What to Do With A Philosophy Degree
The number of times I and my fellow philosophy-student friends have been asked “what are you going to do with that?” is simply too many to count. There is a quite open myth regarding philosophy degrees: namely, that they are useless. After all, what are you supposed to do with a degree that has you read and write about texts that have little to no practical application?
However, the notion that a philosophy degree is useless and will probably leave its graduates poverty-stricken is nothing further from the truth. Indeed, I wish to argue that it is probably one of the — if not the — most useful degrees one can obtain.
What sort of skills can you get from a philosophy degree? How can these skills be marketable? Do people with philosophy degrees make a lot of money — or, are they doomed to being a barista?
Let’s start with the lattermost question — as, sadly, in our culture, the only thing that seems to matter when it comes to the value of a human being is how much money they make. According to research analyzed by The Atlantic, the average yearly income for someone possessing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy is $82,000. Of course, you are not rich with this salary, but by all intents and purposes, this is a more than livable salary — way more than most college graduates can even conceive of making after they graduate.
What about skills and their marketability? For this point, I would like to quite the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The following is what Wittgenstein believed was the only utility of practicing philosophy:
The object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. The result of philosophy is not a number of “philosophical propositions”, but to make propositions clear. Philosophy should make clear and delimit sharply the thoughts which otherwise are, as it were, opaque and blurred. (Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus 4.112)
I would argue that on top of a philosopher’s ability to make that which is obscure and short, clear and elucidated, philosophy teaches the virtue of independent thought.
The field where these skills are most applicable in is writing. I, myself, am a freelance content writer — currently, writing for Newsweek — and am making quite a good living doing so. I would be totally unable to do my job without the skills studying philosophy gave me. Such writing need not be philosophical either. I write on a number of topics that are totally unrelated to philosophy in my work, such as health and wellness. In any topic of writing, however, there is a demand for writers who are able to write clearly on ordinarily opaque topics. There are untold numbers of people with philosophy degrees doing similar and even greater things than I am doing, such as writing non-fiction books.
Don’t knock the philosophy degree! There is nothing wrong with people who simply want to think for themselves and in doing so, acquire apt/marketable writing skills along the way.