Philosophers consider the big picture and the minutiae of the human experience – where do we come from? What is the purpose of life? What kinds of fallacies and arguments can be made about scenarios within various aspects of society – church, government, medical care, and legal processes? Philosophy majors grapple with these issues on a daily basis, applying various philosophical schools of thought to these situations to explore issues from multiple angles. And as philosophy majors, students will be expected to collaborate across disciplines with some regularity.
Philosophy undergraduates will usually start out with courses that cover the fundamental schools of thought proposed by philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, and Hegel. These starting courses might apply classical theory to modern-day moral issues. Students will delve into logical systems, exploring concepts like quantifiable and propositional logic. Higher-level courses are dedicated to specific schools of thought, going in-depth with single philosophers or pivotal time periods, such as entire classes dedicate to modern philosophers or to the work of Kant. At the graduate level, scholars can branch off into a number of specializations, tying their studies in with disciplines like history, science, medicine, law and cultural studies.
Philosophy isn’t just the study of historical systems of thought. Many schools offer specialization options that allow students to dive into various cultural modes of philosophical thought, including Asian philosophy, Ancient Greek philosophy, and African philosophy. Philosophy can also be a gateway into further theological studies, allowing students to explore Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, or Judaism in great detail.
Other colleges will take an interdisciplinary approach to specialization, allowing scholars to apply their knowledge to ethics in robotics, legal systems, hospitals, and places of worship. Generally, bachelor’s degree students can explore a specialization during their last two years within a program, and graduate students are typically expected to choose a specialization as they continue their work in philosophy.
Prospective philosophy majors can explore degree types ranging from the associate to Ph.D. level. These options will vary in length, cost, and open new career possibilities for graduates.
This degree generally takes two years to complete, and will provide students with an introductory look at the different schools of thought within Western philosophy. Students at this level aren’t likely to dive into any particular system in-depth. However, these initial credits can usually be applied to a bachelor’s philosophy program. Most entry-level jobs for philosophy majors require a higher degree than an associate’s degree.
A four-year philosophy program gives students enough time to cover the fundamental schools of Western philosophical thought and then choose a specialty to focus on. People who complete this degree type will qualify for several entry-level opportunities in newsrooms, publishing houses, political campaign offices, marketing departments, and religious organizations. All industries that require employees to have a strong sense of ethical direction.
Philosophy students at the graduate level get to examine schools of thought as they pertain to specific fields, such as law, feminist theory, cultural studies, or religion. Master’s students might find themselves working in interdisciplinary settings, such as consulting with doctors on ethical courses of action, or lawyers on the direction of a case or the state of the legal system as a whole. Graduates might consider work as lawyers, ministers, or high school or even adjunct college instructors. Those who wish to teach philosophical theory full time at the collegiate level can continue into the Ph.D. program to become a professor.
Student who pursue philosophy at the highest level gain some degree of mastery in philosophical logic and epistemologies. Ph.D. students are often required to choose a main specialization for the topic of their dissertation, and they will often combine their research with a teaching schedule. Ph.D. philosophy graduates usually pursue full-time careers as faculty members of a college or university, but they also qualify for administrative positions in think tanks or schools, or even consultants work in the business, legal, or medical spheres.
Philosophy students should explore membership within national honors societies, such as Phi Sigma Tau . These organizations can help students keep track of current field developments, network professionally, and earn funding through scholarship opportunities.
Ideal Candidates for Philosophy
Philosophy is a very challenging field of study, which emphasizes critical thinking skills and patience. It will take some time for students to become acquainted with fundamental philosophical theories, and they will need to be patient while working past assumptions and difficult logical theories.
Remember the Socratic method, and the consequential death of Socrates? Philosophers today face significantly less risk when it comes to asking questions – in fact, they are encouraged to be tenacious in their modes of inquiry. Many philosophical issues can only be address by asking questions, detecting fallacies, and analyzing humanity’s assumptions. Inquisitive minds can find success in philosophy because these individuals will find value in uncovering new ideas and logical problems, both big and small.
Philosophy majors can find work across multiple disciplines, applying their logical and ethical expertise within government, health, business, IT, and science organizations. A degree in philosophy can prepare students for the LSAT, so that they can continue their education within law.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earn a median pay of $113,530 a year, or $54.58 an hour. Philosophy students who wish to become lawyers will generally need three more years of legal study after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. After these educational requirements are complete, graduates must pass the bar exam before they can begin work as a lawyer.
Philosophy majors that earn a graduate degree can look into postsecondary instruction . These professionals earn an average of $71,210 a year, with the majority of instructors employed as faculty members at universities and other academic institutions. Philosophy graduates can also explore academic administration roles, which come with a median pay of $86,490 a year or $41.58 an hour.
Philosophy majors who decide to pursue careers with religious organizations earn an average of $47,880 annually, or about $23.02 an hour. Clergy members can be found in a variety of environments, such as hospitals, places of worship, nursing homes, and within the military.
Anyone looking to enter a philosophy degree program should take some time to contact faculty members and admissions officers, to make sure that their chosen school is a good fit. Students can then get philosophy career advice from honors society chapters, faculty guilds, and on campus advisors once they begin their academic journey.