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Major in Philosophy

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

“To render oneself able to understand what other Christian thinkers have themselves come to understand and to…felicitously communicate requires that one's mind not be a blank slate but already properly formed, disciplined, and exercised.”

 ~ Gregory B. Sadler

The term “philosophy” is derived from the Greek and literally means “love of wisdom.” Stemming back to ancient times and great minds like Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras, philosophy embodies a way of thinking about life that aims at the development of a person individually, and as a meaningful contributor to society.  Concerned with matters such as the existence of God and the soul, the nature of free will, reality, knowledge, reason, and value, philosophy as a college major, sometimes asks more questions than it answers.  It focuses on thinking, analyzing and communicating clearly and logically. These skills are wonderful preparation for any number of career options. If you are interested in grappling with the nature of truth and the meanings of life, law, language, art and morality, then a major of philosophy is the perfect fit for you!

Philosophy majors are often deeply reflective people, drawn to reason and critical thinking. They tend to be intellectual and enjoy debate, often possessing persuasive influence. In addition, it is desirable to have at least some level of the following skills and abilities:

  • Communication skills. Both verbal and written are necessary, as this major requires constant essay writing and group discussion. 
  • Interpersonal skills. Sometimes debates can become emotional and it is important to stay level headed and get along with fellow learners.
  • Research skills. This rigorous major delves into challenging reading and writing; the ability to dig deeper is a must.
  • Organization skills. Time management, independent work and the ability to stay on track are of utmost importance.

A philosophy degree is often seen as a foundational major and graduates can be found working in an extremely wide spectrum of fields including business, media, education, politics and publishing. While it is true that many students build upon a philosophy degree with ongoing education such as law school, it is important to keep in mind that employers are often more concerned with your competencies than the exact degree you obtain. Many brilliant minds have earned a philosophy degree and gone on to do incredible work in their public, private and non-profit sectors. Some examples of common career outcomes include:

  • Local government official/public service 
  • Paralegal
  • Newspaper journalist or technical writer
  • Research assistant 
  • Public relations agent
  • Tech support specialist
  • Assistant manager

Studies show that philosophy majors perform better on average than their peers in exams for law, medicine and other graduate studies, presumably because so many crucial, transferable skills in analysis, critical thinking and writing have been developed.  Here are some of the expected classes that will help enhance your learning:

  • Logic/reasoning
  • Ethics
  • Epistemology
  • Metaphysics  
  • Political theory

Maybe you’re naturally wired to ask questions others take for granted or will not ponder. The world needs deep, well-trained thinkers who will help guide us to understand the universe and our place in it. If this resonates with you then a philosophy major may be the next right step!

 

 

 

 

              

A future in Philosophy

By Jennifer Bailey

There is no consensus, even among professional philosophers, on the correct answers to most of the basic questions of philosophy, such as what makes some actions morally right and others wrong? What does free will mean? What is reality ultimately made of? Can the legitimacy of the authority of the government be established and, if so, how? Is math something man discovered or something we invented?

Majoring in philosophy will help to teach you how to articulate your own views clearly and precisely, gain understanding in the arguments for alternative views as graciously as you can and critically evaluate cases for and against a range of possible views. These are skills that will serve you well in any intellectual problem you might encounter.

Having studied these things, you might not know for certain what the answer to any particular basic philosophical question is, but you will be able to make your mind up about what you think from a position of what the known strengths and weaknesses are. This gives you freedom to responsibly decide for yourself what to think.

What are you going to do with that?

There are not many specific careers that a bachelor’s degree in philosophy will give you specific training for; however, there are many different kinds of careers that philosophy majors go into after receiving their bachelor’s degrees.

After graduation, philosophy majors go to law school, to medical school, to business school, to seminary and to graduate school in a range of fields from art business to education to philosophy. They may go to work for business consulting firms and for humanitarian non-government organizations; they become professors; they take jobs as technical writers, web designers and more.

If you are thinking along these lines, you will find it interesting to know that law schools know that philosophy is one of the best pre-law majors. Pre-med majors, who major in philosophy, tend to score higher on pre-med tests too.

As a real world example of how this degree would benefit a business career, it is worth noting that a philosophy degree takes real world issues and complex and poorly defined problems and clarifies them until they can be solved. This is just what most real-world business problems are like. There is no specific science that can help you answer a question like, "How can we improve our perception among customers?" The question alone is quite vague. A philosopher will ask, what do we mean by "improve"? How might we measure that? And what is a customer? And, why do we want them? Being able to think and analyze a problem in this way is very beneficial.

Again, some of the most critical skills desired for so many careers are the ability to think critically, write clearly and handle ambiguity. Being able to handle ambiguity is perhaps the most important skill for leaders. There is no other degree that improves critical thinking, focuses on writing for analytical clarity and teaches the ability to handle ambiguity as well as a major in philosophy.

Lastly, as a group, philosophy majors gain employment on graduation at higher than average rates, 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 among employers for clear and 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 as well.