What Can I Do With a Major in Philosophy?

One degree, unlimited possibilities...

Students who major in philosophy have more options – and more attractive options – than people often realize. Some philosophy majors will go on to make a living as philosophers, but many more work in industry, government or education. They become lawyers, doctors, administrators, teachers, diplomats, consultants, bankers, managers and business owners. 

Employers seek candidates who can think critically, present clear arguments, identify essential points and solve problems. Because of the rigorous nature of the discipline, students of philosophy develop a mastery of these skills – putting them at the top of the list for a variety of career opportunities

Bust of Greek philosophers with an instructor in the background.

Why Should I Study Philosophy?

Philosophy means, literally, the love of wisdom. The ideas within philosophy teach more than just content – they teach how to think about all manner of issues: from spotting logical fallacies in a politician's rhetoric to pondering life's deepest questions. Science and technology may offer us great power, but they don't offer the wisdom of how to use that power. How should we direct our efforts as humans? What does it take to be truly happy? How should I live my life? These questions, and more, are fundamental to philosophy.

Is a philosophy major practical?

The answer is simple. Something is practical and useful if it enhances our lives. For this question, philosophy operates on many levels. But the level most people have in mind when asking this question is whether it is practical for making a living, for having a career.

It often surprises people to find that philosophy majors are often at the top of their chosen fields. This is because philosophy majors develop valuable skills that help them to excel in just about any field that requires serious, careful, analytical thought. Particular technical training quickly becomes outdated; but thinking skills have enduring value.

Studying philosophy for its own sake

We all need to make a living. But is "living" just about income and career?

Many people get to the top of their fields and find their lives... empty. This is often called the midlife crisis. The study of philosophy is about the whole person: as physical, social, political, psychological and spiritual beings.

The study of philosophy enriches our perspectives by introducing us to very different ways of looking at, and thinking about, the world and how we live in it.

Students sitting around a table deep in discussion.

What kind of careers do philosophy students get?

UNI philosophy majors have pursued careers as:

  • Analyst in the U.S. Senate
  • Professor
  • College president
  • School psychologist
  • Ordained minister
  • Health care agency administrator
  • Manager at John Deere
  • Executive director of a non-profit agency
  • Attorney

Of course, these jobs require additional training in technical skills and specialized knowledge. But these are easily gained by most philosophy majors.

What kind of graduate schools do philosophy students go to?

UNI philosophy majors have attended graduate school at prestigious universities, including:

  • Law schools at Harvard, Iowa, Drake and Hamilton
  • MBA at University of Iowa 
  • The Divinity School at Vanderbilt, Yale, and Harvard
  • Graduate programs at Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan State, UC Irvine, Kansas, DePaul, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Iowa State and many others
  • MA Public Policy Program at UNI and University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Philosophy majors score very well on graduate and professional admissions exams, consistently ranking among the highest scores on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Philosophy comes in first on the Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing portions of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).