The Fictions and Reality of Majoring in Philosophy

Our own Glenn Tiller sends us this short piece from the journal "America: The Jesuit Review" on the value and nature of majoring in philosophy. Highlights from the article, Want a Good Job? Major in Philosophy include:

However, the data suggests that we need more philosophy classes if our students’ employment futures are a prime concern. We know, for example, that philosophy students do extraordinarily well on the GRE, LSAT and GMAT tests, showing that they are well prepared not just for further academic study but also for training in law and business. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2017 found that the net return on investment for a philosophy degree is equivalent to that of an engineering degree. Not only is philosophy education less expensive than other forms of education that lead to well-paying, respectable jobs, but philosophy graduates end up earning more over their lifetimes than graduates in any other humanities field and more than graduates of some STEM fields.

The more philosophy graduates demonstrate the falsity of the “useless major” trope, the more deeply entrenched it seems to become. Some have taken the claim “philosophy doesn’t prepare its graduates for any single job” to mean that philosophy leaves its graduates without any job skills. The truth is in between: Philosophy prepares its graduates for many different jobs.

Teaching students to see and assess the range of possibilities in between extremes—including between the horns of a false dilemma—is what I do in my classes each semester. Students arrive in my classes believing that if there is not a single “right answer” to a question, then anything goes. It’s all about feelings, and feelings can’t be wrong. Yet the humanities, and particularly philosophy, prepare students to engage meaningfully with the ambiguities of life outside the classroom, where single right answers are in short supply and where creative problem-solving skills are essential for the difficulties we face.