Benefits of studying philosophy

Philosophy majors get to take on some of the biggest questions that have ever been asked, and learn how to evaluate them using rigorous arguments.  The study of philosophy exposes students to great debates on deep and important questions, and teaches critical thinking skills that last a lifetime.  But this isn’t the only reason to study philosophy.  Philosophy majors are very successful after college, whether they choose to pursue advanced studies or move directly into their careers.  A few majors continue to study philosophy in graduate school, and go on to become philosophy professors.  But most study philosophy as a way of broadening their intellectual horizons before pursuing a career in another field.  Recent philosophy majors from Union College have gone on to careers in law, finance, publishing, education, medicine, public policy, and more.  (Read more.)

Data from many sources shows that philosophy majors who pursue careers outside of philosophy meet with success.  Many argue that the demonstrated successes of philosophy majors is due to the training they receive in their studies.  Philosophy majors learn how to think clearly and creatively about difficult, abstract problems, and the critical thinking skills they develop undoubtedly serve them in the fields of their choice after graduation.  The success of philosophy majors might also be due in part to intellectually curious and talented students choosing to study philosophy in the first place.  But whatever the explanation, this much is clear:  philosophy majors do well after graduation in a wide range of fields.

Philosophy major salaries (bachelor’s degree only)

According to recent data reported by the Wall Street Journal, philosophy majors as a group earn higher mid-career salaries than majors in any other humanities discipline for which data is available.  In contrast to the stereotype of philosophy as an impractical major, philosophy majors have higher median salaries than majors in more vocationally-oriented fields like business management, marketing, accounting, and nursing, as well as popular social and natural science fields like psychology, chemistry, political science, biology, history, sociology, and anthropology.

These data concern philosophy majors who enter the working world immediately after completing a bachelor’s degree.  Many philosophy majors decide instead to pursue additional education first—and they meet with remarkable results.

Philosophy and graduate school

Philosophy majors are consistently among the highest scorers on the GRE, and do well in admissions to graduate school.

philosophy gre

Philosophy and law school

In the most recently available data (from 1999), Philosophy majors outperform other popular majors like political science, history, English, and psychology in law school admissions.  This might in part be due in part to philosophy majors’ stellar scores on the LSAT, on which they tied with Economics majors as the highest-scoring students from any common pre-law disciplines.

Philosophy and business school

Philosophy majors are among the highest scoring majors on the GMAT, outperforming even business and economics majors.   Many prominent business people hold degrees in philosophy, including Sheila BairEva ChenSir Ronald CohenCarly FiorinaGerald Levin, and George Soros.  (See here and here for more.)

Philosophy and medical school

It is essential for philosophy majors who wish to pursue a medical career to prepare themselves with the appropriate non-philosophy courses.  But if they do, they can rest assured that philosophy majors as a group have a higher rate of admission to medical school than majors in any other discipline, including more traditional pre-med majors like biology.

Additional information

A central repository for further general information on majoring in philosophy can be found here.

A list of famous or highly successful philosophy majors can be found here.

Additional articles on majoring in philosophy can be found at the following links: