Theodor Adorno
Theodor Adorno

Career Pathways for Philosophy Students

Studying philosophy prepares students for success in a variety of careers. Philosophy majors have gone on to further study or careers in law, government, medicine, education, administration, business, social work, public service, the military, public relations, library work, publishing, and systems analysis. Because philosophy is so useful in developing analytic powers and a capacity for clear and critical thinking, it is excellent background for any job that requires problem-solving or decision-making. Because it makes a person sensitive to questions of value and competent to deal intelligently with them, it is excellent training for anyone responsible for personal or group relations or who has to deal with issues in the social or political arena.

The vocational value of a field of study goes beyond its contribution to obtaining one's first job after graduation. You want to think not only about getting your first job but developing your potential for success and advancement once hired. Recent studies show employers want, and reward, many of the capacities which the study of philosophy develops: the ability to solve problems, to communicate, to organize ideas and issues, to assess pros and cons, and to understand complex data. These are skills transferable from philosophy to other areas. People trained in philosophy are not only prepared to do many kinds of tasks; they can also cope with change, or even move into new careers, more readily than many others.

Philosophy majors have mid-career salaries similar to political science majors and higher than most majors in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

According to the 2012-2013 payscale.com report on salary potential, while Philosophy majors might start out with a slightly lower salaries than Business majors, by mid-career salaries of Philosophy majors on average caught up to and surpassed those of Business majors.

Chart showing the average mid-career salary by major (data collected from the 2013 college salary report at payscale.com)- Computer Science = $100,000, International Relations = $93,000, Finance = $85,400, Political Science = $72,600, Philosophy (highlighted red) = $72,600, Biology = $72,200, Nursing = $70,200, Business = $70,000, Communications = $68,500, English = $65,500, Psychology = $60,200, Education = $55,000, Paralegal/Law = $ 52,100, Music = $51,100, Social Work = $45,300

Philosophy as Preparation for Graduate Study

Philosophy is also excellent preparation for graduate school, law school, medical school, and business school. Compared to the performance of students in other majors, the data confirm that philosophy students are especially well-prepared for standardized tests such as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, and GMAT and do exceptionally well on them.  See, for instance, this Physics Central article on "Best Majors for GRE Scores: Still Physics and Philosophy."

According to Physics Central (29 July 29 2013), "Best Majors for GRE Scores in 2013: Philosophy Dominates," Philosophy majors had the highest GRE scores in the Verbal Section and in Analytic Writing. They were also in the top 5 for the Quantative Section.

The Power of Philosophy- GRE scores by intended graduate major, 2011-12-- Verbal (average score out of 170): Philosophy (highlighted) = 160, English = 157, Political Science = 156, Physics = 156, Economics = 154, Biology = 153, Chemistry = 153, Psychology = 152, Education = 151, Communications = 151, Business = 150, Computer Science = 149-- Quantitative (average score out of 170): Physics = 161, Economics = 159, Computer Science = 158, Chemistry = 157, Philosophy (highlighted) = 153, Biology = 153, Business = 152, Political Science = 151, English = 148, Education = 148, Psychology = 148, Communications = 147-- Analytical Writing (average score out of 6): Philosphy = 4.4, English = 4.3, Political Science = 4.2, Physica = 4.0, Psychology = 4.0, Economics = 4.0, Biology = 3.9, Chemistry = 3.9, Education = 3.9, Communications = 3.9, Business = 3.7, Computer Science = 3.4Image: Katrina Sifferd, On the Benefits of a Philosophy Major

In a study of GMAT (the exam you must take to pursue an MBA) scores 1994-1999, Philosophy majors scored 9.6% above the mean and higher than the mean scores for all business majors!

A number of studies of LSAT (law school) scores find Philosophy among the highest scoring majors -- higher than Political Science (see, for example, this recent study). If you're interested in learning more about philosophy and law school, please check out our pre-law page or contact our pre-law advisor. If you're planning on going to law school but don't want to major in philosophy, we'd still recommend that you take informal or formal reasoning (PHL 263 and 273, respectively). Either class may help you do better on the LSAT.

Philosophy majors (having taken appropriate science classes) scored higher on the MCAT (med school) than all other humanities majors.