How to Major in Philosophy

Philosophy majors enjoy one of the most enriching academic disciplines, a course of education that centers on critical analysis of literature, rhetorical exploration of ideas, debate over fundamental theories on morality, and much more.

How to Major in Philosophy

Philosophy is the study of knowledge, values, existence, reality, thought, and more. Majoring in philosophy can also open you up to a world of professional opportunities. The critical thinking, communication, and research skills you’ll gain in this versatile major will all be valuable in a wide range of workplace settings from education and activism to public service and corporate governance.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Philosophy.

Or read on to find out what you can expect as a Philosophy Major.

5 Reasons to Major in Philosophy

1.Philosophy majors develop valuable rhetorical skills.

As a philosophy major, you’ll spend a great deal of your time poring over compelling historical texts, exploring complex ideas, and engaging discourse over subjects like ethics, religion, and politics. This education will provide you with valuable skills of debate, communication, and persuasion.

2.Philosophy majors learn critical thinking and critique.

Philosophy is a discipline which requires deep thinking. You’ll be absorbing texts and ideas from a wide range of historical periods, world cultures, and ethical dispositions. It isn’t your job to accept everything you read at face value. Philosophy promotes questioning, challenging, and conceptual problem-solving. Majoring in philosophy arms you with the tools to better understand and navigate challenges in your work, life, and personal relationships.

3.Philosophy majors have a strong understanding of history, politics and more.

Philosophy is naturally interdisciplinary in nature. Areas of consideration such as morality, behavior, and the human condition have historically factored into the way we understand entities such as national governments, religious organizations, and communities. Philosophy majors must build a strong background in these dimensions of human life in order to contextualize much of the literature they’ll be required to read. As such, philosophy majors are uniquely positioned to understand history, participate in the political process, and analyze policy impacts.

4.Philosophy majors are sought after by cutting edge organizations.

The skills of communication, research, and critical analysis that you’ll develop as a philosophy major are highly transferable to a wide range of workplace settings. Increasingly, progressive companies in the tech, marketing, and retail industries have recruited professionals with a background in philosophy to help attack challenges and sieze opportunities with creativity, critical thinking, and a strong grounding in ethics.

5.Philosophy majors are influential.

The discourse over morality, human existence, and reality remains extremely fertile. Indeed, the impact of real-world conditions such as globalization, environmental degradation, and the permeation of technology in modern life continue to generate deep exploration and intense debate. This makes the work of today’s leading thinkers extremely consequential. Today, top influencers in philosophy are breaking new ground in feminist theory, the philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, and much more.

Find out who the Most Influential People are in Philosophy today!

What Kinds of Philosophy Degrees Are There?

There is no minimum academic threshold for putting your philosophy skills to use in a professional setting. However, this is a field dominated by academics. This means that some of the most highly regarded and influential figures in philosophy will have earned an advanced degree. The degree level you pursue may depend largely on whether you plan to become a philosopher (or postsecondary philosophy instructor), or whether you plan to apply the skills gained in your philosophy program to pursue a role in another sector.

  • Associate in Philosophy: This two-year degree will provide you with an introductory education in an array of foundational topics including ethical philosophy, Ancient Greek philosophy, and world religion. Your associate’s degree in philosophy will qualify you for work as part of a charitable foundation, religious organization, marketing firm, and more. The associate’s degree can also provide you with an affordable head-start on your way to a four-year degree.
  • Bachelor of Philosophy: Typically a four-year degree, this popular liberal arts program will provide a comprehensive education around both ancient and contemporary philosophy, as well as how these bodies of thought connect to politics, religion, race relations, gender, economic distribution, and much more. Moreover, because philosophy is not an inherently vocational degree program, you may choose a minor, or double major, in an area like teaching, political science, or corporate ethics as a way of applying your philosophy education in a particular job sector.
  • Master of Philosophy: This two-year degree will provide you with an opportunity to focus your philosophy education in a particular area such as public service, education, law, or human resources. Your philosophy education will provide a strong grounding in rhetoric, critical thinking and the organization of information while your area of focus will provide you with a way to channel these skills.
  • PhD in Philosophy: Typically a three to five year program, this terminal degree is required for those who wish to teach philosophy at the post-secondary level as well as those who will lead research for a think tank, government agency, or charitable foundation. The doctoral degree may also be desirable to those who hold the academic title of philosopher or theosopher.

*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

What Are Some Popular Philosophy Concentrations?

Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, which places philosophy under the umbrella of philosophy and religious studies, the following are among the most popular philosophy concentrations:

  • Philosophy, General
  • Logic
  • Ethics
  • Applied and Professional Ethics
  • Philosophy, Other
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies, General
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies, Other

What Courses Will I Take as a Philosophy Major?

Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a philosophy major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Introduction to Philosophy and World Religions. And because philosophy is not necessarily a career-oriented field, you may choose a set of complementary courses in a subject area like education, business administration, or counseling. Philosophy also gives you the chance to choose from an array of courses that interest you on a personal level.

Common Philosophy courses include:

  • Social and Political Philosophy
  • Critical Thinking
  • Philosophy and Globalization
  • Topics in Feminist Ethics
  • Philosophy and Literature
  • General Ethics
  • Biomedical Ethics
  • Philosophy of Knowledge
  • Environmental Philosophy

What Can I Do With a Major in Philosophy?

Philosophy is not an inherently career-oriented major, insofar as this degree may not necessarily lead you down a specific career path. Instead, majoring in philosophy will arm you with an array of 21st Century workplace skills that are applicable in a wide range of fields from education, marketing and government to healthcare, information security, and corporate ethics. This means that your philosophy major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a major in philosophy? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!

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Now that you know how to major in philosophy, check out The Most Influential Schools in Philosophy and get started on your path to a philosophy degree.

And if you’re shopping for the right college, be sure that you’ve reviewed our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!