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V. Career Options

Studying philosophy has enormous intrinsic rewards.  But a philosophy major is also great preparation for a wide range of careers.  That’s because philosophy focuses like no other discipline on helping you develop the following set of skills, which are crucial for many careers:

Problem-Solving Skills: Studying philosophy is a very effective way to enhance your problem-solving abilities.  It helps you analyze concepts, definitions, arguments and problems.  It contributes to your ability to organize ideas and issues, to address questions of value, and to extract what is essential from masses of information.  Studying philosophy helps you to put problems in a manageable form, to frame hypotheses, and to do research.  It helps you to distinguish fine differences between similar views and to discover common ground between opposing positions.  And it helps you synthesize a variety of perspectives into a unified whole.

Communication Skills—written and oral: These regularly top the lists of skills that employers are looking for.  Philosophy contributes to the development of expressive and communicative powers.  It provides some of the basic tools of self-expression—including skills in presenting ideas through well-constructed, systematic arguments—that other fields either do not use, or use less effectively.  It helps you express what is distinctive about your ideas; it strengthens your ability to explain difficult material; it encourages fair-mindedness in considering opposing positions; and it helps you to eliminate ambiguities and vagueness from your writing and speech.

Analytic Reading Skills: For most of the jobs that Bowling Green graduates are likely to hold, you will be effective only if you are able to read carefully and critically the documents you will be working with—whether it’s a legal brief, a scientific report, a company’s new policy proposal, or a memo from the head of your division.  Philosophy brings you face-to-face with some of the most challenging (and rewarding) texts ever written.  Once you have mastered those texts, you’ll have the ability and confidence to handle virtually any text you come across in your career.

Persuasiveness: Through its focus on clear formulations, good arguments and apt examples, the study of philosophy helps you develop the ability to be convincing.  You learn to construct and defend your own views, to appreciate competing positions, and to indicate forcefully why you consider your ideas preferable to alternatives.  While many fields give you practice in arguing for your position, philosophy is unique in its focus on the quality of the arguments themselves.

Understanding Other Fields: Philosophy is indispensable for understanding the foundational issues in many disciplines.  Many important questions about a discipline, such as the nature of its concepts and its relation to other disciplines, are philosophical in nature.  Philosophy of Science, for instance, is needed to supplement the understanding of the natural and social sciences which one derives from doing scientific work itself.  Similarly, philosophy of law, biomedical ethics, or history of philosophy gives you training in the sort of cross-disciplinary thinking important in today’s fast-changing and interrelated careers.  It can also help you do well in non-philosophy courses and in other majors or minors.

Armed with these skills, philosophy majors typically score much better than most others on the LSAT, outpace all other majors in acceptance to medical schools, and find themselves advancing rapidly in the businesses and organizations in which they work.

Finally, there is the time-honored reason for studying philosophy.  Philosophy will help you comprehend your place in the universe.  It will acquaint you with the writings of those people, past and present, who have thought most deeply about human beings and the world, nature and science, and the meaning of life.  Socrates said, “Know thyself.”  Philosophy will provide you with the materials and methods you need for this life-long task.

Many of the world’s most esteemed authors, political leaders, actors, and public figures have majored in philosophy.  These include:

Woody Allen
William Bennett
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin
Jerry Brown
George Carlin
John Chancellor
Ethan Coen
Angela Davis
Umberto Eco
Ken Follett
Harrison Ford
Northrup Frye
J. Paul Getty
Philip Glass
Raisa Gorbachev
Gertrude Himmelfarb
Carl Icahn
Phil Jackson
Pope John Paul II
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Jay Leno
Michael Lerner
Amy Madigan
Steve Martin
Robert MacNamara
James Michener
Iris Murdoch
Madelyn Murray O’Hair
Stone Phillips
Susan Sarandon
Gene Siskel
Alexander Solzhenitsin
Susan Sontag
George Soros
David Souter
Steve Thomas
Alex Trebek
Robert Vaughn
David Foster Wallace
Elie Wiesel

Acknowledgement: this section was developed with the assistance of several sources, including the Handbook of the Department of Philosophy at Washington University at St. Louis.