Philosophy majors explore intellectual, political, and social theories about human existence and interaction. Studying philosophy builds critical thinking, writing, and communication skills. By learning to analyze and solve problems, philosophy majors can succeed in business, education, and technology careers.
This guide provides information about philosophy careers and degrees.
Why Pursue a Degree in Philosophy?
Philosophy degrees introduce students to timeless questions. Philosophy analyzes human existence, social interactions, and political practices. Philosophy programs also train learners to form cogent arguments, write persuasively, and practice inductive and deductive reasoning.
Philosophy majors read the works of ancient and modern philosophers, learn about ethics and metaphysics, and focus on tools and techniques of logical thought. These programs prepare graduates for careers in law, teaching, and theology.
Philosophy Career Outlook
The breadth of knowledge and skills that learners gain while studying philosophy allows them to pursue diverse careers, including as lawyers, engineers, and project managers. The following table illustrates salary potential for these careers based on experience.
Skills Gained With a Philosophy Degree
The skills that philosophy majors gain during their college courses provide value for the rest of their professional lives. Below are five skills that philosophy students develop through their education.
While creativity is typically associated with artists, writers, and musicians, thinking philosophically requires imagination and mental dexterity. Philosophy requires students to analyze, question, and argue different perspectives.
- Information Management
Developing information management skills can boost productivity in all areas of life. Conducting research, studying, and completing assignments all rely on efficiently accessing relevant information.
Nearly every industry can benefit from professionals with excellent writing skills. Sharp writing skills help individuals express complex information in a more precise manner.
Philosophy ponders knowledge, reality, and existence. People often use philosophy to 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.
Everyone benefits from developing and maintaining critical thinking skills, and philosophy students and professionals in particular 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.
Philosophy Degree Concentrations
- Cognitive Studies
This scientific field combines philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology to investigate the human mind. Philosophy students in cognitive studies concentrations develop a strong scientific foundation that complements their philosophical studies.
- Philosophy of Science
This concentration focuses on the relationship between the scientific method and human cognition, the world, and other academic disciplines. Learners study the structure and historical development of scientific progress, including issues like experimentation justification and the effects of science on society.
- Value Theory
Students in value theory concentrations focus on understanding how, why, and to what extent people value other people, objects, and ideas. During this concentration, students often discuss what makes something art and what provides an object with intrinsic value.
- Humanistic Philosophy
Humanistic philosophy focuses on human beings, including their value, agency, needs, nature, and experiences. Humanistic philosophy generally encourages a belief in rational evidence rather than dogma or superstition. This concentration often requires students to supplement philosophy courses with humanities courses.
- Political and Moral Philosophy
Political and moral philosophy examines topics such as liberty, justice, law, property, and authority.
- Philosophy and Cultural Theory
This concentration emphasizes interdisciplinary study and an examination of the meaning of cultures and how they develop. Students also explore philosophical critiques of cultural studies.
How to Start Your Career in Philosophy
Philosophy majors can use their degrees to enter teaching, business, and law. To become a philosophy instructor at a college or university, professionals need at least a master's degree. With a bachelor's degree and a state teaching license, philosophy graduates can also become elementary, middle, and high school teachers.
Philosophy majors who want to pursue law may benefit from additional training as a paralegal, while those who want to become practicing lawyers should enroll in law school. A bachelor's degree in philosophy also builds communication, writing, and analytical skills applicable to careers as journalists, researchers, and government workers.
Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy
Philosophy bachelor's degree programs include comprehensive coursework in ethics, reasoning, and logic. The curriculum explores the works and ideas of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, great thinkers from the Middle Ages, and modern intellectuals.
Learners also complete courses in metaphysics, epistemology, and rhetoric as they develop problem-solving and writing abilities. For added flexibility, students can pursue an online bachelor's degree in philosophy.
Below are several careers available to graduates with a bachelor's degree in philosophy.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Philosophy?
Paralegals work alongside lawyers, carrying out research, preparing documents, and communicating with clients. Paralegals need extensive knowledge of legal procedures and practices, as well as strong written and oral communication skills. They must work well as part of a team.
Journalists carry out research to write articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. Journalists may contribute to visual and audio media as well, presenting facts gathered from investigations and inquiries. Journalists work independently at times, but also engage with editors, fellow writers, and investigators.
Teachers educate children and adolescents in private and public elementary, middle, and high schools. They prepare lesson plans, present information, and administer assignments and assessments to students. Teachers work with colleagues, administrators, and parents to ensure overall student success.
- Research Analyst
Research analysts work with qualitative and quantitative data and information. They collect materials, identify trends, and present their findings to colleagues and supervisors. Research analysts are detail-oriented, thorough, and knowledgeable. They often work in business, finance, and technology.
- Data Analyst
Data analysts create surveys to gather information related to specific topics, tasks, and services. They interpret data and present it through verbal presentations and written reports. Data analysts also create graphs and charts to represent their findings.
Master's Degree in Philosophy
Master's degrees in philosophy feature advanced coursework in topics like logic, reason, and metaphysics. Required courses often include the philosophy of science, free will and determinism, and applied ethics. Philosophy master's degrees often require learners to complete research and write a thesis.
Graduate philosophy students can also take specialized classes to deepen their knowledge. Specializations for philosophy students include law, public policy, and healthcare.
Graduates are prepared for careers as legal professionals, public administrators, and medical ethics experts. They can also teach at community college institutions or pursue a doctorate in philosophy or a related subject.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Philosophy?
- Postsecondary Instructor
Postsecondary prepare lectures, assignments, and assessments. They also advise learners, collaborate with colleagues, and perform research. Graduates with a master's degree in philosophy can teach at community colleges.
- Project Manager
Project managers see a project through from the beginning to the end. They organize personnel, manage budgets, set timelines, and communicate with team members. Project managers also work with clients, formalize contracts, and monitor progress throughout the lifecycle of a project.
Doctoral Degree in Philosophy
Doctorate in philosophy programs integrate coursework, research, and writing to prepare students for careers in higher education, business, and government. Earning a doctorate in philosophy can take up to seven years, during which learners take advanced coursework in ancient and modern philosophy, logic, and ethics.
After completing required coursework, learners often complete comprehensive examinations. After passing these exams, students write their dissertations.
Professionals with a doctorate in philosophy often begin careers as professors at colleges and universities. Philosophy doctoral degrees may also lead to administrative roles in higher education or leadership positions in business or government settings.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Philosophy?
Professors give lectures, instruct students, offer guidance for research activities, and supervise thesis and dissertation projects. Professors alo conduct their own research, collaborate with colleagues, and publish findings in professional journals.
- Executive Director
Executive directors are the top managers within their businesses. They develop and implement strategic plans, working with managers and other employees to ensure efficient and effective operations. Additional duties include oversight of daily operations, communication with a board of directors and the media, and management of organizational budgets.
Other Career Paths for Philosophy Majors
Many philosophy majors enter professions that require additional education in a different discipline. The knowledge and skills gained by studying philosophy benefit learners who continue on to law school. Students who pursue a graduate degree in a field such as public policy, business, or communications also draw heavily upon their philosophy degrees.
Attorneys must complete three years of law school. They represent, defend, and advise clients about legal matters. Attorneys also prepare legal documents, negotiate settlements, and appear in court proceedings. They may specialize in criminal or civil law. Attorneys are persuasive, well-spoken problem-solvers with excellent analytical and communication skills.
- Communications Manager
Communications managers oversee internal and external communications within a business or organization. They can work with marketers and advertisers, social media contributors, and public relations professionals.
Ministers can work within individual communities and congregations, serve as chaplains in the military, or focus on specific populations such as youth. They provide weekly services, counsel individuals in need, and oversee church staff.
- Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors help clients, patients, and groups cope with mental health problems and illnesses. Philosophy majors are drawn to discussing heavy topics and life's major questions, which often makes them good counselors.
- Policy Analyst
Policy analysts assess existing policies, procedures, and regulations, identifying ways to improve and adjust them based on organizational or individual need. They engage with governments, lobbying for change and action. Policy analysts also collect, analyze, and create reports based on qualitative and quantitative data.
How to Advance Your Career in Philosophy
Philosophy graduates can advance their careers by earning advanced degrees. Continuing education programs, professional certifications, and free online courses are also great advancement opportunities.
Philosophy majors need additional education or certification in order to pursue certain jobs. Paralegal careers, a common path for philosophy graduates, require additional education. Requirements vary by state, but a bachelor's degree and formal paralegal training prepare graduates for positions with major law firms, law enforcement agencies, and independent law offices.
Philosophy majors with an interest in teaching can earn licenses to work with children and adolescents in K-12 schools. Each state regulates the educational and experience requirements needed to become a teacher, but a bachelor's degree in philosophy can help learners achieve minimum requirements. Teaching candidates must also complete an approved teaching preparation program.
Philosophy graduates can also pursue careers as data and intelligence analysts. These professionals can advance their careers by earning certificates in specialties such as data science, information technology, and business intelligence.
Continuing education classes keep working professionals current on issues related to their field. These courses also help professionals hone existing skills and knowledge while gaining new abilities. Paralegals, for example, can complete self-study courses and participate in webinars through the National Association of Legal Assistants and the Institute for Paralegal Education.
Professional organizations like the American Philosophical Association and the Philosophy of Science Association hold meetings and offer online events. These networking opportunities help learners navigate their careers. Furthermore, membership in a professional organization often provides access to journals, news updates, and teaching materials.
How to Switch Your Career to Philosophy
Transitioning into a philosophy career is easier for professionals in a related humanities or social science discipline. Degrees in history, sociology, and anthropology teach similar skills as philosophy programs and prepare graduates for similar careers.
Professionals with a degree in an entirely unrelated field may need to earn a philosophy degree. All tenured philosophy professors need a doctorate in the field.
Where Can You Work With A Philosophy Degree?
Philosophy graduates work as educators at all levels, teaching young children, high school students, and college students.
- Advertising, Branding, and Sales Promotions
Thanks to their understanding of culture, society, and human interpretation, philosophy graduates are often excellent marketing professionals.
The concepts and practices of law, justice, authority, and ethics are all related. After completing additional training, philosophy graduates can become invaluable assets to law offices.
- Financial Services
The financial services industry requires adherence to a strict set of professional ethics. Philosophy graduates have strong analytical skills, which can benefit their work in finance.
Philosophy graduates can often work behind the scenes in hospital policy, administration, communication, and budgeting.
Interview With a Professional
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While in the Army, Jason Barr completed a BS in liberal arts with an emphasis in philosophy from Excelsior College in Albany, New York. Barr went on to complete an MBA in international management from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona. In addition, he holds a professional certification in production and inventory management from APICS. Barr is currently a planning program manager for a semiconductor manufacturer, dealing specifically with new product introduction.
- 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.
You have to be curious. Not only about the world around you, but also about yourself. Much of philosophy, at least in my experience, arises from introspection. You need to enjoy writing, 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 undergraduate 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!
Resources for Philosophy Majors
Professional organizations and educational institutions offer resources for philosophy majors. As philosophy students enter the workforce, they can use job listings, career counseling, and mentorship programs to help them find a position that meets their personal interests and professional goals. Additional resources include online forums, writing assistance, research tools, and publications.
- Professional Organizations and Resources
APA Guide to Graduate Programs: This online resource gathers data on available master's and doctoral programs in philosophy. Prospective philosophy students can sort through over 180 programs by tuition, school type, and types of degrees offered.
Philosophical Writing Manual: Martin Young, the creator of the Philosophical Online Writing Manual, believes that "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 for philosophy students. The manual also comes in a condensed version.
PhilPapers: A valuable research tool for philosophy students and professionals, PhilPapers is 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 users create personal profiles.
The Job Candidate Mentoring Program for Women in Philosophy: This organization focuses on a single goal: helping women gain employment in academic positions. Cisgender women, transgender women, and non-binary individuals may apply. Selected candidates receive mentorship and support from successful women in academia.
The Society for Women in Philosophy: 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.
Minorities and Philosophy: MAP boasts 109 university chapters around the world and serves 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.
ImaginePhD: ImaginePhD offers career exploration tools to help Ph.D. students plan for their 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.
The Versatile PhD: This website offers free and premium content designed to help Ph.D. students and degree-holders forge a career path beyond academia. Users can access a discussion forum, job listings, and a career finder tool.
Phil Skills: Phil Skills collects and shares interviews of non-academic philosophers. Doctoral students can glean information and inspiration regarding philosophy careers beyond academia.
The Philosophers' Cocoon: Designed as a combination blog and conversation space, the Philosophers' Cocoon supports "early-career philosophers" through discussion threads and posts. More than 20 philosophy professionals respond to users' questions and concerns.
- Open Courseware
Introduction To Animal Ethics: Offered through edX.com and Kyoto University, this course explores human-animal relationships and related ethics. By using visual materials, the class focuses on controversies over zoo, farm, and research animals; animal rights and speciesism; and environmental encroachment, animal display, and implications of animal neutering.
Ancient Philosophy: MIT's open courseware platform hosts this course on ancient philosophy. The curriculum introduces students to Greek thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle and examines their ideas about law, justice, happiness, and death. The course analyzes arguments within individual texts and how they contribute to Western philosophical and scientific traditions.
Relativism, Reason, and Reality: This MIT course uses the writings of philosophers such as Thomas Kuhn and Judith Thompson to explore relativism, reason, and reality. Students reflect upon themselves, their beliefs, and the norms they practice as the attempt to find answers to larger philosophical inquiries.
Moral Foundations of Politics: Yale's class in moral foundations of politics, offered through Coursera.org, focuses on the obligations of governments and citizens. Students explore political theories like Marxism, utilitarianism, and social contract theory.
Ergo: An open access journal supported by Syracuse University, Ergo publishes articles from all philosophical traditions. Covered topics include the history of philosophy, moral philosophy, epistemology, and relevant logic.
The Journal of Philosophy: With an emphasis on the interchange of ideas, especially how philosophy relates to and borders other disciplines, this monthly journal provides access to back issues and offers awards for publications.
Ancient Philosophy: Ancient Philosophy focuses on ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and sciences. Content includes original articles, discussions, and reviews, with additional emphasis on how ancient works established a foundation for later philosophical thought.
Public Philosophy Journal: The PPJ provides an inclusive space for all voices within the field. Submissions must be relevant and timely. The PPJ consists of two parts: an open access journal and The Current, which curates web content to increase public engagement with philosophy.
Environmental Philosophy: Environmental Philosophy integrates articles, discussion papers, and reviews on philosophical approaches to environmental issues. Published twice each year, Environmental Philosophy is co-sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State University and the International Association for Environmental Philosophy.
American Philosophical Quarterly: APQ is the flagship English publication in philosophy. APQ welcomes submission from scholars regardless of school of thought, providing articles, surveys, and recent works in print and electronic form.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is philosophy a good major?
A philosophy degree builds communication, analytical, and critical thinking skills, allowing students to explore questions about human existence and society as a whole. Philosophy majors develop competencies applicable to careers in many fields.
- What do you do with a degree in philosophy?
Philosophy graduates can pursue careers in areas such as education, business, law, and government. Some of these paths require further education.
- Is philosophy a respected degree?
Yes. A degree in philosophy builds critical thinking and communication skills that employers seek out and respect.
- How much do philosophy majors make?
Salary potential for philosophy majors depends on their specific career and degree level. Paralegals, for example, earn a median annual salary of $51,740, while postsecondary teachers earn a median annual salary of $79,540.