Why a degree in philosophy may be a better bet than a degree in business

This previous post bears repeating in the current economic climate...

If you are wondering what kind of degree programme is likely to boost your general smarts, consider these figures.

Go here. This is one of several graphs from the above article. Based on GRE test performance (Graduate Record Examination) of graduate programme applicants. Quantitative (math) skills on the vertical axis, verbal skills on the horizontal (other graphs include the third component - "analytical writing", at which philosophers also excel, dramatically outperforming all others).

Philosophy graduates are pretty damn smart, the various figures suggest, compared to graduates with other degrees, including most - perhaps even all - sciences (though were they smarter to begin with, or did their degree programme make them smarter, compared to other degrees?). Check the article. Here's the original table of GRE scores of US students completing a variety of degrees.

Notice religion also does very well.

This data suggests (but falls a long way short of establishing) that if we want to produce graduates with general, across-the-board smarts, physics and philosophy are disciplines to encourage [and possibly also that accountancy and business administration should be discouraged (this confirms all my prejudices, I am pleased to say!)].

Note some very weird stats on this graph, such as business administration's woeful performance, doing less well than even "art and performance" on quantitative skills and verbal skills (which is staggering). And accountancy grads less good on quantitative skills than philosophy grads (!) and the worst performers of all on verbal skills. Both business and accountancy are also weak on the analytic writing component.

Of course, as the new business-friendly, market-led Tory vision of degree provision kicks in, we'll probably see philosophy departments up and down the country closing and business administration degrees expanding. Brilliant.

P.S. Just added a second graph comparing analytical writing and verbal. Check out e.g business administration. And where's philosophy?


Anonymous said…
I know this is true because of the quality of philosophy students in my classes. They learn how to think which is very important in this world.
Thrasymachus said…
There is another way of taking these figures - that instead of people going into philosophy and getting much smarter, it is the smarter people who go into philosophy. Given business and other 'vocational' subjects are traditionally low status, more able students would prefer not to go into them. This makes the graph not such a good 'sales pitch' for philosophy - although smarter folks are more likely to go into it, that doesn't mean doing it will improve your GRE etc.

If you buy the 'signalling' theory of education, then the assertion that 'go do a business degree to make you more appealing to business' gets it completely backwards. You are getting a degree to signal how intelligent/conscientious/hard working you are, and so higher status degrees are a much better strategy of getting a good job than getting a 'vocational' one. this might explain why Big4/IB/Mgmt consultants tend to hire lots of humanities (inc. philosophy!) and science grads at prestigious institutions over folks with business degrees.
Anonymous said…
"Of course, as the new business-friendly, market-led Tory vision of degree provision kicks in, we'll probably see philosophy departments up and down the country closing and business administration degrees expanding. Brilliant."

Well, if what you say in the article is true, the exact opposite will happen. If philosophy leads to people who are more talented in both quantitative and verbal abilities, then they will do better in the job market, leading to an increase in demand for philosophy undergrad courses.
Anonymous said…
So why are innocent people always convicted, should cops be forced to study philosophy?

Anonymous said…
Click here, re above comment.
nancy john said…
students should be imptove there GRE Verbal skill that is the best way for passing the test
This comment has been removed by the author.
ShahHussainKCL said…
I have taken the data here and worked out average IQ scores by intended major. Check out my graph and comment please. Feel free to be brutal.


@Dr Law -- If you read this comment then please do comment on my graph and feel free to use it as ammunition for promoting philosophy.
Stephen Law said…
Thanks very much ShahHussein - I'll give it its own new post.
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