Society of Philosophers in America, which offers the benefits of local chapter networking, professional gatherings and panels, and opportunities for journal publishing.
Professional Resources for Philosophy Majors
This online resource gathers data on available master's and doctoral programs in philosophy. With information on more than 180 programs in the U.S. and Canada, prospective philosophy students can filter results by tuition, school type, and types of degrees offered.
Martin Young — the creator of the Philosophical Online Writing Manual — believes "getting a lousy grade on your first paper is a lousy way to find out you don't know how to write philosophy." His webpage manual covers writing fundamentals and complexities useful to philosophy students. It also comes in a condensed version.
A valuable research tool for philosophy students and professionals, PhilPapers hosts the world's largest online database of philosophy-related academic journals, open access archives, and books. The site also features a discussion forum and lets individuals create personal profiles, allowing its more than 200,000 registered users to engage in networking and conversation.
This organization focuses on a single goal: helping women obtain employment in academic positions. Cisgender women, transgender women, and non-binary individuals may apply. Selected candidates receive mentorship and support from other women who hold secured academic employment themselves.
Made up of six different membership divisions based on geographic location, SWIP supports and promotes women in philosophy. SWIP members attend meetings, receive newsletters, submit papers for publication, and can apply for travel and childcare grants to assist with event accessibility.
MAP boasts 109 university chapters around the world and encourages the involvement of everyone in the philosophy department population, including undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty. MAP provides a supportive community of peers and a forum to discuss minority issues and theories regarding the philosophy of gender, race, and disability.
Well-suited for doctoral philosophy students whose interests lie beyond the world academia, ImaginePhD offers career exploration tools to help plan for the future. Users self-assess their skills, interests, and values; explore an algorithmically determined collection of careers; and create a plan of specific, measurable goals to further their progress.
This website offers free and premium content designed to help Ph.D. students and degree holders forge a career path beyond academics. The public can access a discussion forum, job listings, and many pages within the website's career finder tool. Students whose universities subscribe to the site's services can access exclusive content.
Phil Skills collects and shares interviews of non-academic philosophers on an ongoing basis. Doctoral students can utilize these interviews to glean information and inspiration regarding their options for philosophy careers outside of university faculty jobs.
Designed as a combination blog and conversation space, The Philosophers' Cocoon supports "early-career philosophers" with excellent discussion threads and standalone posts. More than 20 working philosophy professionals contribute their time and knowledge to respond to different user questions and concerns.