The Value of Philosophy

Why study philosophy? What can philosophy do for me? People have two sorts of things in mind when they ask these questions - the intrinsic value or intellectual reward of studying philosophy, and the practical advantages of philosophical training and certification. Elsewhere on the site we talk about the first of those (and lots of other places do too). This page is for prospective students (and their families) who are wondering about the career and economic implications of majoring in philosophy. What can you do with a philosophy degree?

If you are asking this question, first check out this website:

Philosophy is a great major

You will learn that the return on investment in a philosophy major is comparable to that of an engineering major, that almost all philosophy majors find employment straight away, that the salaries earned by people with philosophy degrees are very solid, and so on.

Here's a good article about the return on investment of various majors. It's where we got the next table from. It shows the Value of Additional Earnings from a Bachelor's Degree (i.e., not just lifetime earnings, but the premium associated with the qualification, compared to high school only), in US$.

Why do philosophy majors show such success? Partly because they are (and employers know that they are) the best at verbal reasoning and the best at analytical writing - stronger than holders of any other sort of degree. Below the fold is the GRE test score data (source). The GRE is a standardized test used to assess applicants to graduate school in most disciplines. Philosophy majors have a great advantage in applying for graduate studies, which are now key to many careers.

Click for GRE test score charts

Scores of philosophy majors compared to majors in selected subjects in Arts/Humanities and Social Sciences and in aggregated Science domains.

You see the same pattern in the LSAT, the test that decides who goes to law school. Philosophy majors are consistently among the very highest-ranked applicants on this test. Indeed, philosophy is not bad training for law school, which is a path followed by many philosophers. (SFU offers a Concentration in Law and Philosophy.)

Click for LSAT data

Same thing on the GMAT, a test for applicants to graduate school in management and business (typically for MBAs). Philosophy graduates' scores are among the highest across all disciplines at the University Level

The fact is that very few degrees are directly linked to a specific career path, and few students entering university predict correctly what careers they will have. The sorts of skills a Philosophy degree will equip you with are highly valuable in many professions (while changing careers several times is becoming the norm). 

Earnings data

PayScale collects and publishes data on salaries by degree. You can play with the data here. It shows that people with philosophy degrees are making a very solid living, on the whole (and earn higher salaies than people with most other humanities degrees). Example.

You can also read:

Why are philosophy graduates so popular with employers? (The Guardian)

How philosophy majors are changing the world of business (Huffington Post)

Is philosophy having a moment? (University Affairs)