Philosophy is one of the most captivating and intellectually stimulating academic disciplines there is. After graduation, though, there will be bills to be paid. And those bills can’t be paid with knowledge and insight alone. The question becomes, then: what careers in philosophy are available out there in the working world? Of course, the answer to that question comes with a whole host of other concerns, including how much these positions pay and what degree requirements are needed for philosophical roles.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common jobs in philosophy in order to provide information for those interested in pursuing a degree in philosophy. We’ll also discuss the skills philosophy students gain through their academic study and how these skills transfer to success in the workplace.
Does a Degree in Philosophy Make One More Employable?
There’s a fair amount of pessimism associated with employment prospects after graduation from a philosophy degree program. Because the field is so broad and doesn’t point toward a specific career path, many students fear they’ll be overlooked by employers or passed up in favor of someone with a more targeted degree. Is it possible, though, that a degree in philosophy could actually make you more employable? Absolutely! Let’s discuss the skills a philosophy degree plan can give students that transfer to a professional environment.
While nearly all liberal arts curricula will facilitate solid critical thinking skills, none do it better than plans of study in philosophy. In philosophy courses, students are continually pushed to look at controversial topics from all possible angles. Professors urge students to think deeply about various subjects and viewpoints, questioning their own biases and flaws in logic. This type of extreme critical thinking becomes habitual for philosophy majors and can be quite valuable in workplace situations.
The excellent critical thinking skills students gain from philosophical study go hand in hand with the development of good communication skills. That is, clear thinking promotes clear writing and clear speaking. Moreover, the majority of assignments that a philosophy major will be asked to complete will involve scholarly writing. Over the duration of the program, students will become quite skilled in the written word. As far as verbal communication is concerned, students will be asked to participate in class discussions, formal debates, and oral presentations.
Much of philosophical study consists of grappling with moral dilemmas and discussing ethical behaviors and choices. These experiences teach philosophy students to reason ethically and analyze various scenarios to determine the right course of action. It’s easy to see how these skills could help someone make good decisions in the workplace. Employers often report philosophy majors to be among the most reliable and trustworthy team members they have.
Best Minors and Concentrations for Philosophy Majors
Philosophy is a very broad major. Adding a minor or concentration to your degree plan can help you specialize in a specific sub-field of the discipline, making you more knowledgeable in this one area. In turn, this can make you more employable in certain fields after graduation.
Choosing a minor or concentration for your philosophy degree is an important decision because it can shape your academic life and career path for the foreseeable future. You’ll want to make sure that the minor or concentration you choose is an area you’re genuinely interested in and one that will help further your professional aspirations.
A minor or concentration in bioethics is the ideal choice for philosophy majors interested in pursuing a health-related career. The field of bioethics marries the study of health care and ethics, tackling the issues surrounding the morality of medicine. Course titles typical of a minor or concentration in bioethics include the following:
- The Ethics of Medicine
- Sociology of Mental Health
- Bioethics and the Law
Students with ambitions for public office or those who wish to work in public affairs or administration may benefit from a degree in philosophy with a concentration or minor in Political Science. Ultimately, students who elect a political science emphasis will study the ethics of politics. Course titles may include:
- Power and Politics
- Topics in Political Philosophy
- Philosophy, Economy, and Society
An increasingly popular concentration/minor in the discipline of philosophy, the study of mathematics prepares students for further study or careers in STEM fields. Students who combine the study of mathematics with philosophy gain a broader insight into the intellectual processes that drive mathematical theories. They can expect to encounter courses like the following:
- Mathematical Reasoning
- Topics in Mathematical Logic
- Symbolic Logic
The degree in philosophy with an economics concentration will facilitate the study of topics like economic theory, social justice, and economic policy. Students who hope to pursue a career in economics will benefit most from this specialty. Classes may include:
- Introduction to Econometrics
- Philosophy of Science
- Probability and Decision Theory
Jobs for Professionals with an Undergraduate Degree in Philosophy
There aren’t many entry-level positions in philosophy itself, but there are many related jobs in other fields and industries that are well-suited for graduates of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program in philosophy.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Mean Annual Wage: $50,940
Job Growth Projection: 12% (Much Faster Than Average)
Careers as paralegals and legal assistants are popular choices for those with an associate’s degree in philosophy. These two-year degree programs provide students with an introduction to important ethical concepts that will serve them well in the legal environment. Students enrolled in an associate’s in philosophy program will also learn how to think critically, research effectively, and write clearly—important skills for legal assistants. On the job, paralegals will be charged with helping lawyers prepare for cases by gathering facts, conducting research, and writing briefs.
Marketing and Advertising Managers
Mean Annual Wage: $132,620
Job Growth Projection: 8% (Faster Than Average)
The unique skillset one gains from a philosophy degree program lends itself well to a career in marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising managers, in particular, must have above average verbal and written communication skills in order to lead team initiatives and provide feedback to group members. These professionals must also have excellent critical thinking skills since they are charged with evaluating the success of marketing and advertising campaigns and developing strategies for improvement.
Mean Annual Wage: $62,170
Job Projection: 0% (Little or No Change)
You may have heard it said that clear writing requires clear thinking. For philosophy majors, thinking clearly and logically is priority number one in order to make the grade. The curriculum for philosophy degrees requires that students take classes in basic logic and reasoning, and students routinely participate in debates that require a deep level of thought and analysis. All of this makes for great preparation for a career as a writer or author. Writers often work from home and make their own hours, so the career is a popular one. This means there is a lot of competition, so jobs may be difficult to find. The field can be lucrative though; the top ten percent of writers and authors in the United States earned over $120,000 per year in 2018.
Social and Community Service Managers
Mean Annual Wage: $65,320
Job Projection: 13% (Much Faster Than Average)
Philosophy majors study social issues in-depth, making them ideal candidates for positions as social and community service managers. In this role, graduates of philosophy degree programs will be charged with creating and overseeing initiatives to improve their local communities and social service programs. They must also rely on their excellent critical thinking skills to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives and plan for necessary changes and adjustments. The earning potential for this particular career can vary significantly depending on specific employment details; the lowest 10% of earners in this field earned around $40,000 in 2018 while the top 10% earned well over $100,000.
Careers for Those With a Graduate Degree in Philosophy
Students who hold graduate degrees in philosophy have even more career opportunities available to them. They may also have a competitive edge over job applicants with bachelor’s credentials in philosophy and have the potential to earn more, too.
College/University Philosophy Professor
Mean Annual Wage: $71,890
Job Projection: 10% (Faster Than Average)
Many individuals who study philosophy feel compelled to teach others about this fascinating academic discipline. Unless they plan to teach at a two-year community college, students with a desire to teach at the postsecondary level must earn their doctorate in philosophy. Clearly, this credential prepares students with the necessary knowledge of the field that they’ll need to pass on to their students in the classroom environment. Philosophy professors also need to keep abreast of any research findings and other developments in the field. Most are members of professional organizations and associations such as the American Association of Philosophy Teachers, for example.
Median Annual Wage: $117,570
Job Projection: 5% (As Fast As Average)
The field of politics covers many of the same topics that philosophy majors study in school, including morality, ethics, justice, and religion, for example. Thus, careers in political science are suitable for those with a graduate philosophy credential. The job duties of a political scientist include researching social issues, analyzing and evaluating public policy, and making projections regarding the economy and other social issues. Political scientists usually specialize in a specific sub-field of politics such as international relations, political theory, or national politics, for instance. A position as a political scientist is one of the most lucrative roles a philosophy major can pursue.
Mean Annual Wage: $104,340
Job Projection: 8% (Faster than Average)
Economics might not be the first field that comes to mind when you think of jobs for philosophy majors. Many of the skills taught in philosophy classes do apply to the duties of an economist, though. For example, economists must critically evaluate economic issues and reason logically to develop solutions to problems involving the economy. Advanced research and writing skills are also helpful since economists must routinely collect, analyze, and report on economic data.
Mean Annual Wage: $120,910
Job Projection: 6% (As Fast as Average)
Though it’s not the only path to a career as a lawyer or attorney, a degree in philosophy can help prepare students for the challenges they’ll face in this legal profession. A major in philosophy facilitates the development of sharp analytical skills—skills that will help attorneys inside and outside of the courtroom. As an added benefit, the philosophy curriculum acts as excellent preparation for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
Famous/Successful People Who Majored in Philosophy
If you think no one studies philosophy, you’re wrong. In fact, many celebrities and highly successful people have made philosophy their major. In this section, we’ll highlight some of these individuals.
Born September 21, 1957, Ethan Coen is an American filmmaker. Alongside his brother Joel Coen, Ethan has produced numerous noteworthy movies, including Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), No Country for Old Men (2007), and True Grit (2010). He earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1979 from Princeton University. His final paper for the program was entitled “Two Views of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy.”
Christopher Hardwick was born on November 23, 1971, in Louisville, Kentucky. Though he studied philosophy at UCLA, graduating from the university in 1993, he ultimately pursued a career as a media personality. Hardwick has enjoyed success as a stand-up comedian, talk show host, and game show host. Most notably, he has hosted talk shows on the popular AMC television network as well as a game show on Comedy Central.
Born in Los Angeles, California on April 9, 1967, Sam Harris holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California- Los Angeles. Harris is considered a working philosopher, though he is also a writer and podcast host. His first nonfiction work entitled The End of Faith (2004) stayed on The New York Times Best Seller list for more than eight weeks.
Herbert M. Allison
The late Herbert M. Allison was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 2, 1943. Earning his BA in Philosophy from Yale University in 1965, Allison went on to become a successful businessman, holding many positions at the investment banking company Merrill Lynch over the course of nearly 30 years. He also acted as President and CEO of Fannie Mae. Allison ended his career by serving in public office as the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability.
The late Ira Levin enjoyed a successful career as a novelist and playwright. Some of his most well-known books include A Kiss Before Dying (1953), Rosemary’s Baby (1967), and The Stepford Wives (1972). His famous play Deathtrap (1978) remains the longest-running comedy/thriller on Broadway. Born in New York City in 1929, Levin studied both English and philosophy at New York University as an undergraduate. He died in 2007.
Often referred to as the “father of modern linguistics,” Noam Chomsky was born in 1928 and received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. Though he’s most well-known for his work as a linguist, he’s also made significant contributions to the field of analytical philosophy. His work in both fields is a mainstay in university coursework in both English and Philosophy courses.
Frequently-Asked Questions About Careers in Philosophy
More excited than ever about pursuing a career in the enthralling field of philosophy? That’s great news! Before you dive in head first, though, be sure to arm yourself with the information you need to make the pursuit an enjoyable and rewarding one. To help in this endeavor, we’ve listed some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about philosophy careers.
Q: Are careers in philosophy lucrative?
A: They can be. Some of the positions we’ve discussed in this very article routinely yield six-figure salaries. Keep in mind, though, that your specific wage will depend on numerous factors, including your level of education, employer, and job title.
Q: Are careers in philosophy in demand?
A: Many of them are, so your chances of getting a job with a philosophy degree are good. It does depend on the specific role you’re planning to assume, though. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has detailed data involving job projections for certain career paths.
Q: What careers are there in philosophy?
A: This is the ultimate question! And the answer is promising. There are too many careers for philosophy majors to list because the field is just that versatile. Jobs are available in industries such as business, marketing, education, and even health care.
Q: Do I need a degree to work in philosophy?
A: Yes. The careers we discuss here are open to applicants with a minimum of an undergraduate degree in philosophy.
Q: What kind of philosophy degree do I need?
A: This depends on your academic interests and career goals. There are many different types of philosophy degrees available and even more concentrations and specialization options within each type. Once you enroll in a specific philosophy college or university, an advisor can help you determine which track is most suitable for you.
Q: Are dual degree options available in philosophy?
A: Yes! Many colleges and universities offer dual degrees in philosophy and a related field. Some of the most common of these degree plans include:
- Philosophy and Law
- Philosophy and Computer Science
- Philosophy and Data Science
- Philosophy and Health Care
- Philosophy and Theology
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