Career Pathways for Philosophy Students

Kwame Anthony Appiah
Kwame Anthony Appiah
 Hypatia
Hypatia
Julia Kristeva
Julia Kristeva
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Cornel West
Cornel West
The Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David
The Death of Socrates (1787), Jacques-Louis David
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
Sartre / Deleuze / Foucault
Sartre / Deleuze / Foucault
The School of Athens (abt. 1511), Raphael
The School of Athens (abt. 1511), Raphael
Nietzsche / Heidegger / Derrida
Nietzsche / Heidegger / Derrida
The Two Philosophers, Joan Miro
The Two Philosophers (1936), Joan Miró
Edmund Husserl
Edmund Husserl
G. W. F. Hegel
G. W. F. Hegel
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Rene Descartes
René Descartes
Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze
The Delights of the Poet, Giorgio de Chirico
The Delights of the Poet (1912), Giorgio de Chirico
Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt
Theodor Adorno
Theodor Adorno

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 visualcapitalist.com, while Philosophy majors might start out with slightly lower salaries than Business majors, by mid-career salaries of Philosophy majors on average caught up to and surpassed those of Business majors.

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 confirms 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 Daily Nous (2015-2018), those who intended to major in philosophy has the Highest Average Number of Standard Deviations Above the Mean for the Three Sections of the GRE.

GRE Three Sections

Image: Tomas Bogardus: Daily Nous

Chart outline

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 = 3.4

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.