Careers for Philosophy Majors

What sort of careers do philosophy majors choose? Some majors decide to go on to graduate work in philosophy, and some of these end up teaching philosophy at a research university like Maryland, or at a liberal arts or community college. If you are interested in continuing in philosophy, the department can advise you how to go about choosing a graduate program, how to improve your chances of getting accepted, what you should expect, etc.

The majority of philosophy majors, however, do not pursue studies in philosophy at the graduate level. What do they do? And how does the study of philosophy train them for careers?

Universities, of course, are not vocational schools. Their primary goals are to educate, to help students develop their critical faculties, and to broaden their intellectual horizons. If this is true for liberal arts majors, it is even truer for philosophy majors, who spend much of their time improving their analytic and writings skills.

Our department at Maryland prides itself in the sheer breadth of intellectual course offerings. From political philosophy to neuroscience, from philosophy of music to philosophy of physics, from contemporary ethical issues to philosophy of science – what other department covers so many different fields of knowledge.

Although the primary goal is not to get a job, the knowledge and skills acquired by philosophy majors enable them to get rewarding and valuable jobs in many fields. In fact, the question students face is often not, “What can I do with a philosophy degree?” but rather, “Of the many career options open to me as a philosophy major, which one is best for me?”

The Philosophy department has only recently started to compile statistics by our graduates. But we can already see what careers attract most of our majors.

Career in Law

Many of our philosophy alumni have gone on to a career in law. The ability to think and write clearly, to analyze and present arguments, is highly valued in the law profession. Philosophy majors have one of the highest rates of acceptance at law schools. Taking some philosophy courses that have a natural tie-in with law (philosophy of law, ethics, political philosophy) may be helpful but are not necessary.

For testimony from Catherine Holzle, a Senior Attorney with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, about how her study of philosophy at Maryland has helped her in her career, click here

For testimony from attorney Jason Weinstock about how his study of philosophy at Maryland has helped him in his law career, click here

Careers in the Health Professions

Maryland philosophy alumni are well-represented in the medical profession, both as practitioners and as administrators. Traditionally, medical schools look favorably upon candidates with a liberal arts degree, especially from philosophy departments. And the career paths taken by Maryland graduates are varied: psychiatry, ophthalmology, orthopedics, dentistry, neurology, cancer research. Many of our graduates have gone into health administration.

For testimony from Yvonne de Buy, associate director of management at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, about how study of philosophy at Maryland has helped her in her medical career, click here

Careers in Local, State, and Federal Government

Maryland philosophy alumni have gone to a variety of positions in various government agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissions, the Environmental Protections Agency, the Goddard Space Center, etc. The university’s location near Washington, DC, provides possibilities for government internships and later jobs.

Careers in Business

Business and philosophy seem at first glance to be poles apart, but, in fact, many successful people in business and industry started out as philosophy majors. Recent Maryland philosophy alumni have become stockbrokers, venture capitalists, marketing specialists, managers, editors, publishing industry executives, real-estate brokers.

Let’s face it: when you go to a job interview with a company, and you let them know that you are a philosophy major, your personal stock goes up. It shows that you are intrigued by difficult and fundamental problems, that your interests are broad, that you have a good head, and that you express yourself well. There is an aura about “philosophy” that often gives candidates a competitive edge in interview situations.

For testimony from real estate broker Adiatu Khanu, about how her philosophy degree at Maryland has helped her in her career, click here

Careers in Information Technology

Liberal arts graduates are now going into Information Technology in droves. The connection between philosophy and computers is obvious for anybody who had study logic, not to mention cognitive science. The interdisciplinary nature of the philosophy department at Maryland is an ideal training-ground for alumni going into professions where there are computer applications, such as business, industry, education, etc.

For testimony from David Kreisberg, a Technology Instructional Specialist for the Montgomery County Public Schools, about how his philosophy degree at Maryland has helped him in his career, click here.

Careers in Science

No other degree in the humanities produces as many scientists as philosophy. That may be because some students major in philosophy and in science as well. But it also helps that the department teaches philosophy of biology, philosophy of physics, and cognitive scientists.

For the testimony of Mark Lupisella, an astrobiologist at the NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, about how his study of philosophy at Maryland pointed him in the right direction, click here.

For the testimony of Doug Powell, a statistician at the National Cancer Institute, about how his philosophy degree of Maryland has helped him, click here.

Other Careers

From our survey of career paths taken by our majors, we found that Maryland Philosophy alumni are working in a variety of areas, including foreign service, clergy, non-governmental organizations, teaching, academia, university administration. But we also found that many of them have taken several paths and have managed to combine their interests. The really fortunate ones have been able to combine their knowledge and love of philosophy with whatever else they are doing.

For the testimony of Deirdre Golash, who combines law with her background in philosophy as a teacher at American University, click here.

For all the testimonies, click here.