I came across some old philosophy books in my study this morning and it got me thinking about the value of an undergraduate degree in philosophy. And I can already hear the jokes, so please keep them to yourself! At first glance, a Bachelor of Arts degree (Why Major in Philosophy) in philosophy provides no real practical application in the real world. After all, you will not receive any specific training that can lead to a job, are required to read esoteric texts, and will never arrive at a “right answer” during a final exam or short quiz. So, why on earth are US colleges and universities struggling to keep up with the demand from students wanting to both take courses and major in philosophy?As an ex-Philosophy major, I can tell you that my degree is invaluable and I would certainly study the same subject if I had to start all over again (I would maybe throw in a degree in Economics as well). If we cut to the chase, a degree in philosophy provides the following benefits:
- How to read critically (i.e., a book, magazine article, newspaper, P&L statement, web traffic report, etc.).
- How to write well. (this could be an email, letter, report, blog, or living will).
- How to debate and speak in front of large audiences.
- How to create impromptu arguments and analysis (this may be the number one business skill of all time and I’d hire someone with this skill set versus a Harvard graduate any day).
- How to figure out what is right and wrong (ethics) and identify with different sorts of people and cultures (this is critical in the modern workforce, think how different your job is from what you see on Mad Men each week).
- How to apply logic to any problem.
- How to think strategically or see the “big picture.”
- How to think about a problem by deconstructing the big picture and looking at the details.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. A degree in philosophy is not a degree in electrical engineering; that is to say, the degree will not train you specifically to go out into the world and be an electrical engineer but it will equip you to do really well in the workforce by allowing you to adapt to any work situation and improve general cognitive ability and learning ability (this is what companies are looking for). Moreover, studying Philosophy in a serious and systematic manner equips students to process information on the fly and pull together disparate bits of information into an analysis or report.
Philosophy also provides excellent training for a professional degree. Considering the benefits I stated above, philosophy majors score in the very top percentiles on the GRE, LSAT, and GMAT exams. “For example, in a recent GRE study, philosophy majors were ranked among the very top majors in their mean scores on the verbal, analytic, and quantitative components of the exam; in a recent LSAT study, philosophy majors had a higher mean score than even pre-law majors; and for recent GMAT tests, the mean score for philosophy majors exceeded that of any type of business major. Virtually no other major does this well on such a wide cross-section of standardized exams.(quote from the University of New Hampshire Philosophy Department web site http://www.unh.edu/philosophy/index.cfm?id=39F7EBE2-C029-7E5B-F1371DFC37778362).”
Did you study philosophy, let everyone know about your experience by commenting above.