Why Study Philosophy

The Department of Philosophy in the University of Florida offers the “Career Handbook for Philosophy Majors.” The text offers the following chart of career options. Philosophy graduates can gain further education, such as graduate work in philosophy, political science, English, law, medicine, journalism, business, and public policy. Also graduates can work in the fields of teaching, civil service, politics, and public service.

What follows is an excerpt from Boise State Web-site concerning Philosophy Majors’ performance on standardized graduate exams: Here are some interesting facts1:

  • LSAT scores for philosophy majors rank third among the twenty-two undergraduate majors represented by examinees. Only mathematics and economics majors score higher, on average.
  • GMAT scores for philosophy majors rank second among the nineteen undergraduate majors represented by examinees. Only mathematics majors score higher, on average.
  • GRE/Verbal scores for philosophy majors are the highest among the twenty-four undergraduate majors represented by examinees. (Mathematics majors rank fourteenth.)
  • GRE/Quantitative scores for philosophy majors are ninth among the same twenty-four majors, ranking higher than business majors, all majors in the social sciences, and all other majors in the humanities. And consider the majors that rank higher than philosophy: physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science, chemistry, other sciences, economics and biology. These majors include extensive training in quantitative thinking, philosophy relatively little. (The data were reported in Clifford Adelman's The Standardized Test Scores of College Graduates.)

Consider these four tests cumulatively by summing the respective rankings by major. Philosophy majors come out on top (15), followed by math majors (18). Examinees majoring in chemistry (26), economics (30), and engineering (30) round out the top five; no other major is even close. Conclusion: if a student wants to develop a broad range of skills that prepare him for a wide variety of intellectual challenges, the student should seriously consider becoming a philosophy major. (Boise State Philosophy Website)

Nationally, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of philosophy majors in the last three years, notwithstanding the abysmal state of the economy. This increase is the subject of two recent news articles: “The Study of Philosophy Makes Gains Despite the Economy” (which appeared the October 15th, 2011 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer) and “Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?” (which appeared in the October 16th, 2011 issue of the Atlantic).

For the authors of these articles, the reason for this increase is simple: majoring in philosophy pays off, all the more so in tough economic times. Given their broad range of skills, philosophy majors are well-poised, not just to do extremely well on professional and graduate entrance exams (such as the GRE, MCAT, and LSAT), but to succeed in a wide-variety of careers. According to a recent study, mid-career median salary for philosophy majors was 16th out of two hundred careers. Being a philosopher, according to another study, is one of the top 16 careers, factoring in environment, stress, physical demands, and employment outlooks.

Philosophy Students

Student in Romania for her study abroad

Emily Lemmon is a philosophy major at SUU. She studied abroad for a semester in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She took classes in European politics and traveled all around Europe. Emily visited eleven different countries while abroad. Some of these include Germany, France, Denmark and Greece. Emily said that "seeing these places provided a cultural context for many of the philosophers' works that I have read. Intense traveling is difficult and requires the ability to assess a situation, make careful decisions and to think clearly. My education in philosophy has prepared me for these situations. This study abroad was a great addition to my studies at SUU, and has made me a more well-rounded student."