Why study philosophy?

Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophy consists of reflection on some of the deepest issues of human life and existence, and so by its nature, it relates to most of the disciplines within the University’s curriculum. Philosophy courses which are directly relevant to other fields of study include Contemporary Moral Issues, Philosophy of Science, Reasoning and Critical Thinking, Philosophy of Mathematics, Philosophy of Literature, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics, and Philosophy of Law.  Courses with a more general relevance include, Theory of Knowledge, Metaphysics, Ethical Theory, and Symbolic Logic.

The major and minor programs in Philosophy are designed to serve several different functions.  They are the central focus of a liberal arts degree program and a key component in an interdisciplinary degree program.  Our degree programs also provide solid preparation for graduate work in Education, Law, Medicine, Politics, Social Work, Theology, and, of course, in Philosophy.

Students are invited to discuss with the department’s Undergraduate Advisor the role that Philosophy courses might play in specific programs of study. A departmental Honors program is available at the undergraduate level. Dual Master’s degree programs are available in conjunction with other departments.

Why Major in Philosophy?

A good number of students declare a major in Philosophy because they’re fascinated by the subject matter.  These are the students who want the opportunity to read more, think more, and write more about the history of Philosophy, and about classic and contemporary debates in Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Social-Political Philosophy.  Others, though, decide to complete a Philosophy degree for practical reasons.  That’s right!  There are practical benefits that come from studying Philosophy.

Professional Skill-Building

As a Philosophy major, you’ll take courses that require you to develop reading and writing skills that are valuable in any profession.  In terms of reading, you’ll learn how to effectively understand the reasoning that is presented in a text, and you’ll sharpen your ability to identify and critique the assumptions that an author uses to support a position.  In regard to writing, you’ll develop the invaluable skill of writing in a clear and structured way, and you’ll be pushed to explicitly state and persuasively defend your own evaluation of a text or argument.

This sort of critical reading and analytic writing is the hallmark of doing Philosophy, and students who complete the major put these skills to good use in a variety of professional fields, such as Law, Education, Medicine, Entrepreneurship, and Public Service.  You don’t have to take our word for it!  Go to the web site Philosophy is a Great Major and read what Phil Jackson, Mark Cuban, and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School have to say about the professional benefits of studying Philosophy.

Higher Test Scores

It’s no surprise that the skills gained by completing a Philosophy major turn out to be incredibly valuable when taking the standardized tests that are commonly required for entrance into graduate programs and law schools.  In both the Verbal Reasoning and the Analytic Writing sections of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), Philosophy majors earned higher average scores than students from any other major.  On the Quantitate Reasoning section of the GRE, Philosophy majors also did very well:  Their average score was higher than the average scores by students in all other Humanities discipline, and it was also higher than the average scores earned by students majoring in Accounting, Business Administration, and Political Science. 

The results are just as impressive for the LSAT, which is the entrance exam for law school.  Philosophy majors earned an average score higher than students majoring in any other discipline! 

This information comes from the Educational Testing Service and the Law School Admission Council, Inc., and it is nicely summarized in charts and graphs here.

Even a Higher Salary!

According to a 2015 analysis completed by payscale.com, Philosophy majors earned a higher mid-career salary than students completing any other non-STEM major.  They estimated that the mid-career salary of Philosophy majors was almost $85,000, which is significantly above the mid-career salaries of those who majored in Religious Studies ($70,000), History ($73,000), English Literature ($76,000), or Political Science ($78,000).  According to a 2014 report in Forbes.com, the result of earning this higher mid-career salary is that Philosophy majors can expect to add $658,900 to their lifetime earnings!

The data about scores and salary is nicely summarized in charts and graphs here.