Why philosophy degrees are among the MOST useful. Evidence demolishing myths peddled by philosophy bashers.

Here is an excellent resource on why philosophy degrees make especially smart and successful businessmen and women, lawyers, journalists, etc. (you are actually dramatically better off doing a first degree in philosophy than business administration for a career in business).

Some very good answers to "Philosophy? What are you going to do with that?" question. Go here.

Includes GRE test performance (philosophers do staggeringly well - look right), comparative salary information, and various other useful bits of evidence that collectively puncture the peculiar modern myth that philosophy isn't "useful".

I previously commented on the GRE scores comparing philosophy students with all other students here.

A quote from Fordham:

"In addition, as the marketplace becomes more competitive, graduate degrees become more desirable, and that entails a strong performance on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the exam most business schools require their applicants to take. Philosophy majors consistently outperform other majors on the GMAT, including all business majors, all humanities majors, and all social sciences majors. Philosophy majors enjoy enormous advantages going into business."

The first and last testimonials are especially good. Opening quote from the final "testimonial" on linked page:

"Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of consulting firm. If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead."


While I agree, as a recent graduate nobody knows what to make of my degree (eploymentwise). The usual reaction was that "I cannot give you a job but with a degree like this SOMEBODY has to give you one..." (repeated ad infinitum for months)
Stephen Law said…
Print off a couple of the articles and attach them to your application, with a polite note saying - "some information about my degree choice".
well, that might have been a good idea in the first 4 months indeed,

now I have a job, lucky me:)
clk said…
I'm not sure though which is the cause, is it the philosophy degree itself or are the students themselves who are possibly the cream of the crop as undergrad philosophy students tend to be in this group.

I cannot see someone with poor A-levels choosing/ reading Phil.
Bill Snedden said…
Hehe. On the first day of my first MBA course, the professor asked each of us to introduce ourselves and give a little personal background. My undergraduate is in music, so that engendered a bit of conversation, but not as much as one of my classmates who told us that he had a BA in history, and then, because that only made him probably unemployable, returned to get a masters in philosophy to further decrease his chances.

As I recall, he was one of the more successful students...
Rocky said…
Since the graph only plots verbal/written (reasoning I presume) scores, is there any data on how philosophy undergrads do on numerical testing?

Additionally, doesn't the GRE test get a bit of flak for being quite a rigid format - potentially the particular test format favours philosophy students without them actually being able to perform better than students of other disciplines in 'real-world' or different examination style settings?

(note: I've only skimmed your post/the links as I'm at work, so some of my questions may have been dealt with already).
Rocky said…
Sorry for the double post:

Just spotted the link to the numerical data graph - quite a number of disciplines outperform philosophy on numerical reasoning in the GRE (not surprisingly they're the maths-heavy subjects, although rather oddly accounting is an exception to this!)
I think you have just convincingly established that philosophers are vastly overpaid ;)
Anonymous said…
Interesting, I imagine a philosophy degree helps develop your comprehension skills along with teaching you how to ... think... for lack of a better word.
I do think that for some careers - primarily vocational - it is better to get a grounding in the core subject. Engineering for example, too often I encounter bright people with 1 year conversion courses who lack knowledge of the basic principles that any engineering undergraduate would know.
However the flip side is the lack of respect I often encounter in these vocational careers for liberal arts courses. This usually goes hand in hand with poor language skills. In the last 24 hours I've encountered the following 3 clangers in emails:
"Your aware of..."
"I want to help with the companies branding" - which companies? Oh you mean our company's branding...
"Who is the Principle Engineer?"
Paul Sagar said…
Just to be provocative, do these sources control for analytic vs. continental trainings?

Only, I can see exactly why people drilled in analytic approaches will be very good at logical reasoning, problem solving, prioritising, picking out crucial detail etc. I'm less convinced an immersion in Heidegger and Foucault (for all its other merits) would cash-out in business acumen...
Anonymous said…
Numeracy not included. I wonder why not?

Hell, who needs numbers if words will do. Only boring people think about numbers.
Ron Murphy said…
I recently watched Charles Ferguson's 'Inside Job' on the global financial crisis. What soon became apparent was that most of the antagonists were pretty good at convincing people that they knew what they were talking about, when with hindsight it was clear they didn't. No wonder philosophers do well in business.

Of course the honest ones are more likely to have a conscience and so stick to academia :)
Paul P. Mealing said…
I have studied both humanities and science subjects at a tertiary level, though I'm one of those people who never finish their degrees.

What this is saying, I believe, is that people who study philosophy develop good written communication skills and, hopefully, good verbal communication skills as well.

I work in engineering and I would argue that problem-solving is the most important skill, and that includes many areas like politics and economics, not just technical environments. If one examines the recent Fukushima disaster, there are a number of problems to be solved: technical, political, strategic, social, economic; and they all require intelligent debate.

From my experience of studying philosophy, I would argue that analytical and critical thinking are the mental attributes that get exercised most regularly.

Regards, Paul.
Matt said…
Recently came across your blog, and as a current philosophy student, I'd have to agree. Although, I echo others' sentiments about employers not offering jobs but implying that someone should... Perhaps I should be a bit more aggressive about my qualities in the future.

MW said…
As a philosopher it's probably not surprising that you obviously don't understand what a selection effect is.

If you had to do real experiments with data you would understand that you need to control for the ability of graduates on the way in to university as well as the way out - this is the cause of your selection effect.

It ought to be fairly obvious that a different type of person chooses to do a philosophy degree to the kind of numpties who march into business degrees...
Stephen Law said…
MW. Doh, yeh I never thought of that!

Of course I did. I mentioned it in the earlier post. GRE scores obviously don't establish by themselves that the increased smarts is *caused* by degree programme. However, When combined with other evidence. you can start to build a case...
Anonymous said…
There are two things to consider here:
1) The GRE also has a math portion - it doesn't do to forget that. Just sayin'.
2) About 55% of Engineering students with aspirations of graduate study are international (from India, China, S. Korea and so on), where learning English isn't highly emphasized. Consequently, their verbal and writing scores are low.

A more interesting analysis would be to compare Writing scores vs Math scores, and Reading scores vs Math scores. This, I think, would provide a better sense of which majors create "well-rounded" individuals.
The main idea resembles Scruton's "Idea of University." spectator.org/archives/2010/09/17/the-idea-of-a-university
Observer said…
"Philosophy? What are you going to do with that?"

Seems the answer is still nothing. Well, I should change that to,

"Nothing, but I will go back to school to get a degree that actually means something."
Observer said…

I should add that I am joking around. :) Great article and thanks for posting the information.
What I think it means is that you can get a degree in anything but it doesn't mean that you will learn it easily or that you'll understand all the applications of what you learn. What philosophy does is not to only contemplate deep subjects but also to think more clearly, analytically and rationally. Philosophy creates problem solves.
That is why philosophy majors do best when they double major or minor in something else. By carrying their knowledge and skills from philosophy they will improve and do better than most other in any field they move into. Philosophy majors tend to score in the top 5 of any other majors for all graduate school tests, such as the LSATs, GREs, GMATs etc.
I'm working on finding a job by using my philosophy degree right now, but not just a teaching job. I'm thinking about combining philosophy with psychology to be a therapist. Combining existential therapy with normal therapy and also something new called Philosophical Practitioning.
Check it out on my blog. www.philosophydegreejobs​.com

Loved this post by the way. Nice to see this kind of reaction to my degree.
fornow said…
McNeese U has rearranged their web site, breaking your links. Thought you'd like to know.

But thanks for a refreshing article.
gahks said…
Hi Stephen,

Broken links. Please restore! I currently study PPE at Warwick so would love to hear what people are saying about where philosophy gets you. Would be a useful counter to my dad who wants me to do an MBA and not an MA in Philosophy and Literature (facepalm).

Best regards,

Salman Arshad said…
I am Salman Arshad from India and now 38 years old.
I have master degree in philosophy and just I have submitted my research project for Ph.D. now I am thinking about job. Anybody can suggest me in this regard…..? My id is arshadanand@rediffmail.com
Emma said…
As a prospective student, hoping to study Philosophy and Politics this is very encouraging to hear! Great post :)
Nikki Stott said…
I have known philosophers, astro-physicists, designers, mathematicians, sociologists and environmental scientists who were allowed into The City. It isn't your degree. It's your lack of humanity and slight psychopathic tendencies that will get you a job in business.
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Anonymous said…
Hallo Everybody,
I come from Poland, sorry for my English.
I think Philosophy can possibly (depend on student) teach you 'better' thinking - here logic (especially philosophical logic) and methodology as a tools for clearer distinguishing of ideas, meaning of words and the range of them.
Also student have chance to improve ability to thinking abstractively - ontology, epistemology and huge amount of history of philosophical ideas make difference and 'bend' student's mind in different shape.
Of course as always it depend on individual's ability, aptitude and attitude.
And the best, in my opinion, is finish philosophy by getting degree in Law:)
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