Here are a few things people do with philosophy degrees:
Many people majoring in philosophy go on to study law. Philosophy prepares students well for law because it trains us to think with conceptual precision, to write carefully and argue cogently, and to speak with conviction and clarity. In fact, philosophy majors do better on the LSAT than do majors in any other subject in the social sciences or humanities.1
An open democratic society depends on its journalists to `tell it like it is,' ask tough questions, point out hypocrisy, dig up buried truths, rattle our consciences, wake us up, inform us. Philosophy trains students to write clearly and carefully about matters of the utmost importance to human lives.
These days, almost no one gets a job and keeps it for life. Flexibility and innovation are the name of the game in today's economy. And philosophy's focus on critical thinking and the questioning of assumptions provides students with invaluable practice in the kind of 'thinking outside of the box' that is essential in today's business world.
We don't usually think of parenting as a career. But perhaps we should. And as Sarah Ruddick points out in her book, Maternal Thinking, parenting well requires a lot of thought! Philosophy teaches us to think clearly about what matters most and to communicate passionately but respectfully. Surely these are skills parents need more than anyone else!
Teachers must begin by showing kids that the world is something to marvel at! It is a miraculous, wondrous, fabulously interesting place, well worth learning to know. Philosophy, perhaps more than any other discipline, teaches us to wonder and marvel, to be surprised and excited, to be curious. Teachers who learn this can infect their students with a love of learning.
Perhaps the most morally challenging area of modern life is found in the medical profession. Doctors, nurses, and attendants face moral questions every day. Should sick people have access to drugs that will end their lives? Should heroic measures be taken to save desperately ill or deformed newborns with little hope of long-term survival? Should the poor be denied medical care? Should doctors be permitted to clone human beings? These questions, and many others, are discussed explicitly by philosophers exploring medical ethics. Medical schools are beginning to value highly those students who can deal with these issues.
While studying psychology is indispensable to anyone wanting to be a psychotherapist, philosophy can be a great help too. Philosophy helps us to understand how the mind works, how people think, the common mistakes we make, moral issues, religious concerns, all of which figure prominently in therapy.
Surely the world is in some serious need of fixing. Activists dedicate their lives to pushing the world to change for the better. Many philosophers end up being activists because their studies show them where the problems are and that we're all collectively responsible for the conditions under which we live.
Some philosophy majors come to philosophy through an interest in religion. And though philosophers often challenge religion, many people come away from philosophy having had their faith strengthened. The ability to face challenges with faith, to think honestly and openly about such challenges, are essential to those pursuing the ministry.
For some of us, teaching philosophy at the university level and doing research in philosophy became our careers. For information on how to pursue a career in academia, starting with an application to graduate school, contact Department faculty. Those considering graduate school may find The Philosophical Gourmet Report a helpful reference.
1source: Journal of Economic Education, Spring 2006, (247).