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Value of Philosophy Degree

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Value of the Philosophy Degree

Do philosophers sit around all day drinking coffee and prattling on about dead guys? What can one do with a philosophy degree?

Philosophers get a bad rap sometimes, but a degree in philosophy is far from useless. The Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy is an excellent preparation for professional graduate programs in business, medicine, and law, and for graduate programs in philosophy. It is also ideal as a second major in conjunction with physics, psychology, economics, political science, or literature. But perhaps most importantly, the philosophy major fosters a sense of wonder and provides a rigorous intellectual method for gaining an understanding of oneself and the world. By learning about the heritage of philosophical examination, students acquire an informed basis for arriving at their own conclusions about their most fundamental beliefs and values. Philosophy encourages students to become critical thinkers—to reason clearly and correctly concerning significant issues.

Preparation for Graduate School

Philosophy is a highly interdisciplinary area of human inquiry that challenges assumptions, develops argumentative skills, and strengthens beliefs through questioning. The study of philosophy as a second major or a minor along with the study of literature, art, or a theoretical field such as physics, psychology, history, economics, or political science is excellent preparation for graduate work in those fields, deepening and broadening one's understanding of a subject area. Philosophy requires the same kind of careful, reflective thought one encounters in graduate school and in research.

Click on the tabs below to read more about how philosophy prepares you for specific graduate programs:

Business students will find the study of philosophy helpful for their interests. Managers must often develop and defend their proposals, which requires skill in critical thinking as well as clear and precise writing. In addition, managers are often required to make decisions that require ethical judgment and sensitivity to diverse people and cultures. All these skills, and more, are acquired through the study of philosophy.

The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is taken for admission to graduate studies in business. According to a 2015 study, philosophy majors who took the GMAT outscored majors in all disciplines of business. Only physics, math and engineering majors scored higher.

Graph of Mean GMAT Scores by Major. From top to bottom: Physics, Mathematics, Engineering, Philosophy, Economics, Computing Science, Chemistry, History, Government, Biology Sciences, Languages, Political Science, English, Finance, Anthropology, Art History, Architecture, Psychology, Medicine/Nursing, International Business, Accounting, Journalism, Sociology, Hotel Administration, Business Education, Fine Arts, Management, Agriculture, Marketing, Education, Statistics. Data @2014, Profile of Mean GMAT Candidates, 2007-2012. Chart @2015,

The study of philosophy will not substitute for business courses. But it makes for a good secondary discipline by equipping the mind to think critically and to reason broadly and deeply.

Students who are studying for a business degree are recommended to take one or more of the following courses:

  • Ethical Theory
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Ethics in Business
  • Epistemology
  • Philosophy of the Social Sciences

The study of philosophy assists those who wish to enter the medical fields. Medical school admission records indicate that undergraduate philosophy majors who apply to medical schools are more likely to be admitted than all but 3 of the 35 fields represented. On average, humanities majors outscore biological sciences majors on all sections of the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).

The study of philosophy will not substitute for science courses. But it makes for a good secondary discipline by equipping the mind to think critically and to reason broadly and deeply.

Students who are pre-med or studying for medicine-related professions are recommended to take one or more of the following courses:

  • Ethical Theory
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Epistemology
  • Philosophy of the Social Sciences
  • Philosophy of Science

The skills and habits of reasoning required in the study and practice of law are more similar to those skills and habits used in philosophy than to those used in any other single disciple. Some of these are:

  • careful, critical reading of texts
  • analysis of arguments
  • construction of arguments
  • refutation of arguments
  • gathering of evidence
  • precise and clear writing
  • understanding of ethical principles

The LSAT places emphasis on correct reasoning. Courses in logic and critical thinking are especially recommended for students who are interested in pursuing a career in law. But every philosophy course will help in the improvement of reasoning skills. Philosophy majors are routinely among the very top scorers on the LSAT.

The study of philosophy will promote one's understanding of the nature of law, of government, and of the theories behind ethical and legal reasoning.

Law school admission records indicate that philosophy majors were more likely to be admitted to law schools than all other humanities majors and business students, and more likely than almost all social scientists. Our majors routinely apply and are admitted to law schools.

Students who are pre-law or studying for law-related professions are recommended to take one or more of the following courses:

  • Introduction to Logic
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Ethical Theory
  • Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy
  • History of Social and Political Philosophy
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Epistemology
  • Philosophy of Law

Students majoring in Philosophy and in Ethics and Religion tend to do very well on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). The GRE is usually required for graduate school admission. A study showed that of students who took the GRE, those planning graduate study in philosophy scored higher on the verbal and analytic writing sections of the exam than all other students. On the quantitative section, philosophy majors outscored all others majoring in a humanities field and were outscored only by those majoring in fields that required considerable mathematics (e.g., mathematics and physics).

Students who intend to do graduate work in philosophy are strongly recommended to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher, write a polished philosophy paper, and take the following courses:

  • An upper-division course in logic
  • Epistemology
  • Metaphysics
  • Ethical Theory
  • An upper-division course in the history of philosophy

Competition for admission to graduate school in philosophy is extremely high in the best departments. Majors should plan ahead and discuss their plans with their advisor.

Career Preparation

Philosophy majors go into careers as diverse as teaching, law, research, public administration, and journalism. The skills gained from a philosophy degree—critical thinking, writing, and more—will serve students well for the remainder of their lives.

According to data from PayScale, the mid-career salary of philosophy majors is $84,100. They rank in the top 100 of all academic fields for mid-career salaries, besting graduates in business administration, political science, pre-medicine, biology, psychology, and journalism. This salary statistic probably reflects the many philosophy majors who double-major or go on to earn advanced degrees, but it is telling for the usefulness of philosophy as a major.1  

1. Data from Washington Post

Skill Development


Thinking philosophically requires one to contemplate multiple positions and generate new solutions to problems. Original thoughts are prized, imagination is cultivated, and rich conversations result.


Writing philosophically involves presenting arguments in a compelling and sympathetic fashion. Workshops and reading- and writing-intensive classes develop students' ability to construct clear, coherent papers.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving skills are invaluable when contemplating issues of knowledge, reality, and existence. Philosophers must define problems and work together and individually on solutions.

Analytical Thinking

Philosophers must comprehend, analyze, and respond to arguments. They use critical thinking to logically assess information and complex concepts. Philosophy is training for the brain.

For more information about the skills gained by and career paths for philosophy majors, see Best Colleges' article Careers for Philosophy Majors.

“Philosophy majors get a bad rap,” said NBC journalist Katy Tur. “People like to assume we are bloviators. . . . I would argue that for the vast majority of people, an education of teaching you to think critically about the world you are in and what you know and what you don’t know is useful for absolutely everything that you could possibly do in the future.”

Depending on your interests and goals, a philosophy major, double major, or minor might be best for you. Speak with an advisor about your options, and come to some of the philosophy department's events to get a feel for what we do. You may find that you like us, and philosophy, more than you planned!