So, you’ve taken a course about whether you have free will and what it means to be a sandwich—a philosophy class in other words—and now you’re wondering what possible reasons there might be to make this your major. Sure, it’s fun to talk about whether chairs really exist, but you want to get a job when you graduate. Maybe you’ve also heard the stereotype that you’ll be working at a coffee shop when you graduate or asking whether people want fries with that. Well, we’re here to tell you that not only is philosophy a worthwhile subject in itself, but it’s also something you already do, it is also practical and financially rewarding.
It is worthwhile on its own
The Greek philosopher Aristotle noted that people take delight in knowing things just for the fun of it. Consider the desire to know trivial facts about the things that interest us; they won’t earn us any money, but it’s just fun to know them. This is reason enough to follow the course of study that interests you. Do you like learning about history? Study history. Do you like learning about frogs? Study biology. Do you like thinking about thinking? Study philosophy.
Philosophy is already a part of your life
You’ve probably heard that philosophy studies the big questions such as: Why is there something rather than nothing? What makes a life worthwhile? and What is the best kind of government? and so forth. Perhaps you’ll be surprised to learn that such questions are not intellectual indulgences for dinner party conversation. On the contrary, they’re practically inescapable. They’re hidden in the ordinary questions that we confront in everyday life. Think of what you’re reading right now: this is a set of reasons meant to show the value of studying philosophy, an argument, in other words. To evaluate whether this is persuasive you have to do some philosophical reasoning. You need to ask whether the reasons are true and whether they logically imply the conclusion (that you should study philosophy). What’s astounding is that you’re in this predicament whenever you evaluate reasons to do or think something, which is to say, all of the time.
Philosophy trains you in crucial analytical and writing skills that many fields use
These are skills that won’t expire, even as technology and job markets change. That’s because philosophy teaches you how to think, not what to think. You’ll learn how to read difficult texts, logically analyze what other people say, and work your way through complicated ethical, scientific, economic, interpersonal, and political issues. By the time you graduate, you’ll be a pro at articulating your own thoughts and opinions in a clear and persuasive manner, and respectfully engaging in debate and conversation, even about contentious issues. Those are skills that employers say are much needed in the current workforce, that won’t be automated away anytime soon, and that are vital for a flourishing society. Philosophy teaches you what Google can’t.
Philosophy helps you find a job
Yes, you might think, that sounds nice, but will philosophy actually help me get a job when I graduate? Aren’t I better off with a more ‘practical’ or ‘applied’ degree? The fact is that only a few majors train you for a specific job, and if you ever want to switch jobs, you’ll likely have to get more training down the road. For many jobs, the fact that you have a college degree is more important than what you majored in. So, one of the questions you should ask yourself when picking a major is, “What specific skills are you learning in that major?” Philosophy will train you in lots of highly valued, hard-to-come-by skills. Here’s how those skills translate into the job market and various fields:
Philosophy will give you a leg up in the job hunt itself
Remember all those foundational skills mentioned above, like articulating complex ideas in a clear and persuasive manner? That’s a lot of what goes into the job market process. The ability to summarize an idea concisely will help you when writing your resume. The ability to speak clearly and respectfully about your own point of view will help you when you interview. And the ability to analyze unfamiliar jargon and read between the lines in complicated texts will help you decode job ads and company mission statements.
Philosophy is excellent preparation for law school
Law is basically applied philosophy. Philosophy majors tend to score very high on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). NEIU's Philosophy program has sent scores of students to law school. We've been nearly 100 percent successful in admissions and our students have attended law school at Harvard University, University of Michigan, Indiana University, Marquette University, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, UIC College of Law, Loyola University Law School, and DePaul, among many others. Your philosophy degree will also help you once you’re in law school, where you’ll have to read a lot of dense, jargon-filled texts, articulate persuasive arguments, respond to logical objections, and think about how the history of legal ideas and theories have influenced what people claim about law and government today.
Philosophical training is an asset in the business world
Interestingly, many people who get MBAs don’t major in business. To succeed in the business world, you have to know about more than ‘just’ business. The skills that are important for business school, and the business world, sound a lot like what you’ll learn in philosophy: “communication [...] combined with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.” Furthermore, if you’re interested in becoming an entrepreneur, philosophy is a great fit, since it’s one of the best majors for honing your ability to think outside the box, creatively problem solve, and think about issues from multiple perspectives. Lastly, philosophy majors are one of the top five performers on the GMATs, right up there with majors in physics, mathematics, and engineering.
Philosophy is important for studying and practicing medicine
To practice medicine you’ll need more than just philosophy, but as long as you maintain a high GPA and can study for the MCAT, medical school is open to a wide array of majors. So having a major that both challenges and excites you is a good way to prepare for medical school. Liberal arts programs like NEIU’s philosophy program can even help boost a student's profile when applying to medical school. Beyond that, studying ethics (including our medical ethics class!) can play important roles in practicing medicine.
Philosophy is a natural partner of education, administration and management
If you go into education, administration or management, you’re going to spend a lot of time thinking about how other people think, and how best to communicate with, motivate and dialog with other people. For instance, managers need to be able to create a compelling presentation to support your goals and get buy-in for ideas, demonstrate emotional intelligence, approach problem solving logically, research options, avoid biases and focus on meaningful data, and develop clearer and core effective thinking. Those are all things that you will do in your philosophy classes.
Philosophical thinking is great for journalism, public policy, non-profits and politics
Journalists and people who work on public policy need to have good non-specialized research skills, know how to talk carefully about contentious issues, know how to write clearly and persuasively, and know how to thoughtfully question and investigate what they read. Those are all skills you’ll learn in your philosophy classes! And if you’re interested in community organizing, philosophy can provide you with a foundation for thinking about what the goals of organizing should be, what are various theories of human nature and human cooperation, and how you can better appeal to people’s motives and build coalitions from groups that disagree on issues. Politicians also find philosophy helpful for figuring out how to frame a problem.
Philosophy pairs well with work in counseling, therapy, social work and mediation
Although a lot of people think about philosophy as dealing with abstract issues that are divorced from actual people and their everyday lives, philosophy at NEIU takes seriously the interpersonal dimensions of reasoning, reflection, problem-solving, and communication. As it turns out, the kind of thinking that counselors and therapists do is philosophical. Similarly, a lot of philosophical questions and theories undergird social work, relating to what we owe to other people, how to best help and empower other people, and what meaningful interpersonal connections and quality of life look like.
Philosophy is relevant to STEM fields, especially for theoretical thinking and problem-solving
If you are currently majoring in a STEM field, double-majoring in philosophy can provide excellent synergy for your research and theoretical skills. Not only can you take our Philosophy of Science class, but classes on metaphysics and epistemology provide a great foundation for scientific thinking. In fact, in previous generations, some of the most well-regarded scientists (like Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and Isaac Newton) all engaged in philosophical thinking. In fact, the practices that we now called “science” used to be called “natural philosophy.” The connection between philosophy and science still exists, and it remains important. Lastly, various technology fields are discovering that philosophy majors have the kind of logical analysis skills that they need, for dealing with data and algorithms.
Philosophy has a long tradition of dialogue with religious study and ministry
Some might wonder if philosophy is hostile towards religion. While some individual philosophers are skeptical of, or even disparaging towards matters of faith, the history of philosophy in many cultures is intertwined with religious study and ministry. For millennia philosophical thinkers have discussed questions about how to live a good life, what we owe to others, what it means to have faith, and how a theology holds together as a system of thoughts. Many people have found that studying philosophy leads to a better understanding of, and more nuanced relationship with their faith, which is especially helpful if they are pursuing a career in religious ministry.
What if I already have a major that I like?
Then consider double-majoring or minoring in philosophy! Each major at NEIU teaches a valuable skill set, so philosophy is an excellent pairing with almost any other major. It will reinforce the critical thinking, writing, and communication skills you’ll use in your other major.
But seriously, which industries do philosophy majors actually tend to go into?
Some philosophy departments report a wide range of careers for their graduates: law, business, government, education, medicine, information technology, publishing, and religion.
How much money do philosophy majors make?
Truth be told, no one has a perfect sense of how choice of major ultimately affects income partly of because it depends what you’re asking about: income right after graduation, income for people who don’t get further training or education, or income over a lifetime (when we know lots of people will probably change jobs and career fields over the course of their life)? Also, it’s unclear how much ‘work’ choice of major is doing, and how much is socioeconomic status dressed up as choice of major. As it currently stands, some reports suggest that philosophy majors tend to earn less than other college graduates, whereas other reports question those findings or suggest the opposite. At the end of the day, you have numerous options for how to sell your labor. Think about what you want your job or career to do for you, and what sorts of skills and experience you want to accrue along the way, as part of your working life, or in addition to your working life.
Interested in learning more?
Questions? Email us at email@example.com or call us at (773) 442-5795. If you find yourself loving philosophy, or intrigued by what we’re studying in class, philosophy can play a role in your college career. As you can see, despite what some say, a philosophy degree is far from useless, and it’s not an impractical luxury that only the wealthy can afford. It’s a solid long-term investment in one of your most important assets: your mind.