Is a Philosophy Degree a Bad Investment?
In this difficult economy, it’s becoming more and more common to question the direct job-securing value of post-secondary degree programs. And none has come under more scrutiny than philosophy. Philosophy as a subject has a bit of an unfortunate reputation—for graduates who sit under trees, look up at the stars, and ponder the big questions in life without the hands-on skills needed to make a difference in the real world.
However, nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is that philosophy degrees teach a wide range of useful skills—and many high profile people were philosophy majors. Here are a few things to think about when considering whether to major in philosophy.
It teaches you how to think
Many degree programs claim to teach reasoning and critical thinking skills along with their topics of focus. But the reality is that these skills are extremely difficult to impart—and not every program does it successfully. A traditional or online degree in philosophy, however, teaches students to reason effectively from the ground up through tried-and-true methods that have
worked for thousands of years. It also teaches effective
debate skills that are valuable in most work settings. An
online philosophy degree indicates you know how to think and
reason effectively—something that other degree subjects
can’t guarantee. And that’s valuable in the workplace.
If your passion is in philosophy, you may want to major in it—no matter what the job prognosis is. And the reality is that nobody can predict how easy it will be for you to get a job when you graduate, regardless of your major.
Many people see graduates with philosophy degrees as practically unemployable. However, nothing could be farther from the case. In 2009, approximately 50% of all philosophy degree graduates had a job within 12 months—in diverse fields including finance and business, public sector management, marketing and advertising, and other fields. True, many jobs were also in retail and food services—but this may be as much a reflection of the difficult job market for new graduates as the unemployability of the degree itself.
It has some illustrious graduates
Past philosophy majors who made it big include Woody Allen, T.S. Eliot, and Bill Clinton. Clearly their philosophy degrees didn’t hold them back—and indeed, may have taught them the reasoning and insight skills that helped them succeed in their fields.
It teaches communication skills
Communication is valuable no matter where you work. Philosophy majors learn to develop clear and cohesive arguments; think and reason logically, examine new ways of thinking without bias, and write persuasively. Philosophy courses of study also teach students to manage and process highly complex new information—and develop an opinion based on clear and careful reasoning. In addition, philosophy majors tend to be creative—and think outside the box.
It doesn’t often lead to a direct employment situation
That being said, a philosophy degree doesn’t have an obvious career path attached to it—unless you want to go into academia and teach other philosophy students. New graduates may need to work to define their degree and their own personal offerings to a certain extent—to show employers how they’re useful and how their degree can contribute to the company. But once they understand that, employers often find philosophy majors extremely valuable employees.
It can lead to postgraduate opportunities as well
A philosophy degree isn’t just useful in transitioning to a career. It can also be used to move into postgraduate study. One area where it can be particularly useful is in applying to law and medical school—where firm reasoning skills are particularly useful and valued.
If your passion is in philosophy, you may want to major in it—no matter what the job prognosis is. And the reality is that nobody can predict how easy it will be for you to get a job when you graduate, regardless of your major. Your internship and job experience, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and contacts will all contribute as much to making you employable as your major will. However, a philosophy degree can provide skills and advantages highly useful in the job market—and in life.
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