What can you do with a major in philosophy?

The study of philosophy helps students attain critical thinking, argument, communication, and management skills, therefore, students will be able to choose from a variety of careers after graduation.  The ability to understand difficult material and to think and write clearly and logically is deeply valued by employers.  Students graduating in philosophy often find employment in the areas of teaching, civil service, politics, or public service.  Another option is to continue to a graduate degree in business, journalism, philosophy, religion, sociology, or art.  Others enroll in law or medical school.

Philosophy fosters creative and critical thinking and helps one to understand human thought through  the ages.  Philosophical study involves an attempt to analyze, interpret, and logically explain what humans believe, value and do.  Its is considered a branch of the language arts which is concerned primarily with forms of expression that lead to truth and validating sound arguments rather than aesthetic expression or entertainment.

The list of career possibilities available to you as a philosophy major depend on the competencies and skills you acquire through your academic work and extracurricular activities.  With a philosophy major your career options are as open as you allow them to be. 

Potential Careers

Government

  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Peace Corps/VISTA Volunteer
  • FBI/CIA Agent
  • Diplomat
  • Politician
  • Lobbyist

    Considerations: Foreign language skills are valuable or required for some of these positions.  You gain excellent experience in the government field by finding an internship related to your interests.

Business and Industry

  • Consultant
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Banker
  • Research Assistant
  • Sales Representative

    Considerations: A business minor may be helpful, but sometimes relevant experience is more beneficial.

Communications

  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Journalist
  • Editor
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • Publisher
  • Copy Editor
  • Technical Writer

    Considerations: A writing minor can increase your desirability for potential employers, as would journalism and/or communications-related work or internships.

Graduate School and Professional Education

  • Philosophy
  • Law
  • Journalism
  • Education
  • Literature
  • Languages

    Consideration: Remember to take any necessary exams early, it can take six weeks for results to be sent to the schools to which you applied.  Foreign language competency, sometimes in two languages, is required in many graduate programs.

Skills and Comptetencies

A philosophy major is a rather broad, humanistic degree that can prepare you for a variety of career possibilities.  It is, however, up to you to master the skills and competencies needed for a given career field.  You may gain a number of skills through extra-curricular activities or even through a job or internship, but your academic course work may prove most beneficial.  Like many liberal arts majors, a philosophy degree emphasizes communication, critical thinking, reading, and writing, and therefore gives you the opportunity to master many skills.  It is unique in placing primary emphasis on mastering the formal thinking skills needed for evaluating truth, the structure of arguments, and the coherence of theories.

Communication skills - both oral and written - are absolutely necessary in any career field today, and will also be fine-tuned through your philosophy course work and class activities.  Reading skills are developed through analyzing and interpreting philosophical texts and materials.  You will definitely need to become a critical and thorough reader in this discipline.  Research skills are also developed in philosophy, as is critical thinking and the ability to develop a meta-level perspective that can help one make sense of diverse theories encountered in this world of value pluralism.  What makes philosophy - as well as other liberal arts majors - such a flexible degree is that these very skills are required and in demand in a variety of career fields, from business to teaching to government to law.  Gaining practical experience in a field of interest will help your job prospects after graduation.

Career Development Strategies

You must begin the resume-building process as soon as you can; don't wait until you are a junior or senior to begin considering what your post-graduation plans are.  The more hands-on experience you have in a certain field, the better the chances are that you will find a job.  If you are interested in writing, The North Wind, NMU's student newspaper, is an excellent place to begin collecting a portfolio of published clips.  Internships, locally and nationwide, are also available.  Studying overseas is also a marvelous opportunity, and NMU can help you explore your options.  The Academic Career Advisement Center can provide you with career planning help, while the JOBSearch Center will help you fine-tune your resume.