There are a range of reasons to study philosophy, all of them compelling. First and foremost, the topics explored by philosophers are inherently interesting. From the very beginning, they have asked the hard questions: What is knowledge? How should we live? Is there a god? Are we free? Philosophy is a discipline that encourages participants to think, to question, and to wonder. On these grounds alone, philosophy is life-enhancing.
But studying philosophy also offers surprising practical payoffs. Philosophy possesses a distinctive methodology in addition to a traditional subject matter. An emphasis on analysis, argumentation, evaluation, and proof can be found in every philosophy class. The habits of mind that philosophy encourages—logical precision, awareness of the assumptions undergirding any discussion, an attitude of both openmindedness and responsible criticism toward new and unusual ideas are portable—they carry over to many other endeavors. Thus undergraduate philosophy majors score better on standardized tests (the LSAT, GMAT, and GRE) than many of their classmates, and employers in many fields now actively seek out and welcome philosophy graduates. Philosophy students entering the job market can confidently claim skills applicable to a wide range of non-academic tasks.
Below are links to a variety of websites that set out and amplify the points just made. Please explore them at your leisure.
- "36 Reasons to Major in Philosophy", The University of Detroit Philosophy Club.
- "Philosophy as the Quintessentially Modern Discipline", The Times of London, Aug. 15, 1998. (This brief article makes the important point that philosophy teaches not what to think but how to think).
- "Learn Philosophy", from 50 Ways to Improve Your Life, US News and World Report, 2009.
- "In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined", New York Times, Apr. 6, 2008. (Why so many students are opting to major in philosophy).
- Report showing philosophy majors scored 2nd best overall on the 2007-2008 LSAT (after physics/math majors (#1); the philosophers were tied with econ majors!).
- "I think, therefore I earn", The Guardian, Nov. 201, 2007. (Why philosophy students are suddenly so popular with employers).
- "Philosophers find the Degree Pays off in Life and in Work", New York Times, Dec. 26, 1997.
- "Best Undergraduate College Degrees by Salary", from Payscale.com. (Shows that of 50 different university majors, philosophy ranks 16th in mid-career median salary; 7 of the majors ranking above philosophy are varieties of engineering).
- "How Philosophy Pays Off", (A website that offers a detailed breakdown of the marketable skills inculcated in philosophy class).
- "Non-Academic Careers for Philosophers".
A philosophy B.A. provides excellent preparation for many different careers. While a few philosophy students go on to a Ph.D. and a career in teaching, most put their degrees to other uses. An undergraduate philosophy major is an ideal choice for students interested in law school. It also provides excellent preparation for medical school, business school, and other professional degree programs. Recent statistics compiled by the American Philosophical Association show that undergraduate philosophy majors scored better than any other group on the verbal section of the GRE; their combined scores were among the highest overall. For students unsure of their career goals, majoring in philosophy helps them develop verbal and analytical skills that will position them well in today's rapidly changing workplace. Completing a philosophy major also equips students with a basic curiosity that can enhance all aspects of their lives.
Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Philosophy
Undergraduate students interested in philosophy are highly encouraged to participate in research projects and opportunities abound! Involvement in research provides a different type of training than experiences in the classroom. These opportunities can be important in defining future career goals and in pursuing certain career tracks or advanced education. Undergraduate research can be on a volunteer basis or to earn credit towards a degree by registering for PHIL 4450. If you are interested in undergraduate research:
Identify potential philosophy faculty members
who do research in areas that are interesting to you and appropriate to your background. Although you may contact any philosophy faculty about a possible undergraduate research project, the following faculty have specifically identified themselves as willing to participate in undergraduate research:
- Prof. Jill Delston: social and political philosophy, normative and applied ethics
- Prof. Jon McGinnis: History of philosophy, science and theology
- Prof. Lauren Olin: Cognitive science
- Prof. Gualtiero Piccinini: Philosophy of Mind
Make contact with the faculty member of your choice. Describe your background and future plans. Talk about your philosophical interests. Be sure to mention why you picked this particular professor.
Undergraduates who participate in PHIL 4450 are expected to identify a topic of philosophical research, work with the faculty to create a tailored list of readings, meet periodically throughout the semester with the faculty member and complete a final project. In some cases, the final project has exhibited as a poster presentation during the Undergraduate Research Symposium
Get More Information
Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Eric Wiland, firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (314) 516-5495.