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Why Study Philosophy?

Thinking about studying philosophy, but unsure if it's for you? Whether you are interested in philosophical topics, looking to develop critical thinking and writing skills, seeking an advanced degree, job, money, or simply a great experience, philosophy has a bit of something for everyone. Why should you study philosophy?

Find out more about majoring and minoring in philosophy at Ohio State by checking out our Academic page or contacting our Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Lisa Shabel.

Do it for you.

The number one reason to major in any field is INTEREST in it. College is a time for discovery, for learning, and for expanding your horizons. If you are interested in what you study, you will excel and thrive in your classes.

  • If you have an interest in questioning authority or interrogating your assumptions, philosophy is for you.
  • If you like to think about right and wrong, and how one ought to behave, philosophy is for you.
  • If you are fascinated by language and logical argumentation, philosophy is for you.
  • If you have questions about the scientific method and what really counts as an explanation for a phenomenon, philosophy is for you.
  • If you are intrigued by the mind, how it works, what consciousness is, whether we behave freely or are determined to act, philosophy is for you.
  • If you find yourself wondering about the origins or extent of the universe, or the existence of God, philosophy is for you.
  • If you enjoy reading and studying the great thinkers through history, such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and Kant, philosophy is for you.

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Do it for the skills.

Although it is important to be passionate about what you study, you will want to be practical, too. Luckily, philosophy leaves students with a set of SKILLS that are applicable in any work environment.

  • Whatever the course, philosophy teaches students to ASK QUESTIONS. Of course, philosophy students learn what famous philosophers think. However, in a philosophy course, students do not only learn about philosophy, they learn how to be a philosopher. Philosophers ask the tough questions: what is the meaning of life, how should I live my life, where did the universe come from, does God exist, what is truth? As a philosopher, students learn to make progress on an idea by approaching topics with an inquiring mind.
  • With so many questions on the table, philosophers need a strategy to make progress. When scientists raise questions, they have a method for discovering an answer: empirical study. However, the questions philosophers ask are not generally suited to empirical study. Thus, philosophers have their own method: reasoning. As philosophers, students are taught HOW TO THINK CLEARLY about arguments and views. Philosophy courses develop a set of analytic reasoning skills that allow students to critique views, develop logical arguments, and make progress towards answering difficult questions.
  • Philosophy students then learn to ARTICULATE their views and the reasoning behind them, both verbally in classes and in writing. Students learn that they need to present the best version of their opponents’ views before evaluating them. They learn to assess their own view with an objective eye. Philosophy students learn to be careful with their language, and the importance of clarity.

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Do it for an advanced degree.

Philosophy majors excel in testing and admissions for all sorts of advanced degrees. From medical school to business school, philosophy majors are leading the way.

Medical School:

  • According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Philosophy majors have the highest medical school acceptance rate of all majors at over 50 percent. Moreover, those majoring in the humanities perform up to an entire point better on the MCATs than traditional science majors. (Source: American Medical Student Association)
  • Philosophy teaches students analytic and writing skills that are not always emphasized in science courses. Moreover, fewer philosophy majors apply to medical school, giving them an edge over “just another biology major” in the eyes of admissions committees.

Law School:

  • Philosophy majors score higher on the LSAT than any other major. (Source: Law School Admission Council, Inc.)
  • The LSAT assesses analytic reasoning skills, which is exactly what philosophy courses aim to develop, both verbally and in writing.

Business School

  • Taking the GMAT? Philosophy majors outperform majors in economics, statistics, finance, and accounting. (Source: Profile of GMAT Candidates, 2007-2012)
  • According to Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, “One of the things that philosophy is very helpful on is how to think pretty precisely about arguments, and an investment thesis is fundamentally an argument. Part of philosophical training is making you really understand how good an argument is and how to think through the alternatives…Questioning those premises really helps you figure out why someone smart might actually hold a different point of view.” (Source: Vox)

Graduate School

  • Add up the three sections of the GRE. Philosophy majors have the highest overall score. (Source: Educational Testing Service)
  • Philosophy courses emphasize reading and writing, which bolsters both the verbal and writing sections. Moreover, the writing section of the GRE focuses on analyzing arguments, which is the exact kind of writing that philosophy courses teach. Finally, the quantitative section focuses on math that is best solved through logic, another skill developed in philosophy courses.

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Do it for a job.

More and more fields are coming out in favor of a philosophical education due to the skills it develops in students.

  • “It’s very simple. A well-­rounded liberal arts degree establishes a foundation of critical thinking. Critical thinkers can accomplish anything. Critical thinkers can master French, Ruby on Rails, Python or whatever future language comes their way. A critical thinker is a self­-learning machine that is not constrained by memorizing commands or syntax.” ~ David Kalt, founder of Reverb.com (Source: Wall Street Journal, “Why I Was Wrong about Liberal Arts Majors”)
  • “But a smattering of undergrad philosophy classes taught me something applicable to any and every job: clarity of thought. Name me one aspect of your life that doesn’t benefit from being able to think something through clearly.” ~ Shannon Rupp, Journalitst for The Tyee (Source: Salon, “Be Employable, Study Philosophy”)
  • “Studying philosophy taught me two things. I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.” ~ Stewart Butterfield, Cofounder and CEO of Slack (Source: Forbes, “That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket”)

Moreover, there are an increasing number of executives with philosophy degrees, including (Source: Business Insider):  

  • Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield
  • Overstock.com founder and CEO Patrick Byrne
  • Former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair
  • Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina

It’s not just business. Check out this group of Philosophy Majors, including Pope John Paul II, Alex Trebek, Ricky Gervais, and Angela Davis.

Learn more by checking out Best College's career guide for philosophy majors.

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Do it for the money.

Studies show that philosophy majors have terrific earning potential, earning more than you might expect.

  • A year-long survey of 1.2 million people with only a bachelor's degree shows that graduates in philosophy earned 103.5% more about 10 years post-commencement. This feat was only matched by math majors. (Source: Wall Street Journal)
  • From Lydia Frank, the senior editorial director at PayScale: “We hear again and again that employers value creative problem solving and the ability to deal with ambiguity in their new hires, and I can't think of another major that would better prepare you with those skills than the study of philosophy. It's not terribly surprising to see those graduates doing well in the labor market. We've seen quite a few executives—CEOs, VPs of Strategy—who studied philosophy as their undergrad program.” (Source: The Atlantic, “The Earning Power of Philosophy Majors”) See also the analysis of Big Think from May 2023. 

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Do it because it's a great experience (or so say our alumni).

We asked a number of recent philosophy graduates what they were up to and how their philosophy major contributed to life after college. See some of their responses here.

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Find out more about majoring and minoring in philosophy at Ohio State by checking out our Academic page or contacting our Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Lisa Shabel. And read more about what makes philosophy such a great major, here.

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