CHOOSING A CAREER / DEC. 19, 2014
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How to Shape Your Career in Philosophy

Did you ever wish there were a job description that read something like this: “Ability to provide thoughtful and analytical discussion of why the sky is blue. Ability to speak extemporaneously on the meaning of life…”? If you’re a philosophy major, you probably have. After all, how many jobs could there be for somebody who spent their college years debating questions to which there are no answers? Would it surprise you to know that the answer is, “A lot!”?

More than just about any other field of study, philosophy grounds you in some fundamental skills necessary for success: critical thinking and analysis, persuasive writing, logic, etc. Let’s take a look at some of the careers where philosophy grads end up:

Law

According to the philosophy department at the University of Maryland, philosophy grads have one of the highest law school acceptance rates. That’s not surprising, because philosophy courses strengthen skills that are critical to a successful legal career: ability to reason, ability to speak and write clearly, ability to form arguments and to persuade, etc. In fact, some pre-law students take a few philosophy courses to better their chances.

Politics

The ability to persuade is of enormous value in politics, whether you’re a politician or a lobbyist trying to get a politician to vote your way. Politicians also need to be able to quickly spot flaws in opposing arguments, and a philosophy degree is great preparation for that.

Business

While a philosophy degree might not carry the clout of an MBA, it does make a lot of employers sit up and take notice. It highlights the fact that you’re willing to tackle seemingly unsolvable problems and that you’re comfortable with saying, “I don’t know” when it’s appropriate.

Teaching

Purists – those who enjoy philosophy for its own sake – always have the option of passing the torch through a career in education. While it may require a graduate degree, there are plenty of jobs out there teaching philosophy, whether at the high school or college level.

Writing

You won’t make it through a philosophy program if you can’t write – and that doesn’t mean penmanship. It means being able to use the written language to construct solid arguments and to use persuasive language to draw others to your point of view. A degree in philosophy also teaches you to take the abstract and make it concrete – in other words, to explain complicated things simply. That’s a great foundation for a career in writing, from novelist to journalist.

Healthcare

One thing a lot of people don’t realize about philosophy is that there are rules for how you present arguments, and you’re not allowed to break them just to make a point. You can’t get away with anything less than ruthless critical thinking, and the same is true in healthcare. You’re not allowed to break the rules to get the answer you want, no matter how much you may want to. You have to work within the reality of some very harsh truths about life and death.

It’s clear that philosophy majors aren’t wasting their time as some people accuse. While you may not be able to get a job pondering the meaning of life, the ability to apply rational thinking to intangible concepts can be a shot in the arm for any career.

 

Image: iStock

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