Philosophers shape the way we think about our place in the universe. Despite the importance of philosophical contributions throughout history, many believe that a degree in philosophy only offers a narrow career path into academia. However, philosophy degree students learn to use the critical thinking and sound arguments that apply to a variety of fields, including tech and finance.
A bachelor's degree in philosophy prepares students for multiple careers, with some of them earning the highest salary among humanities majors. A 2016 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers highlights that philosophy majors earn a starting salary of $49,000, the highest of all graduates with a bachelor's degree in the humanities. To find out more about what you can do with a philosophy degree, continue reading this guide.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Philosophy?
The ideal philosophy student possesses a passion for wisdom and strong moral awareness. Philosophy students strive to answer deeply challenging questions. Students in a bachelor's in philosophy program learn critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and persuasive writing skills that apply to several occupations or to a graduate degree. Research by the Educational Testing Service shows that philosophy students outperform other students on the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT.
A philosophy bachelor's program focuses on the study of knowledge, ethics, existence, and truth. Undergraduates generally pursue a philosophy degree because they want to deepen their analytical and logical reasoning skills. Bachelor's programs provide an introduction to philosophy and offer a comprehensive overview of the history of philosophy. Many programs focus on particular philosophers, including Plato, Kant, Descartes, and Nietzsche. Nearing graduation, students may need to complete a capstone project. Capstone courses in philosophy programs provide students with the opportunity to explore a particular topic and work with a mentor.
An online bachelor's in philosophy suits students who work full time or who care for children. Alternatively, on-campus classes appeal to students coming straight out of high school. On-campus classes offer the added benefit of one-on-one learning with like-minded people. While in the program, the connections online and traditional students form last them throughout their professional and educational careers.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Philosophy?
Philosophy degree graduates find work in fields other than academia, including law, journalism, business, finance, politics, and religion. They make strong, ethical leaders in these different industries by developing solid problem solving skills and working in teams to deconstruct complex problems and find fair solutions. The deep analytical and reasoning skills philosophy students learn in a bachelor's program translate directly to a school setting or a boardroom on Wall Street. Career options abound for ambitious philosophy degree graduates.
- Philosophy and Religion Teachers
High school philosophy and religion teachers teach ninth through 12th grade students. Teachers create philosophy and religion lesson plans. They also grade homework and tests. With a bachelor's degree, candidates can teach philosophy and religion at community colleges or high schools. Teaching at a four-year college often requires a Ph.D.
Median Annual Salary: $59,170*
- Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers work in organizations that provide social services to children, veterans, homeless individuals, and seniors. Their daily tasks include managing operations and overseeing staff functions. Managers also update budgets and supervise fundraising efforts. Candidates need a bachelor's degree and sometimes a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100*
Journalists write for websites, newspapers, TV, and radio. Reporters cover stories in the field or at their desks in busy newsrooms. Many reporters often work specific beats, such as religion, crime, or politics. To find work, reporters must hold at least a bachelor's degree; in some cases, they need a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $62,910*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Philosophy Program
While all philosophy programs share a core curriculum, the tuition and formats differ depending on the college. Graduating with a bachelor's degree in philosophy takes about four years of full-time study. Students who take classes part time -- a common situation for working professionals or students with children -- take longer to complete their bachelor's degree. Part-time learning also costs more overall since students often pay more in fees over time.
Other factors influence the price of tuition. Attending a local college where you can pay in-state tuition costs less than paying for out-of-state tuition. Relocating could prove beneficial if the college offers post-graduation employment, a lower cost of living, or a higher quality of life. Earning a philosophy degree online could also prove cheaper. Students usually pay less for online tuition, and they avoid costs such as transportation, housing, and parking.
Though every college offers different courses and concentrations, both online and on-campus curricula focus on the same basic concepts. Philosophy programs often give students the chance to specialize in pre-law or applied ethics, and students with a concentration enjoy better job and graduate school prospects. Additionally, programs with a practicum requirement give students the chance to work off campus in organizations where they can build their work experience. However, not all programs offer specializations or practicums.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Philosophy
Colleges undergo a stringent accreditation process by independent agencies. This quality assurance test lets students know that the curricula and teaching methods at accredited colleges produce well-educated graduates.
Regional and national accreditation serve as the two types credentials schools can earn. Two-year and four-year colleges receive regional accreditation, and vocational schools receive national accreditation. Accreditation offers more than a stamp of approval; students with credits from a regionally accredited school can transfer them to another regionally accredited school. However, students with nationally accredited credits tend to come up against roadblocks when transfering to regionally accredited schools.
Bachelor's in Philosophy Program Admissions
The admission process for both online and on-campus bachelor's in philosophy programs begins with completing an online application. Part of the application includes submitting supplemental materials such as high school or college transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a letter of purpose. When deciding on a program, students should ensure that they meet GPA and other eligibility requirements. Students should also apply to between three and five colleges, ranking them from least likely to most likely to gain admission.
Generally, admission requirements and prerequisites do not differ for online and on-campus philosophy programs. However, online philosophy programs often come with higher competition than traditional on-campus programs. Likewise, online programs can prove more rigorous, given that coursework requires independent study. Below, you can learn more about the common prerequisites for a philosophy program.
- Minimum GPA: Admission offices require that eligible applicants show proof of a minimum 3.0 or higher GPA for previous college or high school coursework. Student with lower GPA scores may earn admission on a case-by-case basis.
- Application: Applications require students to complete previous educational and professional background information, taking about three months to complete. Students trying to earn their philosophy degree can apply to multiple programs at once through The Common Application.
- Transcripts: Students can request transcripts from their previous college or high school and mail them directly to their new school's admissions office. Students can also upload transcripts digitally along with their application.
- Letters of Recommendation: Students should ask for professional references from former teachers, professors, and employers. Give those writing letters at least a month to complete and submit their letters of recommendation.
- Test Scores: Both transfer students who do not meet the credit requirements and freshman students must submit SAT or ACT scores. The average SAT score is 1050 to 1060, and the average ACT score is 20.
- Application Fee: Students should expect to pay between $25 and $50 for each college application. Some schools accept fee waivers for low-income students, veterans, and seniors.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Philosophy Program?
Individual philosophy programs offer different courses and concentrations. As a result, students must research to find a program that matches their career interests. Specific concentrations and classes, such as those listed below, prepare students for their professional and educational goals.
|Applied Ethics||The curriculum in an applied ethics concentration covers everything from contemporary moral issues to environmental ethics. Students learn how to think critically about today's moral issues and arguments.||Taking a class in applied ethics gives students the fundamental knowledge needed to work in law, journalism, or education.|
|Healthcare Ethics||A healthcare in ethics concentration appeals to students who want to go into medicine. Students enrolled in the specialty survey the ethical issues affecting health care. They also study ethical health issues such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide.||Students with a concentration in healthcare ethics can find work in healthcare or social services.|
|Environmental Ethics||This concentration explores today's most pressing environmental issues. Students study climate change, population growth, and environmental justice.||Students hoping to work in shaping environmental policy often take an environmental concentration. Many students also go on to work in nonprofits.|
|Public Policy and Public Affairs||Students receive an introduction to public policy in this concentration. They examine the ethical issues in public affairs and public policy and acquire the skills to analyze the development of social laws.||This concentration prepares graduates for careers in research within nonprofits and government agencies.|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Philosophy Program
Each college offers a different selection of philosophy courses. That said, the core curriculum for all bachelor's degree in philosophy programs remains essentially the same. The list below serves as a selection of common core courses students need to complete to earn a philosophy degree at the undergraduate level.
- History of Ancient Philosophy
This course teaches students about the history of ancient philosophy, beginning with pre-Socratic Greek philosophers such as Thales. Students also study questions posed by Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, and the class serves as a foundation for students who want to become philosophy teachers.
- History of Modern Philosophy
Students learn about the teachings of the modern philosophers, such as Kant, Hume, and Descartes. The course covers philosophy from the Renaissance to the present day, with a focus on how philosophy continues to shape contemporary social issues and politics. Students who study modern philosophy qualify for graduate school and philosophy teaching positions.
- Theory of Knowledge
As a core course in philosophy, epistemology teaches students how to think critically and distinguish between belief, knowledge, and opinion. To develop analytical skills, students examine questions about what it means to possess knowledge. Students can take the lessons learned from this class and apply them to their careers in mathematics, science, law, or government.
- Environmental Ethics
A study of environmental ethics provides an introductory education into moral philosophy, emphasizing the human impact on nature. Students study the political policy changes that directly affect the environment and consider the moral obligations human have to protect nature. Environmental ethics prepares students to work as lawyers, journalists, policymakers, or teachers.
- Introduction Logic
Introduction to logic familiarizes students with how to deconstruct arguments, premises, and propositions. This class teaches the basic principles of reasoning that apply to a variety of careers, including a paralegal, reporter, or teacher.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Philosophy?
Earning an undergraduate degree in philosophy takes an average of four years to complete at a full-time pace. Earning the degree part time takes even longer, as students who elect this path often need to work or raise children while earning their degree. In that vein, part-time learning also typically costs more due to the accumulation of school-related fees over time.
Students with prior college credit from accredited schools may graduate sooner than four years. Also, students who take more than 12 credits a semester can speed up their graduation timeline through accelerated learning. On average, students should expect to take between 120 and 122 credits to graduate with a philosophy degree. About 30 to 33 credits must focus on the philosophy major. Students who double major or who add a concentration likely need to complete more credits to graduate.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Philosophy?
On average, undergraduates pay $410 per credit for a bachelor's degree in philosophy. That said, tuition varies depending on where you go to college. Out-of-state residents pay significantly more for tuition than in-state residents. However, in some cases, colleges extend in-state resident tuition rates to online students. Aside from tuition, students also pay for on-campus housing and meals, books and supplies, technology fees, transportation, and other college-related expenses.
Part-time tuition often runs double or more than full-time tuition. For cheaper rates, students should look into online programs, which often cost less than traditional on-campus programs. In addition to cheaper tuition, online students also save money by not paying for transportation, on-campus housing, or parking fees.
Private colleges, which do not receive state funding, usually cost more than public colleges. However, students can offset the higher costs associated with attending private college by receiving federal financial aid and scholarships. Freshman and transfer students should meet with their financial aid adviser to get a clear picture of their financial commitments and options.
Resources for Philosophy Students
Maintained by Stanford University faculty, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides a free database of some 1,600 scholarly philosophy papers.
Find funding sources for your research at NSF. The NSF, which operates as an independent federal agency, supports some 11,000 proposals in a wide variety of disciplines every year.
The PhilSci-Archive offers a free database of scholarly articles on philosophy. The archive also welcomes submissions. Anyone interested in philosophy can search the database for articles by subject, author, or year.
For those interested in a Ph.D., the McNair Scholars Program helps low-income and first-generation undergraduate students prepare for graduate school. Scholars receive free GRE prep courses, workshops, paid internships, and travel stipends to graduate school fairs.
When students cannot get to the writing lab on campus, Grammarly offers free writing assistance, including help with grammar and spelling. Students can add Grammarly to their web browser for free.
Professional Organizations in Philosophy
Professional organizations help students with networking, which provides them with more internship and job opportunities. Students can also meet working professionals and peers at conferences and workshops. Membership to these organizations provides access to journal subscriptions, job boards, scholarship opportunities, and discounted conference admittance. The list below includes some of the professional philosophy organizations available to philosophy students and professionals.
The APA helps philosophers grow in their careers by providing members with voting privileges and discounts on books and journals. Members can also apply for APA grants and prizes. Finally, they receive employment listings and discounts to conferences.
PLATO strives to bring philosophy to pre-college students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Members can share lesson plans with other teachers at PLATO conferences. They also receive access to the membership directory and to 10 publications.
PSA serves as a community that supports teaching, research, and the exchange of ideas. To help working professionals connect, the association hosts conventions and meetings and publishes the Philosophy of Science. The association also awards scholarships and prizes for essays.
HOPOS promotes the exchange of scholarly research in philosophy. Students receive membership discounts, and the society holds an annual conference and provides members with access to its journal.
Founded in 1976, the AAPT helps philosophy teachers advance in their careers by hosting a biennial conference and other programs. Members also receive access to Teaching Philosophy and Teaching Ethics, and students receive discounted membership.