Jobs for Philosophy Majors: 24 Great Careers for Deep Thinkers
By Laura Slauson
| Last Updated July 22, 2020
Jobs for philosophy majors are more common—and often better-paying—than you might think. It's true: Although "philosopher" may not be a very common job title, philosophy graduates are thriving in many career sectors. That's because the skills you can acquire by studying philosophy are highly valued and suitable for all kinds of fulfilling and meaningful careers.
So, in terms of practical concerns like earning money, what can you do with a philosophy degree? To arrive at the answer, you first need to consider the most fundamental goal of studying this subject: Philosophy students learn how to think, not what to think. That's essential, since thinking clearly and logically is one of the most important transferable skills of the 21st century.
After all, modern life is complicated. Organizations of every type regularly face tough decisions. That's why more and more managers now recognize the importance of hiring people who can consider multiple viewpoints and get to the heart of complex issues. They need sharp thinkers and concise communicators.
Still, you may run into people who have preconceived ideas that earning a philosophy degree won't make you very employable. Well-meaning friends and relatives may ask, "Why major in philosophy?" That's what this article is for. The information below will help you answer the doubters (and maybe settle a few questions of your own).
You'll explore a wide range of career options for philosophy majors, learn about the earning potential of philosophy grads, and discover the many transferable skills that a philosophy degree can help you acquire.
- What can I do with a philosophy degree? 24 great jobs
- Do philosophy grads make money? Surprising salary stats
- Why take philosophy? The valuable skills you can learn
What Can I Do With a Philosophy Degree? 24 Great Jobs
When you think of careers in philosophy, you might picture someone in a toga holding court in front of a crowd or a bearded man dispensing advice from an isolated cave. But what does a philosopher do in the modern world? Is philosophy still even relevant?
The answer is yes. In fact, the study of philosophy is just as important now as it was in ancient times. And great careers for philosophy majors can be found in many industries, including some of today's most cutting-edge career sectors.
So, what kind of work can a philosophy degree prepare you for? Start by considering challenging questions that can help you better understand the potential job market for philosophy grads. For example:
- How should data be handled if it can help a company make sales but will also expose consumers' private information?
- Should people be allowed to buy organs for transplant and bypass waiting lists?
- In an increasingly polarized political climate, how can advertisers reach specific segments of the population without alienating others? Should they even try?
- How should a company respond if the most environmentally friendly option isn't the most profitable one?
- Is physician-assisted suicide sometimes the best choice for a terminally ill patient?
Thinking about big questions like these is exactly what a philosopher does, even if "philosopher" isn't part of his or her job title. In fact, with a philosophy degree, you can get the types of jobs that require you to think logically and consider multiple perspectives—abilities that apply to many of the best jobs for the future.
This philosophy careers list includes many occupational examples that aren't necessarily traditional jobs for philosophers. A bachelor's degree in philosophy can provide an excellent foundation for each of them. However, some of these careers do require a graduate degree or additional, specialized training.
Median annual salaries are current as of July 15, 2020 and are based on data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program unless marked as being from (1) PayScale. All figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.
1. Financial Analyst—$82K
Believe it or not, studying philosophy can be excellent preparation for financial analyst jobs. For philosophy degree holders, transferable skills such as paying attention to details, spotting trends, and seeing issues from many perspectives are helpful when navigating complex financial markets. Certification is often necessary in this field, but many employers sponsor employees through the licensing process.
2. Computer Programmer—$87K
Studying philosophy, a subject that originated in ancient times, might seem like an unlikely way to prepare for a career in the rapidly changing world of technology. But if you're skeptical, ask yourself this: What does philosophy teach you? In a good philosophy program, you can learn how to question existing assumptions, examine cause and effect, and consider statements from all angles—exactly the types of skills used in programming.
However, you should learn how to code before applying for programming jobs. (With a philosophy degree, you may have developed the logical thought processes that will help you learn programming languages. But many employers will want you to already have some coding ability.) Still, a growing sentiment in the tech sector is that it's easier to hire people who know how to think and teach them how to code than it is to hire people who can code and teach them how to think.
3. Business Consultant—$74K1
Would you like to help companies become more efficient? A business or management consultant analyzes a company and proposes new, more efficient procedures. As a philosophy grad, your keen analytical skills could help you pinpoint inefficiencies and recommend new approaches.
Although a graduate degree isn't necessarily required, an MBA can help you get ahead. Plus, a bachelor's degree in philosophy is an excellent foundation for an MBA. In fact, philosophy majors have better scores, on average, than business and accounting majors on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
Do you have a cause that you're passionate about? You can use the rhetorical skills that you perfected in a philosophy program to help persuade government officials and policymakers to support your cause.
5. Market Research Analyst—$64K
Would you like to help companies make informed decisions about the best ways to sell their products? Market research analysts predict sales trends using information they gather. Then, they help direct companies on what to do. With a philosophy degree, you can develop the big-picture thinking necessary to interpret data from a wide range of sources and draw your own conclusions about sales strategies.
Ethical considerations also play a role in market research. For example, should consumers be told when a company is using their personal data to shape sales plans? Should that data be shared with other companies? A philosophy major is good for teaching you how to address challenging questions like these.
At its core, philosophy is all about language. Philosophy students quickly discover that every word counts in a philosophical text and that words must be carefully chosen for clear meaning. Concisely summarizing dense philosophical materials and developing your own arguments can help your own writing.
Plus, writing about philosophy doesn't just prepare you to work with serious subject matter. In fact, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and actor and writer Steve Martin both studied philosophy.
7. Human Resources (HR) Specialist—$62K
Solving problems, communicating clearly, and analyzing information are just a few of the essential skills that HR specialists use every day. As a philosophy graduate, your ability to see all sides of an issue can help you excel in this field. Just keep in mind that you may need additional training for management-level jobs if you only studied philosophy. Career specialties in human resources include recruitment, benefits administration, employee training and development, payroll processing, and much more.
8. Teacher (K-12)—$57K to $62K
You can become a teacher with just one year of special training after earning a bachelor's in philosophy. Jobs in the public-school system don't usually center around teaching philosophy itself. However, all teachers need the strong communication skills, excellent problem-solving abilities, and genuine empathy that can be developed by studying philosophy.
9. Communications Specialist—$52K1
Use your powers of persuasion and rhetorical skills to help organizations communicate with the public. You could craft press releases, respond to public inquiries, and create communications and advertising strategies. As a philosophy graduate, your understanding of multiple perspectives on political and social issues can help you create effective messages.
Are you interested in working in the legal field but not sure whether law school is the right choice for you? A career as a paralegal can provide opportunities to use the analytical, research, and organizational skills that you develop in a philosophy program. And if you have a bachelor's degree, some paralegal post-degree certificate programs can be completed in less than a year.
11. Real Estate Agent—$49K
What do real estate and philosophy have in common? Both fields require the ability to cut through rhetoric and get to the heart of a question. Negotiation is also a key component of real estate careers, so your ability to see both sides of an issue and develop sound arguments will help you succeed. In most states, you need to complete a real estate course and pass an exam in order to be licensed.
12. Mental Health Counselor—$46K
Can philosophy act as "therapy of the soul?" The Greek philosopher Epicurus thought so. And many philosophers since his time have focused on the ability of philosophical thought to ease human suffering. So philosophy students often develop a good foundation for helping others. They've considered important questions such as "Why do we suffer?"
If you'd like to use your understanding of philosophy to help those who need guidance, then research the requirements for mental health professionals in your region. (Requirements vary by state.) Your philosophy degree could be an excellent starting point for further training.
Also, consider philosophical counseling. In this specialty, counselors don't focus on treating or diagnosing mental health problems. Instead, they help clients deal with the everyday stressors that result from living in our flawed world, such as coping with the death of a pet or adjusting to retirement. Check out the National Philosophical Counseling Association for more information. (Note: You must have a master's degree in philosophy before training for a career in philosophical counseling.)
13. Entrepreneur—Salaries vary widely
To start successful businesses, entrepreneurs need to be good at thinking outside the box and examining the validity of new ideas. So, where can they learn those skills? In a philosophy program, of course. Former philosophy majors who have started extremely successful businesses include:
- Stewart Butterfield—Slack and Flickr co-founder
- Reid Hoffman— LinkedIn co-founder
- Peter Thiel—PayPal co-founder
14. Medical Doctor—$206K (for general practitioners)
What can physicians do if terminally ill patients request that their families not be told about their illnesses? Is it OK to exaggerate a patient's symptoms in order to ensure coverage by his or her insurance provider? A philosophy background can help doctors deal with tough ethical decisions like these.
Plus, it's possible to enter medical school after majoring in philosophy. That's because most medical schools don't restrict applicants to specific majors. (But you may need to complete some specific prerequisite science courses as an undergrad before applying to medical school.)
Also, did you know that philosophy graduates have higher medical school acceptance rates than biology graduates? It's true: Philosophy is consistently ranked as one of the top majors when it comes to medical school admittance. As well, humanities grads (a category that includes philosophy majors) have higher total Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) results, on average, than biological science grads.
And if you're worried that majoring in the humanities won't be good preparation for studying medicine, rest easy. Once they're in medical school, students who majored in the humanities for their first degree perform at an equal level with other students.
A bachelor's in philosophy can be an excellent first degree before starting your legal studies. In fact, philosophy majors have the highest acceptance rate to law school.
As well, philosophy courses provide a solid background for your studies once you begin law school. After all, philosophy courses center around:
- Creating concise responses to complex problems
- Formulating logical responses for or against proposals
- Analyzing an argument and dissecting it for flaws
- Defending your views when challenged
- Examining evidence and drawing conclusions
All of those skills are essential for success in the legal world.
16. Augmented Reality Developer or Project Manager—$74K to $83K1
Augmented reality (AR) poses many new philosophical questions. Think about it: Since ancient times, philosophers have debated the nature of reality and asked how we can know what's "real." With new virtual dimensions added to our conception of reality, these discussions have entered new territory and given rise to new questions: If something that only exists in augmented reality frightens you, is that fear real? Should augmented reality make it clear which part of an AR experience is fake?
A philosophy background can help you consider the "big picture" behind AR work. Within this sector, AR project managers help coordinate all aspects of an AR experience. For AR development or programming work, technical knowledge is essential.
17. Philosophy Professor—$75K
It takes four years to get a degree in philosophy at the bachelor's level, and many of the career paths on this list only require an undergraduate education and, in some cases, a little specialized training in a different area. But what if you want to keep studying philosophy in a graduate program? What can you do with a PhD in philosophy?
Among other things, someone with a Doctor of Philosophy often leads classes in this subject at a college or university. Philosophy professors teach, write, and research. However, academic jobs in philosophy can be competitive, with more applicants than job openings.
If a philosophy department experiences funding cuts (a relatively common occurrence in humanities education), a professor may be asked to teach more classes. So, combined with the need to conduct research and publish papers, many philosophy professors have a lot on their plates.
Nonetheless, it can be very satisfying to pursue your own scholarly activities and help others answer big questions, such as "What do philosophers do?" and "How can philosophy help me live a better life?" You can also enjoy financial rewards: Philosophy professors make over $88,000 a year, on average. And some earn more than $151,180.
18. Bioethicist—$64K (for those with a master's degree)1
Advances in medicine and technology have led to complex ethical questions. For example, should parents be able to choose a baby's gender? When should a patient have the right to turn down a life-saving procedure? Bioethicists help explore all ethical angles of medical issues like these.
To work as a bioethicist, you typically need a certificate, master's degree, or PhD in bioethics after completing your undergraduate degree. So you can build a solid foundation for an education in this field with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree. Jobs can be found in research, community education, public policy analysis, and other areas.
Are you interested in helping opposing sides find common ground? Mediators facilitate discussions to resolve disputes. They don't represent specific sides in a disagreement, but instead focus on remaining neutral as they help both parties come to a resolution. As a philosophy graduate, your ability to examine all sides of an issue, combined with excellent people skills, can help you succeed. Some states require mediators to be certified.
20. Data Analyst—$61K1
We now have the ability to collect incredible amounts of data. But what should we do with it? Data analysts gather data and use it to draw logical conclusions that can guide organizations' decisions. Their analytical skills can help them spot trends and make predictions. But there's also plenty of room for creative thought in this field.
"Does this make sense? How can it be clearer?" Those are the kinds of questions that editors often ask during the editing process. Editors ensure that written texts are error-free and easily understood. Studying philosophy can not only teach you the value of clear communication, but also help you hone your attention to detail in the written word.
22. Policy Analyst—$59K1
Policy analysts work with politicians and other government officials to develop or revise public policies. They do this by analyzing a problem and recommending solutions. Data analysis and clear communication are some of the essential skills for this career that you can acquire by studying philosophy. Jobs in policy analysis often require interpreting complex laws, regulations, and policies, and envisioning solutions to a variety of issues.
23. Tech Ethicist—Salaries vary widely
What should an app developer do if a new app turns out to have a negative impact on face-to-face human interaction? Should we be allowed to edit babies' genes? How should a driverless car react if it has a choice between injuring the car's passenger or a group of pedestrians?
Questions like these don't have easy answers. And sometimes tech creators are so caught up in the excitement of new discoveries that they overlook the long-term moral implications of their inventions. Technology ethicists help the creators of new technology consider the ethical issues that progress can raise.
24. Philosopher—Salary depends on the position
Is becoming a philosopher a realistic job goal? The short answer is yes; you can be a philosopher. But you might have to be a little creative in how you get there. That's because jobs for "philosophers" outside of academia are very rare.
But recent years have seen a trend toward the creation of positions for in-house philosophers. For example, Google has a resident philosopher to help the company answer vital questions such as those related to defining the role that technology plays in our lives and determining what constitutes "truth" in search results.
If you're interested in a position like this, your best bet might to be to establish yourself in another role within a company, then introduce a philosophical component to your other job duties. (In other words, you likely won't find a job posting for a resident philosopher, so you may have to create your own position.)
Do Philosophy Grads Make Money? Surprising Salary Stats
The study of philosophy offers many rewards, from learning more about the world around to you to figuring out how to be a better person. But many people don't realize that, on average, philosophy majors make money at higher amounts than graduates of many other programs. This is especially true when you consider their long-term earnings.
That might contradict the stereotype of philosophy majors being unconcerned with worldly things like paychecks. So if you're skeptical that jobs for philosophy graduates can actually provide a decent salary, check out these facts:
- In 2016, philosophy was the highest-paying humanities major, with an average starting salary of $49,000.
- When it comes to comparing starting salaries to mid-career salaries, philosophy grads have a bigger increase in earnings than almost any other major. (They're tied with math graduates for the top position.)
- Philosophy ranks higher than majors like engineering and life sciences in terms of its return on investment (i.e., how much graduates earn compared to how much their schools spent educating them).
It's important to realize that these facts are based on people who majored in philosophy, not people who entered a specific occupation. As you now know, jobs for philosophy degree holders can be found in many career sectors. So, ultimately, as a philosophy major, your salary depends on which career you pursue. Nonetheless, if you have a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Philosophy, jobs can be found that pay better than you might think.
Why Take Philosophy? The Valuable Skills You Can Learn
The study of philosophy is the process of learning how to ask—and answer—life's most important questions. For example, what is the best way to treat each other? What constitutes a good life? Should there be a code of ethics for technological advances? By examining complex and relevant issues like these, you can develop the kinds of skills employers need today.
Consider the following highly sought-after skills that you can acquire while earning a philosophy degree:
- Analyzing complex concepts and ideas
- Examining all sides of an argument or problem and coming up with logical solutions
- Writing and speaking clearly and concisely
- Generating ideas for new ways to do things
- Interpreting abstract theories and ideas
- Accepting that there is often more than one solution to a problem and that a "right" answer may not exist
- Defending your own views without resorting to illogical arguments or personal attacks
- Applying frameworks to problems in creative ways
- Questioning commonly held beliefs
Those are powerful skills. However, let's face it: You may need to become good at self-promotion in order to sell them. That's because hiring managers don't always recognize the true value of an education in philosophy. They may wonder, "What can you do with a degree in philosophy that will actually help us make money?" Without a clear answer, they might quickly move past your resume.
So it's up to you to prove that you can do more than discuss Aristotle. For instance, when applying for jobs with "philosophy degree" on your resume, be sure to emphasize your strengths and transferable skills. (In a study sponsored by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, 93 percent of surveyed corporate leaders said that the ability to solve problems, think critically, and communicate effectively is more important than a job applicant's major. That means it's often more important to explain what you learned while pursuing your degree than to talk about the degree itself.)
Take Control of Your Future
Now you have some answers ready for those times when people ask, "What jobs can you get with a philosophy degree?" So start making plans to turn your dreams into reality. Short, career-oriented programs are often a good fit for students with a foundation in philosophy. They provide practical opportunities for learning how to put your skills to use in specific fields. Find convenient training near you by entering your zip code into the school finder below!