As someone with a philosophy degree, you’re probably sick of questions about why you chose that major or what job you’re going to get. And you’ve likely heard all of the super original jokes about philosophy giving you as many career prospects as “underwater basket weaving” and references to the “philosophy factory” joke from That 70’s Show.
Liberal arts degrees don’t necessarily have a preset career path attached to them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. They can still lead to jobs in a wide range of fields—both with and without graduate school.
We’ve compiled a list of eight jobs for people with philosophy degrees, but they represent just some of your options. Once you understand what skills you bring to the table with your philosophy major, you can apply them to many different careers.
Top Skills Philosophy Majors Bring to the Job Market
“It’s crucial to answer the question ‘What does it mean to be a philosophy major?’” says Meagan Savage, a career coach at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Arts and Sciences, who advises philosophy students. What skills have you used and developed throughout your education? Many will be transferable to the workplace.
These are some common skills philosophy degrees help you learn:
- Adaptability and innovation: “Philosophy prepares people to think about and understand the fundamental nature and broader purpose of the work they are doing,” says Mitchell Muncy, Founder and Principal of Prospera LLC, a consultancy for mission-driven organizations, who holds a master’s in philosophy and has hired candidates with philosophy degrees for a range of positions. The ability to see “beyond specific functions or tools” helps philosophy majors not only adapt to new environments but also come up with new strategies and ideas and make observations others may not have considered, Muncy says. “I would say that the great virtue of philosophy majors is not that they are particularly good at certain jobs, but that they can be good at any job and, more important, make extraordinary contributions.”
- Analysis: A large part of the study of philosophy is interpreting and analyzing difficult texts, ideas, and larger concepts and societal issues. In your classes, you likely analyzed the merits and strengths of different texts and got to the root of what they were trying to say before using them to inform your own ideas. These analytical skills are valuable in a number of work environments.
- Communication and writing: Philosophy majors are skilled at simplifying complex information and presenting it to others, Savage says. You’ve likely done this both verbally and in writing. Philosophy majors are also used to group discussions that require them to listen actively and understand others’ points of view—which is often as important in effective communication as writing or speaking.
- Critical thinking and problem solving: The bulk of philosophy is critical thinking—really breaking down a problem, idea, or other concept to its core components and examining it from every angle. The skills you honed doing this will help you to “provide a creative, inquisitive approach to problem-solving,” Savage says. In the workplace, you often need to integrate information from multiple sources and perspectives in order to solve problems.
- Persuasion and argument construction: Through your coursework, you learned to develop a convincing argument and present it in a clear, logical way using strong evidence, Savage says. This ability is transferable to many work scenarios, whether you’re pitching a new client as a salesperson, finding the right strategy for your team to follow, or making recommendations to management based on research you analyzed.
If you have a second major or a minor, you’ll have even more marketable skills and job choices right out of the gate. “Philosophy can really help enhance the skills gained in other majors and make students even more competitive,” Savage says. For example, if you’re interested in philosophy but would like to work in tech, “Adding philosophy as a major on top of technical majors is a great combination.”
But even without doubling up, the skills you gained studying philosophy will help you not only land your first job, but also grow throughout your career. Here are some jobs your degree will set you up for particularly well along with salary information from the compensation resource PayScale (note that the database is updated nightly; these are the latest numbers as of April 2021).
1. Policy Analyst
Average salary: $59,726
Policy analysts research, analyze, and evaluate possible or existing laws and government programs. They may even help come up with new policies—for example, stricter environmental regulations or a new type of aid for struggling families. Policy analysts work for all levels of government as well as nonprofits, think tanks, lobby groups, and a number of other organizations.
Philosophy majors are well suited for the research and analysis that goes into this work and can think through the implications and effects of possible policies. Policy analysts often need a law degree or a master’s or PhD in policy, economics, or similar.
2. Marketing Manager
Average salary: $66,173
Marketing managers oversee a company’s marketing efforts or one specific channel of a company’s marketing, such as email or social media. They conduct market research, come up with strategies, and generally act as the communication line between an organization and its existing and prospective customers. Marketing managers can specialize in one area of marketing or they can be generalists who do a little of everything.
Philosophy majors can use their analytical, critical thinking, and listening skills to learn about their target market and their writing and persuasion skills to develop an effective campaign that takes into account what their customers need and want. They’ll also excel at analyzing the results of past and ongoing campaigns and making changes for the future. Marketing careers are especially good for philosophy majors who want to be creative at work. To become a marketing manager, you often need experience as a marketing coordinator, analyst, and/or assistant.
Average salary: $46,634
Reporters research and write about the news for print, broadcast, and web. They’re responsible for finding credible sources and conducting interviews and keeping on top of trending news and breaking stories within their area of focus, which could be anything from international politics to sports, entertainment, or science.
Philosophy majors are well suited for these jobs because of their writing and communication skills and their ability to think deeply about biases, points of view, and sources of information. To land an entry-level journalism job or fellowship, it helps a lot to have taken journalism classes as an undergrad, worked on your school’s paper, or had journalism internships, which can help you build a strong portfolio of reported, published work.
Average salary: $78,724
Psychologists study human behavior, emotions, and thought processes. They may also counsel individuals, couples, and other groups on their mental health. As a philosophy major, you’ve developed a lot of the critical thinking and analysis skills needed to study psychology. Plus, you likely have some experience evaluating human behavior and attempting to explain social phenomena, Savage says. If you’re interested in the inner workings of the human mind, psychology is the perfect field.
If you’d like to work in a school or as an organizational psychologist, you’ll likely need at least a master’s degree in psychology or a more specialized field. To work in a research or clinical setting, you’ll need to obtain a doctorate, most commonly a PhD or PsyD (doctor of psychology degree) respectively. To work with patients, you’ll also need to obtain a license in the state where you’d like to practice.
5. Management Consultant
Average salary: $87,985
Management consultants evaluate, analyze, and make recommendations to companies to help them solve problems within their organizations. Consultants usually work for consulting firms that have a large number of clients and move from one project to the next every few weeks or months.
Philosophy majors’ adaptability and innovation skills allow them to frequently change environments and learn about new businesses quickly. They’ll also use their critical thinking, communication, and analysis skills to gather info on a client (using methods including data collection and employee interviews), synthesize that information to come up with solutions, and then share their suggestions with clients. Consulting companies often have highly structured recruiting processes that begin on college campuses.
6. Sales Representative
Sales representatives, or salespeople, bring new business into companies. Depending on the role and the organization they work for, they may look for potential new customers, identify their needs, craft sales pitches, and negotiate and close deals.
Philosophy majors can use their ability to see things from the customer’s point of view as well as their persuasive skills to excel in sales. And sales representatives can work in a number of industries from manufacturing to finance to tech and for almost any type of company—from startup to small businesses to large established corporations. So you can find a field and sell products or services that interest you. You might look for business development or sales development representative roles to get started as an entry-level candidate.
Average salary: $85,920
Lawyers represent and advise individuals, organizations, and the government in legal matters. They also interpret laws, rulings, and regulations and prepare legal documents in a wide range of situations. Lawyers usually specialize in a certain area, such as criminal law, family law, tax law, or environmental law. You’ve likely seen countless shows and movies with lawyers—either defense lawyers or prosecutors—giving convincing arguments at a trial in a courtroom, but not all lawyers go to court. Many work primarily or exclusively in offices.
Philosophy majors frequently become lawyers since they have many of the needed skills, including the ability to construct arguments and analyze and interpret difficult texts. In order to become a lawyer, you must go to law school after earning your bachelor’s degree. If you don’t want to go to law school (or don’t want to go right away), you might also consider becoming a paralegal who assists lawyers in their work with a focus on deep research.
Average salary: $49,593
Teachers plan lessons and instruct primary and secondary school students. They’re responsible for grading and evaluating students as well as monitoring their progress and adapting their lessons to a given class or student to make sure they understand and absorb the material. High school teachers generally focus in one subject area such as history, English, math, or science—or an even more specific topic within those, like calculus or biology. Elementary school teachers usually cover all subjects.
Philosophy majors make good teachers due to their communication skills and their ability to break down complex ideas and evaluate concepts from different points of view. They’re also good at communicating the “why” behind different ideas, lessons, and even teaching strategies. To become a teacher, you’ll need to complete a teaching certification program and pass a licencing test, and you may need to meet other requirements based on what state you’d like to teach in and whether you’d like to teach in a public or private school.
Find teacher jobs on The Muse
Tips for Finding a Job as a Philosophy Major
If you’re a philosophy major seeking an entry-level role, here are a few tips for your job search:
- Be open to internships, fellowships, and part-time roles to gain experience. Particularly if you haven’t had a job or internship yet, you might need to be flexible about what your first role out of college looks like. “Employers expect students, regardless of their major, to have some kind of experience, especially through a part-time job or internship,” Savage says. Even if you’re graduating in spring, seeking out a summer internship or similar is still a great idea to help your full-time search in the fall.
- Leverage your college experiences on your resume. If you’ve held a leadership role in a club or student group and/or taken some heavy courses with significant projects, you should expand on these experiences on your entry-level resume, Savage says.
- Be prepared to talk about your transferable skills. Unfortunately, some people don’t take philosophy degrees as seriously as STEM or other programs with designated career paths. “Don’t let someone assume things about you or your education,” Savage says. “Come prepared to talk about why [your degree is] valuable and what you can bring into the workplace to make you an asset.”
- Network, network, network! Strong connections with professionals in your field “can lead to really insightful conversations, long-term mentorships, and sometimes even job opportunities,” Savage says. She recommends speaking with your college’s career services office for help connecting with professionals and alumni in your desired field. (Many colleges also offer career services to alumni.) LinkedIn is also a great tool for networking, and having a strong LinkedIn profile and presence is a must.