Get a Job With a Degree in Philosophy
Unlike many fields of study, such as accounting or engineering, philosophy does not connect you to an immediate career in a specific industry. However, philosophy attracts intelligent and industrious students, qualities that are valued in the workplace. Students in this field simply have to be a bit more creative when assessing their career interests and planning a transition to the workforce. You can explore your possible career paths at any time, even while you are still working on your degree.
Preparing for the Job Market
- Employ your school's career resources. Most universities have some form of career planning center. These centers offer resources like career planning advice, resume workshops, mock interviews, and referrals. The staff will be able to tell you about your university's unique programs and opportunities. Don't wait until after you've graduated to try to take advantage of these tools.
- Consult with a career advisor. Your university Career Services office is a good place to start. If you do not have access to an advisor, start with a career interests test like the Princeton Review Career Aptitude Test or the Strong Interest Inventory. A counselor or an inventory test can help you identify your abilities and interests, as well as match them to careers that you may not have considered.
- Define your career goals. These goals should be specific and measurable. For example, an early job search goal might be: "I am going to break down how each possible career choice relates to the interests I enumerated above," or “I am going to rank my immediate possibilities based on likely salary.”
- Consider both short term goals, such as getting an entry-level position within an industry or profession, and long term goals, such as the rank and recognition that you would like to achieve. Your transition to the working world will be overwhelming if you try to accomplish everything at once. Your decisions will be much easier if you have a clear sense of how each choice fits into your immediate and long-term goals.
- Brainstorming involves aspirational thinking, but should be kept grounded as well. Keep your goals specific and measurable. Focus on expressing your goals in ways that you can directly enact and assess.
- Plan your coursework appropriately. Once you have analyzed your interests, abilities, and goals, you should tailor the last years of your study towards those areas. For example, if writing is a chief talent of yours and you are considering a job in journalism, you should take more elective classes in communication, literature, or a related field.
- Minor in a different field. This is a great way to show employers that your skills extend beyond the disciplinary knowledge of philosophy. A minor in a foreign language will complement the value of your analytical thinking or businesses, or a minor in history could prepare you for public policy work.
- Consider a double major, if your university allows. Your philosophy degree will be more compelling to many employers if you pair it with a marketing, communications, or social science degree. Plan ahead carefully to make sure that you can complete the requirements of both degrees.
- Gain work experience if possible. Employers look favorably upon graduates who have already gained experience outside of the classroom. Use your school's resources to seek out internship and co-op opportunities. Don’t expect your dream position right away: your first job will be an opportunity to learn and to demonstrate that deserve a better position.
- If your university does not offer assistance in finding internships, use career networking sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor or a specialized site like internships.com.
- If you want to gain experience directly related to arts and humanities, look for an internship at a museum or an editorial internship at a magazine with a relevant focus.
- Identify transferrable skills. Your degree has likely helped you hone some of the skills most desired by employers: communication, the ability to analyze and solve problems, research, critical thinking, persuasive rhetoric, and more. When applying to jobs, emphasize how these skills will help you succeed in the workplace. For example, an interest in rhetoric and discussion could be applied to a career in sales, public speaking, or politics. Many companies will value your skills if you know how to present them.
- Attend career fairs. Schools often organize career fairs and employers look to universities for some of their best hires. These events offer an easy way for you to meet potential employers, apply for jobs, and get a better feel for the current job market. Bring multiple copies of your resume to distribute among employers that are actively looking for new employees.
- Prepare questions for company representatives. Ask about recent good press the company received, or about a new initiative that they have launched.
- Dress professionally. You want to impress potential employers and colleagues. Show that you are serious and that you understand the norms of the workplace.
- Use alumni connections. If you have already graduated, you can likely work through your school's alumni association to look for employment. The alumni association can provide information on networking events and other opportunities to meet potential employers.
- In doing this, you will have to learn how to market the skills your philosophy degree provided you with towards a diverse set of job opportunities. The more you talk about the skills you developed through your philosophy degree, the better prepared you will be for questions you will be asked in interviews.
- Join a professional organization. Philosophy organizations such as the American Philosophical Association (APA) or the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) will help you network with potential employers. The APA focuses on the analytic tradition in philosophy, while the SPEP focuses on the continental tradition. Though the focus of these organizations is on philosophy, many members will have connections that extend beyond university faculty.
- Keep up with one or two philosophy forums online. They are good places to network and you may find philosophy graduates who have transitioned into other careers and can offer advice.
- Circulate your resume. Use your resume to emphasize the broad spectrum of skills you mastered by studying philosophy. Your resume will be a useful tool for emphasizing skills that will be valuable to employers in various professions.
- Include skills that emphasize the specific skill set of philosophy: analysis and presentation of clear arguments, the ability to distinguish between differing views and to establish common grounds, the ability to write well-constructed and compelling arguments, and an openness to new ways of thinking.
Pursuing Further Education
- Decide how far you want to pursue philosophy. Many philosophy graduates have a passion for the field and go on to study the discipline at a higher level. If your goal is to get a university teaching or research position, you will need a graduate degree in philosophy or a related field.
- Consider a master’s degree. If you are not ready to commit to a Ph.D. program, a master’s degree will allow you to network with scholars with similar interests and determine whether you enjoy advanced philosophical study. Master’s programs are typically one or two years.
- Consider a related field. You can pursue your interest in philosophy while studying diverse subjects such as religion, literature, history, or education. In some cases, these fields may offer more obvious career paths or help you demonstrate your versatility to potential employers.
- Take a gap year. If you are not sure whether you want to commit to several more years of school, take some time off. While you decide, use the time to gain experience that will complement your philosophy degree. With the knowledge that your break from school will be short, you can lessen the pressure to find a perfect job right out of college. Focus on gaining workplace experience, rather than finding a job related to philosophy.
- Enter the workforce. If you plan to return to school, consider jobs that will develop skills that you will need in academic professions. Experience as a secretary can help you secure academic administration positions, or a retail job may help you develop the interpersonal skills needed to Teach Effectively. Experience in retail, , or will all help you develop your professional … at this point.
- If you are interested in a specific career path, find out what the entry level positions are within the field. Look for editorial assistant positions in the publishing industry or paralegal positions with a law firm. Non-profits may be interested in the skills you developed as a philosophy student. Once you have relevant experience within an industry, you will have an easier time presenting your skills and academic background as an ideal fit for a position you truly want.
- Volunteer. While you decide whether to pursue more education, you can gain marketable experiences by volunteering as well as develop your network. You can also consider a longer commitment with an organizations such as Teach for America or City Year.
Pursuing a Professional Degree
- Use your degree as a foundation for career-focused studies. A bachelor's degree in philosophy provides a good base for pursuing a degree in fields that correspond to specific occupations. This will make your eventual transition into the workforce easier. Research the areas that interest you and find out what education you will need for specific careers in which a philosophy major can be beneficial; start by considering broad career types, rather than specific positions.
- Consider a legal career. The legal field demands clear and critical thinking, the ability to write well and analyze and present arguments. A philosophy degree will have prepared you for each of these challenges. Some philosophy electives link directly to law, such as ethics, philosophy of jurisprudence, and political philosophy.
- Explore possible careers in healthcare. Philosophy graduates are well-represented in healthcare, both in administration and medical practice. With specialized education, you will be able to enter a profession that will utilize your analytic skills, clear thinking, and ethical reasoning.. Medical schools tend to look favorably on students with philosophy degrees. The medical paths that philosophy alumni take are as varied as neurology and ophthalmology, orthopedics and cancer research.
- Pursue a career in government. A philosophy degree can prepare you for work in local, state, and federal level government. This is due to a philosophy student’s practiced analytical thinking skills and their ability to present clear, rational arguments. A graduate degree in public administration or international relations will prepare you to apply your critical thinking and argumentative skills to matters of the public good.
- Review career options in business. A degree in philosophy can open many doors to careers in business. Many successful business men and women started out with philosophy degrees and developed careers in marketing, venture capitalism, stockbroking, and real estate brokers. In the case of some companies, especially technology start-ups, a humanities degree is a sought-after qualification. With a business administration or economics degree, you can make a transition into this career more easily.