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What are the practical benefits of studying philosophy?


So you’ve just taken your first philosophy course, and you think to yourself, “Wow, this is really interesting! If only I could major in this without sending my parents into a panic or going hungry after graduation.” In addition to tackling deep and thought-provoking questions, you might be surprised to find out that the critical reasoning and analytical abilities developed by studying philosophy are valuable in preparation for any future career. Consider the following facts:

  1. A 20-year longitudinal study found that philosophy majors average over $20,000 dollars above the median American annual income[i].
  2. The Educational Testing Service(ETS) reports the following:
    1. Philosophy majors scored the highest of all majors (including the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities) on both the verbal and analytical writing sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
    2. Philosophy majors had the highest overall score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
    3. Philosophy majors also scored well above average on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), used for Business School Entrance.

So, despite its apparent “impracticality,” studying philosophy correlates with professional and financial success. Why is that? The truth is, no undergraduate major at a liberal arts college—not economics, not political science, not biology, not computer science—provides you with the full array of skills used at your first job after graduation. Rather, all of these majors aim to provide you with the abilities to think, to learn, and to write, so that you can readily acquire and apply these skills at your first job. However, on this front, philosophy is at least as good as any other major for honing these general abilities, and if the ETS’s data are any indication, it may in fact be significantly better than most other majors! When coupled with the more obvious attractions of studying philosophy—its intrinsic worth, its examination of the human condition, and its centrality to a liberal arts education—it is clear that the skills you gain from studying philosophy will serve you for life, in and out of your job.

Useful links on the value of the philosophy major:

Philosophy is a Great Major

Phil Skills: Stories of Philosophers Who've Forged Non-Academic Careers

Why I Was Wrong About Liberal-Arts Majors, WSJ

The Sword of Damocles: The value of philosophy to a business leader, Chicago Business Journal

Why Majoring In Philosophy is Less Risky than You Might Have Thought

Famous PhilosophersFamous Philosophers  - A poster of successful philosophy majors designed by Catherine Nolan, a graduate student in philosophy at SUNY Buffalo.

Philosophy: What can it do for you?

"Be employable, study philosophy" from

Why Study Philosophy? from USC Dornsife

From APA's Brief Guide for Undergraduates: "The Uses of Philosophy"

From Phila. Inquirer: "Study of philosophy makes gains despite economy"

From The Atlantic: "Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?"

I Think, Therefore I Earn,” Guardian (UK), Nov. 2007.

In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined,” New York Times, April 2008.

Philosophy Is Back in Business,” Business Week, Jan. 2010.


[i] Carol Marie Cooper, “Cogito Ergo, I Can Sell My Philosophy Degree.” International Herald Tribune, December 27-28, 1997, 3.



Department of Philosophy

Twilight Hall
50 Franklin Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

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