Philosophy Degree Gives Students Major Edge in Work-Force

As a Philosophy major, I have heard all the jokes. One of my personal favorites: “What’s the difference between a large pepperoni pizza and a philosophy major? A large pepperoni pizza can feed a family of four.” Countless people have looked at me, puzzled, asking me about my post-graduation plans. It has been included in many — often misinformed — lists of “the most useless majors.” While I admittedly do have a personal bias in this matter, the idea that philosophy is a useless degree is simply false.

I could talk all day about why I love philosophy — all the different perspectives on the world it offers, new ways to think about our surroundings, the admirable rhetoric often used by philosophers, the ongoing debates that have existed since ancient times, and the shocking, sometimes controversial ideas that can open your mind. It seems cheap to argue the importance of philosophy on any other basis besides its inherent value. Unfortunately, these merits don’t seem to do it for a lot of people, which is why more justification seems required.

The New York Times ran an article in 1986 that quoted Dr. Clark Glymour, who said that there was an “incredible need for philosophers,” and this is still true to this day. How can this be? In a world that is so technologically advanced, how can a discipline like philosophy still be relevant?

This Winter Term, I interned with Christina Storm, founder of Lawyers Without Borders. In one of our conversations, she mentioned the difficulty of finding people who are able to think critically and creatively as one of the biggest problems when hiring people. Furthermore, a study done by The Atlantic stated “We hear again and again that employers value creative problem solving and the ability to deal with ambiguity in their new hires” and that no other major prepares you for this better than philosophy. I completely agree. Nothing prepares you for creative and critical thinking better than philosophy — the open-ended writing assignments, the quick thinking that is required when something you say in class is challenged, and the approach you must take to provide a fresh response to a philosophical problem that millions of people have wrestled with over time.

There is a reason why philosophy majors tied economics majors for the highest LSAT score in the nation — it’s a test designed to gauge the ability of the test-taker to think creatively, critically, and logically. Furthermore, philosophy majors also rank highest by far in verbal reasoning and analytical writing skills, according to the Educational Testing Service. There are too many well-known lawyers, politicians, presidents, and Supreme Court Justices who have extensively studied philosophy to name, but a few include Bill Clinton, Thomas Jefferson, Stephen Breyer, Martin Luther King Jr., and Aung San Suu Kyi.

While philosophy majors excel in the field of law as made obvious by their LSAT scores, they also make excellent entrepreneurs and business owners. The same skills that prove beneficial for philosophy majors on the LSAT also prove beneficial for them on the GMAT, as they score the fourth highest on the test and score the highest out of any humanities major on the test. There are also many incredibly successful business people who majored in philosophy; some notable ones include Carly Fiorina, Carl Ichan, George Soros, Peter Thiel, Stewart Butterfield, Reid Hoffman, Gerald Levin, and John Mackey. Many of these individuals have actively discussed how much philosophy helped them in their careers. Finally, philosophy majors score the highest out of any major on the verbal and analytical sections of the GRE, according to the newsite Daily Nous.

Although some employers may not actively seek philosophy majors, they do actively search for the tools that philosophy arms its students with. While there are many merits to philosophy that do not center around earning potential, scoring highly on tests, or successful people who majored in philosophy, they certainly help in understanding the practicality of earning a philosophy degree in a society that deems it useless. It deeply saddens me that I so often must defend my choice of major based on these grounds. However, when paying $70,000 per year for a degree, I suppose it is a legitimate question, especially when coming from your parents.

Don’t just take it from a biased philosophy major, though. Coming up on April 9 at noon, Storm will be coming to speak on the importance of a philosophy degree on her career path and also about the work she does in general. If you are at all interested in hearing about why philosophy is an excellent discipline to major in or hear about, come listen to her speak. She is the perfect example of how philosophy can truly change the world.