Career Paths

Quotation Mark

"Philosophy? What are you going to with that?" The correct response is "Absolutely anything you want."

Jordan Kotick, Vice-President, J.P. Morgan

The study of philosophy develops skills in thinking clearly, analytically, and creatively, along with the ability to exchange and communicate ideas. These skills are essential to managing your life well and are in great demand in almost any profession. Employers can train someone in the specifics of a job, but not in how to think. They hire people who already have the skills to think carefully, analyze problems, and devise creative solutions. This is what the study of philosophy provides you with and why you can do "anything you want" with a major in philosophy.

Because the skills one develops by majoring in philosophy are highly marketable and transferable, the study of philosophy pays off later in life. Here's some evidence:

  1. Philosophy majors are high on the pay scale compared to majors in many other fields. A 2008 study of undergraduate college degrees by salary showed that after 15.5 years of being awarded an undergraduate degree, the median yearly salary of philosophy majors was $81,200, ranked 16th of fifty fields and higher than all other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. According to another study of 15 liberal arts majors, students graduating with a B.A. in philosophy have the highest median income 20 years after graduation. The study tracked student incomes at intervals of less than 1 year, 1-4 years, 5-9 years, 10-15 years, and 20 or more years after their graduation. In the category of less than one year after graduation, only criminal justice majors had a higher median income. After 1-4 years, only history and political science majors had a higher median income. For the rest of intervals tracked, 5 years to more than 20 years after graduating, philosophy major grads had the highest median income. The median income for those graduating with degrees in philosophy 20 or more years after graduation was approximately $91,000. (The source for these figures was the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

  2. Philosophy majors perform exceptionally well on the Law School Admissions Test, The Graduate Management Admission Test, and the Graduate Record Examination. In fact, we're number one. Data from Educational Testing Service, covering three-year periods ending in 2006, 2009, and 2014, showed that philosophy majors had the highest combined scores on the GRE. If one compares the averages of the three rankings in the fifty fields, philosophy majors come out on top. Thus, a degree in Philosophy should be helpful in gaining admission to graduate schools and pursuing various professional careers.

While the philosophy major provides you with skills crucial to success in almost any field, here is a list of some of the professions in which philosophers and philosophy majors are gainfully employed:

  • Business: advertising executive; assistant manager of a hotel; assistant to the president of a national firm; brewer; development manager; manager of a winery; manpower services coordinator.
  • Computers and Technology: computer systems analyst; consultant; owner of a computer firm; programmer; technical writer.
  • Consulting: in business, education, and publishing.
  • Education (non-teaching fields): admissions officer; alumni relations officer; archivist; college president; dean; educational testing administrator; humanities bibliographer; librarian; residence hall director; provost; vice-chancellor for academic affairs.
  • Engineering.
  • Finance: bank officer (various departments); commodities broker; financial advisor; investment broker; tax accountant.
  • Government (federal): armed forces officer; CIA staff member; congressional staff member; diplomat; immigration service staff member; intelligence officer; intern in the Department of Defense; policy analyst; policy and planning consultant; United Nations official; U.S. Postal Service staff member.
  • Government (state and local): director, human services agency; county commissioner; county supervisor.
  • Insurance.
  • Law: attorney; bond lawyer; coordinator of a criminal justice program; director of communications at a state bar association; legal researcher; police officer; legal aid society employee; paralegal assistant; security officer.
  • Marketing.
  • Media: free-lance writer; executive editor of a magazine; TV producer.
  • Medicine: director of a provincial medical association; hospital administrator; nurse; nursing administrator; physician; veterinary oncologist.
  • Publishing: director of a university press; editor; employees of university and commercial presses.
  • Real Estate.
  • Religious Ministry
  • Research: business, educational, governmental, and scientific.
  • Sales: many branches.
  • Technical Writing

Links on the Value of Studying Philosophy

"In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined"
              Article by Winnie Hu in the New York Times (2008)

"I Think, Therefore I Earn"
                Article by Jessica Shepherd in The Guardian (2007)

"Philosophers Find the Degree Pays Off in Life and Work"
                 Article by Carol Cooper in NY Times (1997) 

"What Can You Do with a Philosophy Degree?
                 Philosophy website at Illinois State University

"Philosophy Is a Quintessentially Modern Discipline"
                London Times article on the value of Philosophy

While the philosophy major provides you with skills crucial to success in almost any field,  a list of some of the professions in which philosophers and philosophy majors are gainfully employed can be found on the Why Study Philosophy? page.