Why Not Major in Philosophy?

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I wanted to share an email that I got recently from Mark Couch, an assistant professor of philosophy and director of the Liberal Studies Program at Seton Hall University. He was reacting to a post that I wrote for my CBS MoneyWatch college blog.

I thought what the philosophy professor had to say was worth sharing because too many parents and students think that the liberal arts, such as philosophy, should be avoided if you want to secure a good-paying job after graduation. I think this aversion to the liberal arts is absolutely misguided.

A Philosophy Major and Careers

Here’s what the Couch had to say:

I read your article on “Kicking Unpopular College Majors to the Curb,” and I was pleased to see that you were moderately supportive of philosophy in particular.

I’m a philosophy professor and there is a lot of misinformation about the discipline.

Famous Philosophy Majors

As a matter of fact, there are many well-known people who studied Philosophy and who are anything but unsuccessful. I include here U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and David Souter. Recent U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, who was former CEO of Hewlett Packard. Former President Bill Clinton (a Rhodes Scholar-which is a degree in philosophy). Amartya Sen, economist and philosopher at Harvard and Nobel Prize winner. Bertrand Russell, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sarte (who all won Nobel Prizes-does this sound like they were slackers?). Not to mention Thomas Jefferson, who was a major in philosophy.

There are many examples of very successful people in addition to these that studied philosophy and did very well in their later pursuits.

It is also worth nothing that philosophy majors outperform almost all other majors on entrance exams to graduate school. This is including law school (ranked #2) graduate school in arts and sciences (ranked top 3) business school (where Philosophy majors score 15% higher than Business majors) and medical school.

I’m told by the Chair of Biology in my university that philosophy majors have the highest acceptance rate of ALL majors. Apparently, they are not so unsuccessful after all, and I would hope that your viewers would be made aware of these common, but false, stereotypes that are still existent in our society. All of this challenges the conventional wisdom that I’m sure many of your readers share.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow her on Twitter.

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2 Responses to “Why Not Major in Philosophy?”

  1. Daneille says:

    That’s great and all, but if you don’t plan to pursue an advanced degree, a philosophy degree is still pretty much a degree in being unemployed.

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