As a college major, philosophy has gained several misconceptions attached to it. One of the most common is that it is not a practical preparation for a viable career. In reality, the philosophy career paths are vast and diverse. While the degree itself is not often listed in the popular majors that guarantee a high salary, a degree in philosophy equips students with skills that are transferable to various careers across different disciplines.
Due to the nature of the discipline, philosophy majors are bound to develop valuable skills, such as analytical thinking, problem-solving, information management, and effective communication capabilities. These are essential abilities to help an individual thrive and flourish in various professions, including teaching, business management, public policy analysis, ministry, and even jobs in legal fields.
In this article, we will explore the philosophy career path, wage, and career growth for philosophy degree holders—from associate, undergraduate, to graduate levels.
In terms of earning potential, a career in philosophy is up there with other careers that are performing well above the national average. Specifically, a career in philosophy fetches $76, 160 in annual median wages, a figure that is 35.25% higher than the national $56,310 annual mean wage (O*NET Online, 2021; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
A higher-than-average earning potential goes well with other personal reasons for pursuing a career in philosophy. For example, it positions those who are given to musing about humanity’s place in the grander scheme of things on safer ground. Now, they need not suffer the privations that once attended that ancient lover of wisdom, Socrates, as attests the stories handed down to us (Griffin, D. E., 1995).
Aside from financial and personal fulfillment rewards, a career in philosophy opens up a world where the career philosopher, typically in the profession of an academic teacher, can freely mingle and collaborate with like-minded professionals all over the world.
They are also not strangers to corporate halls, where their services are engaged to bring light to industrial processes that require their intuition and critical thinking prowess. Their inputs in such advanced fields as machine learning and artificial intelligence are valued highly, virtually ushering their field to the threshold of technologies now crucial to the next step of civilization and modernization everywhere.
Based on 2020 figures, the outlook for a philosophy career is promising and positive overall. In particular, the $76,160 median wage indicated above is further propped up by a 5-7% projected employment growth from 2019 to 2029. That would be equivalent to 2,600 job openings for the period (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
What are the typical academic profiles of those currently employed in philosophy careers? Based on 2018 figures, 64% held a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, while 57% possessed an advanced degree (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).
Which occupational groups can you expect to build a philosophy career on? While 42% find employment in various occupational groups, many go into educational instruction and library occupations (14%), management occupations (14%), community and social service occupations (12%), legal occupations (9%), and business and financial operations occupations (8%) (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
Philosophy is a discipline rooted in apprehending the workings of the mind and all that exists outside it. As such, it is only natural that its first order of business is ensuring that it remains sharp, tensile, and steadfastly grounded on reason, clear thinking, and logic. By doing so, it intends to present a body of work that can be analyzed, corroborated, or critiqued and corrected as necessary.
As such, philosophy has, thus, relied on the following core skills since its formalization:
The quickest way to kick-start your career in philosophy is via an associate degree, which requires only two years to finish. After you complete this and find gainful employment, you may want to push your credentials a notch higher with a full bachelor’s degree and beyond that, with graduate degrees.
If you have been in the labor market long enough, you would know that bachelor’s degree and graduate degree holders typically earn more than high school and associate-degree holders. For two years more, you could give yourself a pat on the back for opening up opportunities for yourself, both to improve your life and philosophy career goals.
To enroll in an associate or full bachelor’s degree in philosophy, you need to have your high school diploma or GED, letter of recommendation, and transcript in order. If you are looking at high-level positions later in your career, a bachelor’s degree is your only option. You will also want to know that 64% and 56% of those currently employed with this educational background are holders of a bachelor’s or an advanced degree, respectively.
This occupation can take many names depending on the industry. The philosophy salary comprises those for sales representatives, customer service representatives, sales engineers, real estate agents, and similarly termed jobs. Account executives sell products and services, normally assigned to any number of client accounts, thus the title. Aside from base salaries, account executives can also enjoy other perks like commissions, bonuses, and profit-sharing, making this a very lucrative entry-level occupation for several disciplines.
Median salary: $65,420
As a development director for a non-profit organization, your task is to ensure continued financial support from individual and corporate investors, grants, and marketing and charitable events. As such, you need to identify strategies and plans to make the most of fundraising opportunities in order to build a stable donor base. You will most likely oversee a development team and take charge of public relations activities.
Median salary: $66,573
A labor relations manager is responsible for maintaining good relationships between the organization’s employees and its management. The position requires that you manage wage and work-related issues before they deteriorate into full-scale strikes. Thus, you need strong negotiation and bargaining skills for this job. As you are expected to balance the interests of employers and employees, you must develop excellent arbitration skills to deliver on your job.
Median salary: $96,170
As a high school teacher, you will prepare materials and activities for your classes. You are to teach through discussions, demonstrations, and lectures in subjects like social studies, history, or English, among others. You are expected to communicate to your students the objectives for projects, units, and lessons and adapt instructional materials and teaching approaches to meet the varying needs and interests of your students.
Median salary: $62,870
The job of a market research analyst revolves around analyzing products and sales trends as well as consumer behavior. They are in charge of gathering data through surveys, polls, and other methodologies and interpreting market trends.
Median salary: $65,810
Project managers are charged with designing, planning, implementing, and measuring the effectiveness of organizational projects. This profession requires handling a team or teams of personnel as well as clients to promote smooth communication among everyone involved in successfully accomplishing a project. Project managers are also highly involved in managing the financial aspect of the projects assigned to them.
Median salary: $75,000
These professionals can either work independently or as part of an organization. Their primary responsibilities include assessing the psychological conditions of their clients. Psychologists are also in charge of managing and exploring possible treatment options. Furthermore, psychologists also participate in scientific research studies related to their field of specialization.
Median salary: $82,180
Economists conduct in-depth research and analysis of economic conditions, systems, as well as predict trends. They also analyze and evaluate economic issues and how these can affect the resources and distribution of goods and services. Economists also formulate models and policies as part of economic development strategies. As part of the private sector, economists are highly involved in research and analysis of market trends that can help an organization have a competitive advantage. Economists employed by private organizations navigate new legislation and the impact of new regulatory laws on their business.
Median salary: $108,350
H.R. managers take charge of a human resources department’s administrative functions. These include overseeing the recruitment and hiring process, handling disciplinary and termination processes, keeping the compensation and benefits up-to-date with the trends, and ensuring that the organization is compliant with regulatory and employment laws. Furthermore, HR managers also play a vital role in creating learning and development programs for the reskilling and upskilling of employees.
Median salary: $121,220
As postsecondary teachers, philosophy professors are required to have a Ph.D. degree in order for them to qualify to teach in colleges and universities. Depending on specializations, philosophy professors can teach philosophy of religion, philosophy of politics, ethics, metaphysics, and more.
Median salary: $102,181
Political scientists create and study political theories based on research and data relevant to political conditions, queries, and issues. They also study how existing and new policies can affect different social, economic, and political sectors not only based on data but also on the opinion of the public, public servants, and other relevant figures and organizations. Political scientists who completed their Ph.D. in philosophy are also capable of making forecasts on various political, social, and even economic trends as they are well-versed in political philosophy and mathematical theory.
Median salary: $125,350
A doctorate degree in philosophy serves as an advantage to those who decide to take up law as well. Graduates of a doctorate in philosophy bring the advantage of analytical reasoning and critical thinking, which help them in presenting arguments in court proceedings, negotiating settlements, and providing guidance to their clients. Furthermore, the communication skills developed by philosophy majors are just another edge in helping them become competitive civil, corporate, or criminal lawyers.
Median salary: $126,930
Philosophy certificate programs are generally used in broadening one’s knowledge or in advancing one’s career. While a certificate alone may not make securing a philosophy-related profession easy, having a certification on top of a particular major may increase an individual’s chances of earning an employer’s or hiring managers’ favor. One of the reasons behind this is that a certificate in philosophy does not hold much worth compared to an actual degree, but it does add value to the qualifications and employability when coupled with other degrees, especially if it is a graduate certificate.
The importance of soft skills in employability has also been examined further in a study by Janet Ferguson titled “An overview and discussion of research supporting the concept of generic ‘soft skills’ framework in tertiary education towards bridging the gap between education in employment.” According to this study published in the New Zealand Journal of Applied Business and Research: “Employers require graduates to be work-ready after completion of the study. The dynamics of this requirement change as the business environment changes. This increases pressure on education institutions and on graduates. A generic skills framework that would be structured against up to ten skill areas may go some way to resolving this pressure. These skills would reflect those identified by employers and other stakeholders and reflect the interest in skills internationally. The benefits to the organisation would be in the immediate recognition of generic skills, ability, potential, and best fit with the organisation’s plans and strategies enabling a shorter learning curve” (Ferguson, 2010, pp. 59-74).
Currently, there is no known profession that requires or mandates a certificate in philosophy. Getting one, however, can be useful as part of your preparation for getting an actual degree. Certificates in philosophy cover a variety of areas and the best ones are always those that align with your study or career goals. Below are some of the certifications in philosophy that you can get:
Source: Data USA, American Community Survey,
Taking advanced courses and degrees plays a vital role in advancing your career in philosophy. While a bachelor’s degree is enough to give you a good headstart, having a master’s degree or a Ph.D. opens higher levels of opportunities for career growth and, usually, financial stability. Some of the possible options to advance your career may only require a master’s degree, but there are those that need a doctorate level of education to qualify for the role. If pursuing graduate studies is part of your philosophy career development plan, you may find the following information helpful.
Certain requirements for a master’s degree program in philosophy may vary across institutions. For example, if you are interested in taking a master of arts degree in philosophy at Boston University, you must have completed an undergraduate major in philosophy or equivalent with a minimum grade of B or higher. Meanwhile, U.C.L.A. requires at least a B+ grade. Furthermore, below are some of the coursework for Boston University students interested in enrolling in a master’s in philosophy program:
Ph.D. in Philosophy requires more advanced qualifications, which also vary depending on the specialization and the institution. Among the common prerequisites, however, include at least a C-grade knowledge and understanding of a non-English language, such as German, Latin, or Greek. As for course requirements, below are some of the graduate-level courses that must be taken:
Some institutions may also require teaching experience (teaching assistant experience included) of at least three quarters in an academic year.
A degree in philosophy might not always lead you to professions directly related to it. There, however, are viable career options for philosophy majors who will decide to pursue a different route where the skills and knowledge they have earned are useful.
Studying philosophy is not all just about critically pondering the deeper connections of ideologies and questions relevant to morality, ethics, consciousness, religion, and others. This major also places emphasis on communication skills, especially in writing. Those who have studied or majored in philosophy can thrive as journalists as they are not only equipped with the fundamental abilities of writing but also in research and investigation, which are also valuable to the profession.
Median salary: $49,300
One of the transferable skills developed in studying philosophy is the power of persuasion—an ability that is valuable in the sales industry. As a sales representative, someone who has a philosophy degree can harness this particular skill set in pitching clients, as well as in establishing a good relationship with existing customers.
Median salary: $52,510
Market research analyst jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree and this is a profession philosophy majors can be valuable in. As analysts, philosophy degree-holders can utilize their skills in conducting market research, data interpretation, and critical thinking in assessing marketing trends. They also contribute to formulating strategies to help businesses create effective marketing plans.
Median salary: $65,810
Soft skills have been recognized to contribute to the success of employees for more than a hundred years. A study conducted in 1918 by the Stanford Institute International and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation revealed that long-term job success is anchored on 85% people skills and only 15% technical knowledge (National Soft Skills Association, 2019).
These skills are just among the factors that make a philosophy degree a versatile and profitable college major, other than the competitive philosophy wage as you scale your qualifications and gain experience. Not only does it give students a lot of flexibility in terms of career choices, but it also gives them the advantage of adaptability, which is very much necessary in the ever-evolving sector of business and employment.