Philosophy, Jobs & Society
Does philosophy matter for real life and society? Isn’t it all about abstract ideas? Actually, philosophy is all about real issues! Philosophy aims to provide you with the big picture. It allows you to connect and evaluate the many details that you get from the news and from other sciences. Philosophers discuss topics from gene drives to gender.
Philosophers Connect and Evaluate
Philosophers think systematically and critically about fundamental topics like propaganda, democracy, social hierarchies, global justice or religious conflict. They ask what these things are, how they hang together, and how we should react to them. Philosophy thus makes an important contribution to our understanding of society. Philosophers also work on timely issues, such as Syrian refugees, the 2008 financial crisis, the ethics of NGOs, digital piracy, big data, or Brexit. And they make concrete policy proposals—e.g. on how to motivate pharma companies to do more for global health.
At Concordia’s Philosophy Department, Professor Gilabert, e.g., has written a book on global poverty and global justice, Professor Fritsch is working on climate change and intergenerational justice, Professor Angelova specializes in feminism, and Professor Nieswandt advocates a novel theory of rights and has contributed to the debate about unconditional basic income in the digital age.
Philosophers Change Society
Philosophy does not only help us understand things. Philosophers are also active in politics. The Montreal-based philosopher Charles Taylor, for example, has shaped the Canadian debates about democracy and multiculturalism, and he served on Quebec’s Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences. Similar things are true of moral philosophers like Martha Nussbaum, who has testified as an expert in trials, or political philosophers like Kwame Appiah, who was voted one of the world’s most influential thinkers, along with philosophers like Jürgen Habermas.
Philosophy Empowers You
Philosophy is “one of the most powerful tools” to empower people “into acting as free and responsible subjects in an ever more complex, interconnected, and uncertain world,” as Irish president Michael Higgins recently pointed out. Philosophy teaches you how to distinguish contributions to debates that ought to be taken seriously from illusory rhetoric or bullshit. In a world of fake news, in which the guiding role of truth in public discourse is under threat, philosophical skills allow you to make good political choices and good life choices.
Philosophy helps to counteract a technocratic approach to policy making. It teaches you what Google can’t do. It makes rational suggestions for how the world can become better. That is why the UNESCO recently instituted a World Philosophy Day.
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. Indeed, there is a whole book written about what you can do with a philosophy degree. No wonder philosophy enrollments can be surprisingly high.
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.
Our alumni have gone on to do graduate work in philosophy, in other disciplines, or have found jobs in the professions. Learn about their reasons to study our courses and enrol in our programs.