What Can I Do With a Philosophy and Critical Thought Major?
There’s an ancient stereotype of philosophers as geeks who are so preoccupied with abstract questions that they can’t deal with the realities of the practical world, including the reality of making a good living. In the twenty-first century world, this is false!
It is true that many students initially major in philosophy because they are interested in (or obsessed with) certain questions for reasons that have nothing to do with job security. (That kind of obsession is a sign of intelligence, suggesting a mind that takes complexity seriously and seeks to process multiple perspec- tives before deciding what to believe and do.)
But recent statistics show that in this country philosophy majors, equipped with critical thinking and cultural literacy skills, go on to become the highest salary earners in the Humanities, with GRE and GMAT scores among the highest in all disciplines.
The vast majority of philosophy majors don’t stay in philosophy, even while they overwhelmingly report being glad they chose that major because of the skills in reasoning and writing and the larger perspective on human knowledge and the world it affords.
Distinguished former majors include (a short list) George Soros, David Foster Wallace, Susan Sarandon, Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi, Carly Fiorino, Moby (Purchase philosophy major!), Susan Sontag, and David Souter.
If you consider the different kinds of valuable work these individuals have done, it becomes clear that, “What can I do with a Philosophy major?” is as much an existential as a practical question. This becomes even clearer if you flip the question around, “What wouldn’t I be able to do without a Philosophy major?”
What Do Philosophy Majors Do After Graduation?
Some go on to become professional academic philosophers. But most—equipped with the critical thinking skills, the familiarity with big ideas in philosophy and other disciplines, and sensitivity to moral and social values that a good philosophy program (like ours at Purchase) delivers—find and create careers in an amazing variety of 21st century professions.
Some noted former philosophy majors around the world include:
- Susan Sontag
- Pope John Paul II
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Simone de Beauvoir
- Rabbi Michael Lerner
- Noam Chomsky
- George Soros
- John Lewis
- Philip K. Dick
- Bruce Lee
- Kazuo Ishiguro
- Wes Craven
- Ethan Coen
- Susan Sarandon
- Stephen Colbert
- Steve Martin
- Moby (Purchase philosophy major!)
- David Foster Wallace
- Rashida Jones
- Pat Haden
- Elie Wiesel
- Pete Buttigieg
- Raisa Gorbachev
- Have higher average lifetime salaries than majors in any other Humanities discipline
- Have the highest ranked mid-career salaries of all non-STEM majors (including Business Economics, Marketing, Fashion Design, Political Science, English Literature, Film Production, Urban Planning, Religious Studies
- Have the highest-ranked scores of majors in any discipline for Verbal Reasoning
- Are among the four highest ranked groups of majors on the GAT of any discipline in the Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences
“What’s the Value of Philosophy?
Charts and graphs from Daily Nous.
“Who Studies Philosophy?”
Some famous Philosophy Majors (listed by field) from the American Philosophical Association.