For thousands of years, philosophy has provided an intellectual framework for humankind’s most profound questions. In academia, philosophy is the study of knowledge and human existence, and leads those who practice it to ask questions like:
- Who are we?
- Why are we here?
- Why do we believe what we believe?
- what should we do with our time?
Philosophers (those who study and present on philosophical ideas) consider fundamental conundrums that revolve around concepts like:
- Right and wrong
- Truth and falsehood
- The meaning of life
- the nature of human existence
- The reality in which we live
The formal study of philosophy requires a significant measure of discipline. Philosophy students must demonstrate skill in analytical, systematic, and critical thinking, as well as keep their minds open to new or unfamiliar systems of thought. Putting philosophical ideas into context requires the study of history, sociology, and even world cultures; therefore, there is a strong research component to this field of study.
Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in philosophy can prepare graduates for a wide range of careers that align with the analytical, investigative nature of philosophical study. Possible careers that align with a philosophy degree include law, education, ministry, finance, or public service, to name a few.
Types of Philosophy Degrees
As with any liberal arts discipline, philosophy degrees are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In fact, PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy, which is the highest academic degree one can earn in any field except medicine or theology, and attests to the graduate’s ability to contribute original research to their field.
In a philosophy bachelor’s degree program, students learn the basic principles of logic and reasoning while building their skills of analysis, critical thinking, written and oral communication, and constructing logical arguments. After earning their undergraduate degree in philosophy, many people go on to pursue legal studies, seminary, a PhD, or a Master of Business Administration.
A philosophy master’s degree program will further hone the skills developed in an undergraduate program while introducing more complex theories and concentrations, such as aesthetics, political philosophy, ethics, or the philosophy of religion. Most master’s programs culminate in a capstone project or thesis paper.
A doctorate, or the aforementioned Doctor of Philosophy, is the highest academic degree available in the discipline. This program focuses primarily on dissertation, wherein the student will conduct original research and present their findings on a topic of their choosing. Additional exams, graduate seminars, and language proficiency may be required. Upon completion, graduates will be eligible to teach at the university level.
The faculty of any university philosophy department is an excellent resource when it comes to determining which degree track is best for your goals. Alumni can also offer invaluable advice on choosing degree programs, internships, and concentrations, depending on your career objectives and interests.
Top 18 Careers For Philosophy Graduates [Plus Salary Data]
Earning a philosophy degree can open up endless career opportunities in almost every field. Positions in education, law, and the clergy are common for philosophy degree holders, but graduates who enter the fields of health care, business, marketing, and even financial services are not unusual.
Because of this wide array of possibilities, there is no definitive salary range for someone with a philosophy degree. According to Payscale, the average salary for a person with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy is $72,000 a year with extremes on either end. However, many philosophy degree holders experience more than a 100 percent salary increase by the middle of their careers.
Here is a breakdown of some of the careers available to a philosophy degree holder, with the average salary one can expect in each field. Bear in mind that the majority of these professions require additional schooling and training beyond a bachelor’s (or even master’s) degree in philosophy.
|Career Category||Average Salary|
Entrepreneur, analyst, C-suite executive, business consultant, etc.
Minister, priest, rabbi, deacon, youth minister, etc.
Mental health, meditation, spirituality, etc.
Professor, secondary school teacher, religious teacher, etc.
|Financial Services Professional
Accountant, wealth management, investor, etc.
|Foreign Services Officer||$95,742|
Doctor, nurse, medical specialist, hospice, etc.
Lawyer, paralegal, judge, etc.
Advertising, public relations, strategist, graphic designer, etc.
Journalist, public relations, consultant, media correspondent, news anchor, etc.
Administration, fundraising, grant writer, etc.
Historian, curator, etc.
Author, journalist, copywriter, technical writer, etc.
What Skills Does a Philosophy Degree Help You Build?
An academic philosophy program requires that students develop fundamental skills that will help them succeed in their coursework and the professional world. Philosophy students develop the ability to:
- Write and speak clearly and effectively
- Conduct diligent research
- Organize research and presentation materials
- Cite their work
- Manage their time well
- Work independently
- Take initiative on projects
- Adapt to changing circumstances
- Remain flexible
- Work well with others or as part of a team
While most philosophy programs don’t include concrete instruction in a specific career, students can develop crucial, hard-to-teach skills that will be invaluable in their professional careers. Often called “soft skills,” these are the skills that can make the difference between being a job applicant and a new hire.
Upon graduation, students with a philosophy degree are able to:
- Use critical thinking to form their own opinions on challenging topics
- Analyze research to determine the best approach
- Identify and solve problems creatively and effectively
- Synthesize complex topics and present them succinctly
- Generate original ideas
- Distinguish subtle differences between things without overlooking similarities
- Formulate logical and compelling arguments
- Take an objective view of opposing positions
- Predict consequences of various actions
- Make decisions based on careful and logical analysis
- Suggest alternative approaches or courses of action
- Interpret and assess various thoughts and theories
Advanced Degrees for Philosophy Graduates
People who’ve earned their bachelor’s degree in philosophy may be unsure what to do next. Since a philosophy degree does not guarantee a specific career, further schooling may be required. Here are the most popular advanced degrees chosen by philosophy majors:
Juris Doctor (JD)
This is the minimum degree required to practice law in the U.S. It is considered a professional degree, as opposed to a research or academic degree, since it prepares graduates for a specific line of non-academic work. Philosophy students who excel at logic and reasoning, ethics, and the development and defense of coherent arguments often go on to earn their JD and obtain their lawyer’s license.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Since this degree can apply to any field besides medicine and theology, many philosophy majors will choose a PhD program to deepen their knowledge in a specific subject, such as English or chemistry. A PhD requires original research and the defense of an original argument, two skills that are prioritized in philosophy. A philosophy major who wants to become a professor in any subject will need to earn a PhD.
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Excelling in analysis, creative problem solving, and distillation of information are crucial for business professionals, which can include entrepreneurs, investors, or executives. An MBA program offers specialties in areas like business ethics and human resources, two of the many aspects of business that leverage philosophical reasoning skills.
Though these degrees prepare students for different career tracks, they are all concerned with the study of religion and how it impacts humanity. Students examine questions of faith, human existence, divine presence, and morality — concepts that are tightly intertwined with and informed by philosophy. (In fact, these degrees often require a background in philosophy, such as a bachelor’s degree.) Whether becoming a minister, religious educator, or spiritual counselor is the goal, any of these degrees are an ideal fit for someone with a foundation in philosophy who wishes to build a deeper intellectual connection to their faith.
Frequently Asked Questions: Philosophy Careers
Q. What jobs can I get with a philosophy degree?
A. Since a philosophy degree program does not concentrate on a specific field, the career options are nearly endless. Philosophy degree holders are often ideally prepared for careers in education, law, ministry, business, writing, or research.
Q. How long does a philosophy degree take?
A. Depending on the level of the degree program, a philosophy degree can take anywhere from two to four years. Bachelor’s degrees typically take four years; master’s degrees typically take two; and doctorate programs can take as few as four and as many as eight years, depending on the area of study and previous degrees earned.
Q. Which graduate programs prefer a philosophy undergrad degree?
A. Any advanced degree that focuses on philosophy may stipulate that applicants have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Theological or religious degree programs — such as a Master of Theological Studies, Master of Divinity, or Master of Ministry — prefer that applicants have an academic background in philosophy.
Q. What does a philosopher do?
A. In a professional capacity, philosophers can write books and papers, present lectures, conduct research, and teach courses on philosophy. While few people make a career as a philosopher today, the versatility of the discipline translates to many different careers.
Q. How much can I make with a philosophy degree?
A. Since a philosophy degree is not designed to lead to a specific career, the available careers and salaries can vary widely. For example, a philosophy degree graduate can enter nonprofit administration and make $40,000 a year, or earn their Juris Doctor and make over $120,000 a year as a lawyer.
Q. How does a philosophy degree connect to a theology degree?
A. Theology grapples with existential questions of faith, morality, and purpose, and therefore shares significant crossover with philosophy. Since theology is the academic study of religion, it requires extensive research and writing, as well as the ability to interpret theoretical texts and form compelling arguments. Since it incorporates so many of the same elements of philosophy, a master’s degree in theological studies is an ideal next step for the philosophy graduate who wishes to pursue a faith-related career.
If you are interested in pursuing an advanced degree after earning your bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a college advisor can help you identify your next steps. The University of San Diego offers a range of on-campus, online, and hybrid degree programs that benefit from a background in philosophy, including a Master of Theological Studies, a Master of Business Administration, and a Juris Doctor, among many others.
Connect with a USD advisor today to take the next step toward your future.