What Does it Mean to Study Philosophy?
An Arts & Humanities degree in philosophy focuses on the "nature of being," knowledge, and contemplating right and wrong in moral issues. It trains you to become disciplined and imaginative, and you'll learn how to reason through both profound and mundane questions. You'll practice forming an argument for debate. The principles of philosophy affect many other fields of study, such as physics and religion. Every religious belief and field of science is subject matter for philosophical inquiry.
Good skills for a philosophy degree are attention to detail, a tendency to think way outside of the box, puzzle solving, debating, critical thinking and reading, and well-organized thought patterns. Independent students may wish to take online college classes in philosophy, so as to reason and write at their own pace.
Employers appreciate the finely tuned analytical skills of a philosophy major. This credential transfers well to many professions. With a philosophy degree at any level, you have proven yourself to be flexible and able to grow. Some of the more common career areas include business, journalism, computer science, public administration, healthcare, education, communication, and public relations. Philosophy degrees are often combined with other fields, and in order to teach at a college or university you will generally need a PhD.
Types of Philosophy Degrees
A college degree in philosophy can focus on the traditional "continental" philosophy, in which you study the history of Greek and European philosophers, or on analytical philosophy, which deals more with mathematics, logic, and theoretical physics.
Associate Degrees & Bachelor's Degrees in Philosophy
At the associate and bachelor's degree level, you will likely study a bit of both branches so that you have a good understanding of how the philosophical approach has been used for centuries to contemplate issues and create a forum for debate. Topic areas can include ethics (moral conduct), metaphysics (reality), epistemology (knowledge) and aesthetics (art). With that grounding, you can refine your skills to a more technical method of analysis.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Philosophy?
Looking for a job as a "philosopher" in the truest sense of the word can be frustrating, since the only listings you'll find are generally in academic positions at colleges and universities. However, your highly developed analytical and critical thinking and writing skills could be utilized in a variety of industries. You might be suited for a career in:
- Business. The ability to look at old problems and processes in new ways is invaluable in the business world.
- Writing/Editing. There's always a shortage of people who are good at expressing themselves on paper (or online). Careers in journalism, marketing and advertising are excellent for good communicators.
- Public service. Both politicians and career public servants benefit from the ability to identify, define and solve an astonishing variety of problems.
- Law. Lawyers are really nothing more than philosophers trained in specifics of a country's legal system. Law students are famously subjected to a distinctly philosophical form of on-the-spot classroom quizzes known as the Socratic method.
- Foreign service & diplomacy. The philosophical ability to discover unconscious assumptions and work around them is particularly important when working with people of different cultures.
Philosophy Certification, Licensure, and Professional Associations
There is currently no universal form of certification for a philosophy degree holder, since the career choices tend to be so broad. There are, however, a large selection of professional and academic associations that an individual can join to receive current article submission, debates, and discussions with peers. The American Philosophical Practitioners Association, for example, offers a certification program for experienced philosophical practitioners -- group facilitators, client counselors, or organizational consultants -- who meet certain requirements.