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Philosophy & the job market

Why Study Philosophy?

Many of you will seek a career immediately after graduating. Spoiler alert: studying philosophy gives you tremendous practical advantages in career searches. Surprising? Maybe, but as the articles you can link to here indicate, this is the finding across a great many job markets, including those in Canada, in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. No wonder philosophy enrollments are on the rise in many places.

Why is philosophy so practical? Because it makes you a vastly better problem solver and communicator. And better analyzer of reasoning, including your own. You’re then versatile and sought after by a range of employers. They know that highly specialized and technical skills often lose value quickly because today’s complex workplaces rapidly change. Philosophers thrive in these conditions, with their more general skills and know-how. Indeed, philosophers are often the leaders driving the changing conditions.

Stats on Jobs

As The Times puts it, philosophy "teaches not what to think, but how to think." Consequently The Guardian found that in 2001 90% of philosophy graduates were employed within six months of graduating; by 2006, this number had risen to over 93%. Moreover, many of the jobs that philosophy students move into are rewarding. University Affairs found them in high levels of government and consulting. Some are CEOs. Others are entrepreneurs cashing in on the demand for ethics in the corporate world. Four of 20 undergrads earning a national academic award in the US were philosophy majors, who were already working in theatre, cybercrime investigation, the coordination of women leaders, and peace initiatives in Africa, respectively.

Business management is increasingly home to philosophy graduates. And the fit between philosophy training and jobs in computer science is well-known; as a piece originally in The New York Times put it, "the leap from Aristotle to computers can be a short one." The possibilities are so diverse that some governments now produce comprehensive manuals on how to market a philosophy degree.

Opportunities in Higher Education

Instead of seeking a job immediately after undergraduate studies, some of you will pursue higher education. For you, especially, philosophy gives a long leg up. Repeatedly philosophers outperform nearly all other students, often by a wide margin, on a range of admissions exams, including the GRE for graduate studies, the MCAT for medicine, and the LSAT for law.

Of course, if you want to pursue graduate studies in philosophy in particular, there is seldom a better undergraduate choice than philosophy. Graduate studies in philosophy can lead to careers in philosophy itself. These provide enduring opportunities to contemplate our most pressing problems from fresh angles, continually refine the skills and character for doing so, and live an examined life.

But any student of philosophy, graduate or undergraduate, will also enjoy these more rarefied opportunities. They make philosophy intrinsically rewarding, now and long after reaping philosophy’s practical advantages.

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