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 mid-career earnings. Career options for philosophy majors include teaching and research, public administration, business, law, and journalism. Knowing what you want to study ahead of time allows you to take the most direct path toward success, which can prove invaluable, as some philosophy degree jobs require many years of education.
Earning a philosophy degree enhances your quality of life and develops critical thinking and social awareness; it can also increase your earning potential and open doors to employment opportunities.
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 the quality of creativity typically gets assigned to artists, writers, and musicians, thinking philosophically requires imagination and mental dexterity. Forming and expanding upon original thoughts serves as a vital skill in the philosophical practices of analyzing, questioning, and arguing 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.
Professionals in every industry benefit from excellent writing skills. Not only do they help you express information in a more precise manner, they also help you read and interpret text 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 their critical-thinking skills, philosophy students and professionals, in particular, must possess an analytical mind. This ability opens the door to deeper understanding of difficult or abstract concepts, new and interesting interpretations of ideas, and rich conversations with others.
Why Pursue a Career in Philosophy?
At first, people may question an individual's decision to study philosophy in college, or they might encourage the student to choose a more "realistic" major. Thanks to a set of highly valuable and transferable skills, however, degree-holding philosophy professionals often find themselves capable of working entry-level positions in a wide variety of industries. The number of high-paying job opportunities for a philosophy graduate increases with their level of education.
Philosophy professionals who work in fields of scientific research or academics 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 in 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, from teaching to legal work, which means the earning potential of a philosophy degree varies from one individual to another. Entry-level earners make significantly less than more experienced professionals, but the exact amount depends on industry, location, supervisory or managerial level, and job function. The data from PayScale displayed in the table below provides 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, NY. He went on to also complete an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird School of Business in Glendale, AZ. In addition, Barr holds a professional certification in production and inventory management (CPIM) from APICS. He has held jobs in the aforementioned US 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 adjunct faculty 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 ft 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 may all benefit from a workforce consisting of philosophy majors. However, undergraduate degrees in philosophy can only take an individual so far. Those interested in philosophy careers, such as a university faculty or researcher position, must hold a master's degree or, more commonly, a doctoral degree to meet minimum education requirements.
Prospective students might worry whether online options truly compare with traditional methods of learning. Many master's degrees and doctoral degrees in philosophy require students to either complete internship or practicum hours or complete extensive theses and dissertation assignments as part of their advanced study. The vast majority of work at the graduate level occurs outside of the classroom.
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 takes about five to seven years. The largest component of this long duration comes from the completion of a dissertation, which can take years to write. Actual classroom study for a doctorate degree typically takes four years. In an online format, students complete these studies either at an individual pace or as part of a cohort, where a single group of students works through the degree plan together. Fortunately for graduates of a Ph.D. in philosophy program, the skills and experience gained over the course of the program prepare you for immediate employment upon graduation.
Concentrations Available for Philosophy Majors
- Cognitive Studies
This exciting field of scientific study uses the combined knowledge of professionals in the fields of philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology to study 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 and the study issues such as experimentation justification and the effects of science on society.
- Value Theory
Students in a value theory concentration typically focus on understanding how, why, and how much people value other people, objects, ideas, etc. This study frequently asks the student to evaluate things with 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 represents the study of topics such as liberty, justice, the 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 provide an interdisciplinary study which examines the meaning of cultures and how they develop. Students also receive exposure to 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 grant access to jobs with a higher seniority level than a bachelor's, and any concentrations you studied during your coursework may steer your hireability to a specific industry focus. 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 doctorate degree to enter the field.
- Research Scientist
The job title "research scientist" simply points to someone who performs laboratory research in pursuit of particular answers or solutions. Research scientists work in many areas, including pharmaceuticals, technology, and environmental science. Philosophy professionals with this job title 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. College professors research and publish scholarly articles and books in addition to their work with students, making this one of the most fulfilling careers for an individual who desires a lifetime of learning.
- Data Scientist
To complete job responsibilities like interpreting complex digital data and advising 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 degree(s), professionals can find principal scientist work in 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 — make excellent psychologists as well. A deep understanding of the beliefs and ideas that drive the human experience allows philosophy graduates to examine the mind from unique angles.
Where Can You Work as a Philosophy Professional?
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 prove more satisfying in certain geographic locations, industries, or work environments. When deciding where to put down roots, consider your professional goals and how these different factors might ultimately affect your career trajectory.
Along with the education and skills, location often serves as one of the most important factors in any professional's ability to find, secure, and maintain employment. Things like salary potential and licensure rules often vary from one state to the next. Although every state harbors entry-level work, 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 learning levels, including young children, high schools students, and college students.
Average Salary: $55,094
- Advertising, Branding, and Sales Promotions
Thanks to an extensive understanding of culture, society, and human interpretation, individuals trained in certain branches of philosophy can make excellent marketing professionals.
Average Salary: $58,818
- Law Firm
The concepts and practices of law, justice, authority, and ethics all go hand-in-hand. After receiving some additional training for legal work, philosophy professionals can become invaluable assets to any law office.
Average Salary: $66,026
- Financial Services
The financial service industry also 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: $68,046
In the healthcare field, philosophy graduates can find a satisfying workplace in a behind-the-scenes environment, working in areas such as hospital policy, administration, communication, or budgeting.
Average Salary: $73,305
How Do You Find a Job as a Philosophy Professional?
Depending on your career goals, earning additional certifications to place on your resume might prove necessary. Aspiring educators need a teaching certification. 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 certificates in 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 (policy makers, community members, etc.) 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
- APA Guide to Graduate Programs: 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 cost, public or private schools, and types of degrees offered.
- Philosophical Writing Manual: 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 every philosophy student should know. It also comes in a condensed version.
- Philpapers: An invaluable research tool for philosophy students and professionals, Philpapers boasts 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.
- The Job Candidate Mentoring Program for Women in Philosophy: 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.
- 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 to assist with event accessibility.
- Minorities and Philosophy: MAP boasts 109 university chapters around the world and encourages the involvement of everyone in the philosophy department population: 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.
- Imagine PHD: Ideal for doctoral philosophy students whose interests lie beyond the world academia, Imagine PHD offers a number of free 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.
- Versatile PhD: This website offers both 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 career finder tool. Students whose universities subscribe to the site's services can access exclusive, premium content.
- PhilSkills: PhilSkills 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.
- The Philosopher's Cocoon: Designed as a combination blog and conversation space, The Philosopher's 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.