Socrates famously claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living. The credo of philosophy in general could well be that everything is worth examining, and philosophers examine all manner of esoteric things: truth, justice, beauty, knowledge, antinomies, possible worlds, various kinds of concreta and abstracta (as well as the distinction between such), and on and on. This leads many people mistakenly to think that a BA in philosophy has no practical value, where ‘practical value’ is understood to mean something like usefulness in finding and keeping a “real" job. Nothing could be further from the truth. In what follows you will find some data and sources of information that give the lie to the myth of philosophy's practical uselessness.
It's well known that a BA in philosophy provides excellent preparation for study in a philosophy graduate program as well as in law school. The superior performance of intended philosophy graduate students on the GRE and philosophy majors on the LSAT are evidence of this.
On this, see:
- GRE Scores by Intended Major
- LSAT Scores by Undergraduate Major
- Philosophy Rocks the Graduate Record Exam!
- Why Study Philosophy? (especially sections 2 and 4)
Less well known is that a BA in philosophy also provides excellent preparation for employment in a variety of business settings. In a nutshell, the chief skills developed in a rigorous philosophy curriculum are the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, especially (but not exclusively) in writing, along with the ability to critically analyze and creatively solve complex problems. These skills are being increasingly recognized and valued by business.
On this, see:
Philosophy majors also do very well on the GMAT, better than any other humanities major and better than every business major. So a BA in philosophy is excellent preparation for doing an MBA.
On this, see:
- Why Study Philosophy? (especially section 3)
Some have even recently seriously entertained the idea that philosophy is the most practical undergraduate major:
Finally, mid-career median earnings of persons with just a BA in philosophy ($75,600) compare very favorably to similar earnings of persons with just a BA in another humanities discipline or a social science. Among humanities and social sciences, philosophy is in the top 10 for both starting and mid-career median earnings.
Ten Best Undergraduate College Degrees By Salary – Humanities & Social Sciences
|Starting Median Pay||Mid-Career Median Pay|
|3. Film Production||$41,600||$80,700|
|4. Political Science||$39,900||$80,100|
|5. American Studies||$43,400||$78,600|
|6. Urban Planning||$41,500||$78,000|
|9. Global & International Studies||$37,800||$72,000|
This chart is based upon PayScale Salary Survey data for full-time employees in the United States who possess a Bachelor's degree and no higher degrees and have majored in the subjects listed above. (For the complete list, see www.payscale.com/best-colleges/degrees.asp.) These results may not represent all graduates with these degrees. All colleges and universities across the nation were included. As a result, median salary figures may be skewed toward large state universities, since these schools have the largest attendance. Salary is the sum of compensation from base salary, bonuses, profit sharing, commissions, and overtime, if applicable. Salary does not include equity (stock) compensation. See www.payscale.com/best-colleges/salary-report.asp for full methodology.