Philosophy is the study of fundamental and general problems, such as those connected with existence, reality, reason, knowledge, language, values and mind. Philosophy addresses these problems through a critical, systematic approach while relying on rational arguments. The word philosophy and the term philosopher have been ascribed to Pythagoras, a thinker from Ancient Greece.

Program Information

At the undergraduate level, students take classes in addition to philosophy that include the study of epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, logic, and semantics. New York University is one of the top universities in the country for philosophy. A major in Philosophy requires 10 four point courses in the department. History of Modern Philosophy, History of Ancient Philosophy, Logic, one introductory course, and Philosophy of Mind are some of the required courses. All undergraduates start with one of the introductory courses before moving on to more advanced classes. In order for the credit to count toward the major, a grade of at least a C must be achieved. Harvard University also has an excellent philosophy program. The Department offers both honors and non-honors concentrations in philosophy. 12 half courses are required for non honors, which include both courses and tutorials, while 13 half courses are required for honors eligibility. For joint concentrations, the total drops to 9 if philosophy is the primary concentration and to 6 if it is not the primary concentration. In 2011, there were 71 students concentrating in philosophy, up from 69 in 2010 and 50 in 2007.

philosophy student

Pros & Cons

A philosophy degree provides the opportunity for you to consult ethics boards and government agencies, which can be very high paying positions. Universities also have a high demand for philosophy professors, and employment of college level teachers is expected to grow. Thus, for people who are interested working in a university setting, having a philosophy is a big advantage when it comes to getting a position. A philosophy education can also prepare you for a variety of careers outside of a university setting however, such as politics. If you do end up becoming a professor, one downside to philosophy is the lack of outside grants for research. There are also a limited number of philosophy research institutes outside of a university setting. The metrics used to judge faculty performance, such as citations in journals and grant dollars, are not as applicable in philosophy.

Graduate School & Career

Philosophy is one of the best majors to prepare you for law school. It develops your conceptual analysis and logical reasoning that law school requires. It also teaches you about the political and ethical reasoning that underlies the legal system. Philosophy majors also tend to score better on the LSAT than other students. A degree in philosophy can also be helpful for a student who wants to work in art and architectures. While this tends to require a graduate degree or advanced technical training, philosophy can help students think theoretically which can help with projects. Philosophy is also an excellent major for students who want to become teachers, and looks great in your portfolio. Philosophy also prepares students for a future career in publishing, ranging from building booklists at university presses to copy editors for journals and magazines. Philosophical studies cultivate the analytic and language skills required for public relations work. Philosophical training will help you convey complex ideas to target audiences (such as journalists, donors, or certain demographics) and handle tough questions (from reporters for example).