Philosophy is the study of the truths and/or principles underlying all knowledge. It is considered a branch of the language arts and it involves analysis, interpretation, and the logical explanation of people’s beliefs, actions, and values. “The study of philosophy develops our ability to make sense of ourselves and our surroundings. Philosophers apply critical thinking to questions of values and beliefs in order to understand reality, clarify the nature of interactions between individuals and society, and come to terms with the problems of existence and ultimate values.” For example, different political and religious beliefs as well as ethical codes are based upon philosophy. Schools of thought in economics, history, psychology and education rely upon differences in philosophy. Philosophy encompasses four major sub branches, including metaphysics (the study of realty and being), epistemology (the study of knowledge), logic (the study of the principles of reasoning), and ethics (the study of values and morals). Philosophy is “an excellent preparation for professional studies such as law and medicine; it provides perspective on other disciplines such as psychology, mathematics, literature, and political science; and it centers on a set of questions that thinking people cannot avoid.”
“Philosophy majors at Hopkins enjoy small classes taught by dedicated faculty. The required courses acquaint students with philosophical developments in key historical periods and with central arguments on important topics. Electives within the major give students the chance to study particular philosophers such as Plato or Kant in more depth, or to explore questions of special interest to them, such as the relation between belief and knowledge, or the distinction between law and morality.” The department at Hopkins’ main strengths includes Metaphysics and Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, the History of Philosophy, and Ethics and Political Philosophy.
An undergraduate degree in philosophy provides a foundation for a variety of careers outside of academia. Philosophy is an admirably flexible undergraduate major becomes it helps develop a variety of transferable skills that can be utilized in a number of future careers. These transferable skills can include anything from analytic thinking skills, organization, and research to excellent oral and written communication skills. Many careers do not require a specific undergraduate major, but rather a wide range of skills and accomplishments. The flexibility and skills philosophy majors gain in their undergraduate studies is something that employers from many fields value.
Philosophy provides a foundation for a variety of careers, including academia, law, international affairs, museums, administration, and more. While most philosophy careers require at least a bachelor’s degree, the majority require special certification, a master’s or a doctoral degree. A bachelor’s in philosophy will prepare one for entry level careers in business, nonprofit, and government organizations, while graduate or professional studies will help one gain opportunities in law, medicine, ministry, finance, psychology, counseling, diplomacy, ethics, and related areas. A Ph.D will be required for any college or university teaching and research.
Philosophy majors tend to end up working in eight major areas. These include:
- Social/Community Services - Here, philosophy majors work in research, fund raising, counseling, volunteer coordination, grant writing, and administration. The major employers include nonprofit organization, social service organizations, public interest research groups, museums, and mental health agencies. Those wishing to enter this field need to develop excellent verbal and written communication skills, gain relevant work and/or volunteer experience, become familiar with grant writing techniques, and should obtain a master’s degree in social work or counseling if applicable.
- Religion/Ministry - Philosophy majors in this field work as clergy, in administration, or in missions. The major employers include local churches and synagogues, district, regional, national, and world denominational headquarters, religiously affiliated education facilities, mission fields, and other religious organizations. Those wishing to enter this field should focus on obtaining appropriate seminary training, become certified through a denomination for staff positions, develop applicable foreign language skills, gain experience, and complete a relevant internship.
- Education - Here, philosophy majors tend to work as teachers, researchers, administrators, or in student affairs. The major employers include colleges and universities, adult education programs, vocational education programs, and professional or graduate schools. Those wishing to work in this field may need to obtain a doctoral degree for opportunities to teach or research, need to develop one or more concentration, gain related experiences through volunteering and internships, expand research experience, and should seek campus leadership positions.
- Government - There are a number of opportunities in the government for philosophy majors, including public policy, research, regional planning, city management, intelligence, foreign service, law enforcement, legislative, executive, or judicial services, program administration, leadership, campaign management, staff administration, and special interest advocacy. The major employers for this industry include federal, state, or local governments, the Commission on Civil Rights, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Department of Energy, Federal Communications Commission, Foreign Service, Federal Municipal Archives, National and State Endowments for the Humanities, Political action committees, special interest groups, political parties, and campaigns. Those hoping to enter this field should become familiar with the government job application process, supplement philosophy curriculum with courses in political science, complete an internship, serve in Model United Nations, become involved in the student government, participate in cultural groups, write for campus publications focused on national and international affairs, develop skills in computers, statistics, and data analysis, acquire foreign language competency, possibly earn a graduate degree in political science, and participate in local or national campaigns.
- Ethics - Here, philosophy majors tend to work in the medical or environmental fields or in research. The major employers include hospitals, medical and professional schools, colleges and universities, consulting services, research organizations, health science funding agencies, and environmental agencies. For most positions in this field, philosophy majors will need to obtain a Ph.D. Other ways to prepare include participating in related professional organizations, joining debate groups, developing excellent research skills, and honing one’s verbal and written communication skills.
- Law - The major employers for philosophy majors in law include law firms, corporations, governments, private practices, special interest groups, and universities. In order to work in this field, philosophy majors should obtain a law degree, develop excellent research and writing skills, participate in mock trial or debate, maintain a high grade point average, and gain experience through internships
- Writing - Philosophy majors in this field tend to work in editing, technical writing, journalism, advertising, or public relations. The major employers for this field include publishing companies, magazine and newspaper companies, professional and trade associations, advertising agencies, and electronic media corporations. Those intending to work in this field should serve on college newspaper staff, develop excellent writing and desktop publishing skills, take courses in journalism, public relations, advertising or English, gain related experience, and become a member of a professional group.
- Business - Here, philosophy majors work in management, sales, human resources, market research, finance, and insurance. The major employers include business firms, insurance companies, banks, retail stores, marketing research departments or organizations, and real estate companies. For those hoping to work in this field, they should minor in business, gain experience through internships, obtain leadership roles, and develop computer skills in word processing, database management, and spreadsheet programs.
As seen above, many philosophy majors work in fields outside of academia in non-profits, government agencies, management, and administrative positions. In fact, some of the major employers for philosophy majors include advertising agencies, government, hospitals, newspapers and magazines, and media companies. While not comprehensive, a sampling of careers that include the critical thinking skills typically found in philosophy majors include:
- Americorps Volunteer
- Campus Missionary
- Community Organizer
- Conflict Resolution Specialist
- Copy Editor
- Data Miner
- Director of Hospital Development
- Ethics and Compliance Officer
- Government Reform Activist
- Grant Writer
- Grants Specialist
- Green Marketing Analyst
- Historical Research Assistant
- Institutional Researcher
- Legislative Assistant
- Life Coach
- Parole Officer
- Publications Researcher
- Public Policy Analyst
- Secondary School Teacher
- Social Service Agency Director
- Yoga Instructor
Undergraduate coursework in philosophy includes a wide range of areas which help develop the number of skills needed in the field, including:
- Writing and Editing
- Communicating in a logical manner
- Debating skills
- Theory Development
- Oratory Skills
- Deductive Reasoning
- Extensive Reading
- Work Independently
- Problem Solving
- Multicultural Perspectives
- Ability to organize and conduct research
- Critical Thinking
- Information management
- Analyzing information
Philosophy majors should be able to work independently and have strong communication and research skills. A good tactic for those entering the field of philosophy is to concentrate or minor in another area such as mathematics, religion, the sciences, history, women’s studies, writing seminars, English, or ethics. This will widen the careers open to philosophy majors.
In addition, philosophy majors need to concentrate on developing their analytical thinking, logic, and statistic skills in order to apply their major to a broad range of fields such as law, government, finance, management, consulting and other related areas. Those interested in pursuing philosophy should also join related student or professional organizations, seek related summer or part-time internships or volunteer experiences, and take a number of computer courses in order to increase employment options. The importance of internships for philosophy majors cannot be stressed enough, and the Career Center is here to help you through the process of finding and obtaining an internship or volunteer experiences in your field.
Hopkins philosophy alumni go into a number of fields. Past Hopkins alumni in philosophy have become assistant district and state attorney’s, business analysts, director of annual giving, lawyer, litigation lawyer, marketing manager, product manager, project manager, researcher, and seminarian.
Since 2005 the Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans 6 months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses from the Post-Graduation Survey of Philosophy Majors.
Additional Alumni Profiles
Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.
For more information on what you can do with a Philosophy Major go to What can I do with a major in Philosophy.
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