Illustration by Elizabeth Wong of Immanuel Kant in article about being a philosophy major

4 Reasons You Should Major in Philosophy in College

It's not just sitting around and pontificating in togas all day.

People with practical mentalities will often argue that attaining a degree in philosophy is a waste of time and cannot provide students with a steady source of income after graduation. Although some presume that a philosophy degree is useless, I think it is an excellent option for creative thinkers who haven’t decided their career path.

Philosophy gives you the tools to think and debate rationally, ethically and analytically, instilling you with excellent written and oral communication skills. The skills you learn, throughout your four years studying philosophy, will enable you to perform well on standardized tests and appear valuable to employers, making philosophy the perfect major for students unconvinced by conventional academic routes. 

1. Philosophy gives students the tools to think autonomously logically and diagnostically

The first philosophy class I took in college was a sophomore-level ethics class. We studied the moral frameworks of 10 philosophers throughout the semester, and were taught to articulate their views, apply them to everyday contexts and question the very ideas of “right” and “wrong.”

In this class, we studied Immanuel Kant, an 18th century German philosopher who believed that, to determine if an action is moral, you must look at the motivations behind the action, not what the action produces. He said that, to act morally, you needed to act purely because the moral law demanded it — to act through what he coined the “good will.” Kant thought that to be capable of the “good will,” you must think through your beliefs rationally and autonomously.

Kant’s primary means for discovering his moral truth was his rational, self-governing thought process. Although Kant’s subjective view of morality is up for debate, it is a perfect example of how to use rational, creative and critical thinking as tools to discover your own truths.

In your study of philosophy, you will also use these tools with logical reasoning to develop your beliefs, understand the views of others and develop reasonable and analytical approaches to problem solving. Throughout your coursework in philosophy, you will learn how to think and analyze arguments rationally, avoid subjective biases and communicate clearly and spontaneously.

2. Employers value the skills learned in this major

In the past, humanities and liberal arts graduates have had high unemployment rates, but I believe that the demand for critical thinking in the job market is slowly growing as technology changes the world we live in. Mark Cuban, an American entrepreneur and investor on the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” believes that in the next 10 years, as artificial intelligence advances and begins writing its own code, millions of jobs in the software development industry will be replaced by technology.

He predicts that, once software begins writing itself, there will be a decrease in job opportunities for coders, and an increase in job opportunities for employees with backgrounds in creative and critical thinking. Cuban explained, “When the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data.” As technology changes, our economy will be forced to adapt to those changes, leaving many to theorize that a liberal arts education will become increasingly valued among employers. 

3. Philosophy majors do very well on standardized exams   

Despite those who criticize philosophy’s real-world value, its majors have consistently proven their worth through their performance on standardized tests. The best and worst thing about majoring in philosophy is that it doesn’t prepare students for a specific technical line of work, such as engineering or medicine. This leads many to question its legitimacy as a field of study because it doesn’t set you on a straight career path.

Instead of guiding you down a specific path, philosophy presents you with various routes, and helps you develop the creative thinking skills you need to determine which one best suits you. Because the philosophy major doesn’t prepare students for a specific job, career directions among philosophy majors are highly diverse.

Many philosophy majors go on to law school, while others become professors, writers or public policy professionals. Some of these professions require attending graduate school, and many graduate programs require students to take a standardized test upon applying. The GMAT, the standardized test to get into management or business graduate school, is taken ordinarily by business majors. Although fewer philosophy majors take this test, those who have taken it have historically performed remarkably.

In 2015, philosophy majors who took the GMAT had the fourth highest average by major, and led the ranks in the verbal and analytical sections of the test. Similarly, philosophy majors who go on to law school and take the LSAT also achieve high scores. On the 2015 LSAT, philosophy majors had the highest mean average, outperforming all other majors. If you are considering applying to a graduate program and also interested in studying philosophy, remember that it provides students with valuable problem solving skills that enable them to achieve high scores on standardized tests.

4. Philosophy students are able to learn from the best thinkers in history

A philosophy degree grants you easy access to history’s best minds. If you consider yourself an independent or creative thinker, then you will most likely be interested in learning from the most influential out of the box thinkers that have ever lived. From Aristotle to Nietzsche, philosophy covers a broad area of controversial and revolutionary thought processes that have changed people’s perception of the world around them.

Philosophers have long been criticized as being overly abstract or theoretical in the way they think, but it was only through their innovative beliefs and the large paradigm shifts in thought that followed that enabled humans to understand more about the underlying mechanisms of reality. The human species evolved past its animalistic drives and established the disciplines of science because the philosophers of the past questioned the nature of their existence.

Philosophy has been the cornerstone from which all science and impartial truth has been built from and is the driving force in our evolution of thought. Philosophers seek to be inquisitive, objective and truthful. If these characteristics apply to you, or if they are traits you highly value, you should consider majoring in philosophy. 

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