Many people think of philosophy as irrelevant or impractical, but it is actually one of the best routes to a successful and rewarding career. One reason is that employers are looking for individuals with a broad range of knowledge and skills, including the abilities to think critically, to communicate effectively, and to analyze complex problems. In fact, a recent study by The Association Of American Colleges And Universities found that these abilities were among the top priorities for most potential employers.
With its emphasis on critical thinking and reasoned dialogue, philosophy does an excellent job at developing exactly these skills. In fact, studies consistently show that philosophy majors do better than anyone else when it comes to verbal reasoning and analytic skills. This is based, in part, on their average scores on the Graduate Record Exam.
If employers are looking for people who are good at reasoning and communicating, and if philosophers excel in these areas, then one would expect philosophers to be successful on the job market. That is exactly what we find. For example, a recent study by the Wall Street Journal found that the average mid-career salaries of philosophy majors compare well with those of many other majors.
In fact, the study found that philosophy majors see the sharpest increase of all majors from starting to mid-career salary.
“Fine,” you might be thinking. “But what, exactly, do philosophy majors do? What job will I get if I major in philosophy?”
Well, we could tell you that philosophers have some of the highest scores on admission tests for management school, or that philosophers have the highest scores on admissions tests for law school, or that philosophers have the highest acceptance rates at medical schools. We could tell you that many philosophy students find successful careers in finance, technology, and politics. Or we could point you to a list of famous philosophy majors who have excelled in various other fields.
But the truth is that there is no simple answer to the career question. We don’t know what you will do with your philosophy degree, since that will depend on your particular interests, values, and circumstances. What we do know is that the study of philosophy will make you a better thinker, writer, and communicator, and these skills will help you to succeed in whatever career path you choose.*
*We would also point out that the career question isn't the only question to ask when considering a major in philosophy. For further considerations, we recommend Bertrand Russell's excellent essay on The Value of Philosophy.