What can I do with a philosophy degree?
In many people’s eyes, a philosophy degree is a waste of time with few to no career prospects. Studying philosophy may be interesting, leading to endless debates about all sorts of abstract ideas, but – so the career-minded might say – what use will this serve you in the long run?
Well, firstly, it should be pointed out that not all philosophy is abstract; philosophy is also about the practical, such as which actions are morally right or wrong, and this has important implications for how we live. Secondly, a philosophy degree is useful for the pursuit of a wide range of careers. So, if you love philosophy and you’re wondering what you can do with a philosophy degree, we have some possible answers for you.
Become a philosopher
This is perhaps the most obvious answer. But if philosophy is your passion, then a clear career path for you is to become a philosopher. This would involve studying a master’s degree in philosophy, a PhD, and then landing your first academic position.
As a professor of philosophy, you would get paid to teach and write about philosophy. Studying for a PhD in philosophy or teaching the subject will also enable you to gain a level of expertise that could allow you to have your written work published as books, in magazines, or online.
Also, in certain countries, such as the Netherlands and Sweden, you can earn quite an attractive salary as a PhD student. That’s right. Universities in these countries will pay you to study philosophy.
Medical ethics committee
If you are interested in ethics and questions of a moral nature, you could use your philosophy degree to help advance your career in the field of medical ethics.
By working for a medical ethics committee, you could be involved in debating and resolving ethical issues related to end-of-life care, abortion, genetic and prenatal testing, birth control, organ donation, patient privacy, and patient rights.
The charity sector
Studying moral philosophy can also benefit you if you want to pursue a career in the charity sector. The aim of many charities is to maximise some benefit to people or to minimise harm (known as utilitarianism in philosophy), which involves a careful cost-benefit analysis, something that a degree in philosophy can teach you to do.
Studying moral philosophy and practical ethics may involve a focus on important issues, such as environmental ethics, animal ethics, and the ethics of war, and studying these subjects may give you the incentive and motivation to work for a charity that is dedicated to protecting the environment, animals, or people.
You may also want to consider working for an effective altruism organisation, which is an organisation that aims to help people make rational decisions when it comes to donating money or choosing a high-impact career. You will find many people with philosophy degrees working in the field of effective altruism.
Help businesses to operate in an ethical way
Depending on your philosophy course or interests, you may also study business ethics. This could prepare you for a career focusing on corporate social responsibility (CSR), accounting ethics, advertising ethics, and a range of other ethical issues related to the world of business (e.g. privacy, health risks and safety, transparency, discrimination, harassment, ethical codes of behaviour, ethical dilemmas, and so on). A philosophy degree could help you make navigate tricky business situations in a way that is ethical and rational.
Politics, Journalism, or working for a think tank
If your interests lie more in the realm of political philosophy, then you may find that working in politics or journalism or for a think will be best suited for you. Just as a career in medical ethics or the third sector can allow you to use your philosophy degree to make a positive difference in the lives of others, the same is true in politics, journalism, or think tank work.
Out of these possible career paths, the one that will be the best fit for you will depend on your specific interests, goals, and preferences.
For some people, a political career may be ideal, although individual preferences may direct you towards one area over another (political roles include policymaker, politician, consultant, and councillor).
Not everyone is cut out for life as a politician, for example. You may, however, want to use the knowledge and skills gained in studying political philosophy (or philosophy, in general, for that matter) to write well-argued and compelling articles as a journalist (which can involve news reporting or more opinionated writing).
Alternatively, you may feel that life as a journalist, similar to a career in politics, may be too stressful. If that’s the case, then working for a political think tank may be more suitable. This would involve writing and publishing papers that aim to shift public attitudes and promote policy change.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible careers that you can follow with a philosophy degree. This is because a philosophy degree can provide you with a range of skills – from writing to critical thinking – that will help you to flourish in a wide range of jobs. Indeed, a philosophy degree is more useful than you probably think it is.
Sam Woolfe writes for Inspiring Interns. He is particularly interested in self-development, psychology, mental health, and the future of work. Most of all, though, Sam is passionate about helping people find work that is meaningful and fulfilling. You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his work at www.samwoolfe.com.