At the heart of a liberal arts education is the belief that college should prepare one to live a fuller, more examined, and more deliberate life, rather than simply prepare one for a job. The goal of education is not just to prepare students to be good workers but also to prompt them to ask about the value and meaning of work in their lives. From this perspective, a philosophy major can be seen as good preparation for life, not just for a career. Philosophy majors choose philosophy because they enjoy it and find it enriching. Nonetheless, majoring in philosophy does not necessarily entail a life of poverty and working in coffee shops. The choice between studying something you enjoy and studying something “practical” is a false dilemma.
Good employers care more about how potential employees learn and think rather than what they already know. Your future job probably will not require technical knowledge of Kant, but that is true of almost all majors. Most professions require specific knowledge acquired on the job and interesting jobs require one to continually learn new things, not rely on what was learned in college. Students of philosophy develop critical thinking and learning skills essential to most careers: the ability to construct good arguments, to analyze concepts and draw out their consequences, to find and evaluate hidden assumptions. Philosophy majors learn to convey these abilities effectively in writing and in discussion. They learn to read difficult texts and to see questions and answers from a variety of perspectives. These abilities are prized by good employers and philosophy majors are hired even in such fields as banking, consulting, and marketing. Other careers for which philosophy provides particularly good training are law, teaching, journalism, publishing, and public policy. A philosophy major (or minor) in addition to a more technical major can make one particularly attractive on the job market.
Many philosophy majors continue on to graduate or professional school. Some study philosophy in graduate school so that they can teach and study it as a career. Others go on to law school. The skills required for a career in law are the same as those required by the study of philosophy, and philosophy majors usually score higher on the LSAT exam (for law school) than other common pre-law majors. Philosophy majors are also among the highest scorers on the GMAT exam (for business school) and the GRE exam (for graduate schools). Not many philosophy majors go on to medical school, but when they do, they are accepted at a higher rate than biology majors.
Students graduating with a philosophy major have many career options, but these take some thought and creativity to find and pursue. A few classes or an internship in a more technical field can be quite helpful. You should visit DePaul’s Career Center sometime well before you graduate. They can help you become more aware of your options and suggest steps towards getting the kind of job you want. The Career Center can also help those considering graduate and professional schools, as can your professors in the department.
Here are some helpful resources, at DePaul and elsewhere:
- DePaul University’s Career Center
- Pre-Law Study at DePaul University
- Fordham University’s “Careers and Philosophy”
- University of Florida’s “Philosophy Major’s Career Handbook”
- UC Berkeley's "For the love of wisdom, philosophy majors grow in number at UC Berkeley"