What Can I Do with a Philosophy Degree?

A recent article in the London Times rightly called philosophy the "ultimate 'transferable work skill'." No surprise, then, that Willamette philosophy majors are currently pursuing a wide variety of interests across diverse fields. Among recent graduates, for example, one has joined the diplomatic service, several have gone into high-tech, many practice law, one is a reporter with NPR, two have started a coffee roasting company, one works in a Washington, D.C., think tank, and many are earning, or have recently earned, graduate degrees (in philosophy, of course, but also education, religion, law, fine arts, physics, political science, and computer science). Few disciplines can boast of contributing to such diverse pursuits.

If you're majoring, or thinking of majoring, in philosophy and would like to start exploring career options, you might have a look at Employability: Where next? Unlocking the potential of your philosophy degree. This comprehensive document, produced by the UK Higher Education Committee, includes a market-oriented analysis of the skills honed by philosophy, a survey of needs among employers in various sectors, strategies for optimizing your pitch to potential employers, and instructive case studies. A bit of preparation now can go a long way toward easing your transition to a career later.

A philosophy degree and careful planning are no guarantee of future success, but philosophy majors might find some facts reassuring. As a group, philosophy majors gain employment on graduation at higher than average rates; rank highly in median mid-career salary; consistently score at or near the top on admissions tests like the LSAT and GMAT; earn entrance to medical school at a higher rate than all other majors, including chemistry and biology; and more generally enjoy a well-earned reputation for rigorous thinking. While the best reason to major in philosophy is because it interests you, that choice turns out to be an excellent career move, too.

For more information about philosophy and philosophy majors, including motivations and career prospects, click here.