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What Can You Do With a Philosophy Degree?

What Can You Do With a Philosophy Degree? main image

What do Ricky Gervais, Ethan Coen and former Pope Benedict XVI have in common? Yep, you guessed it, they all studied philosophy at university.

While there are few careers in philosophy directly linked to philosophy degrees, those who study philosophy can learn skills which will come in useful in both their personal and professional lives such as strong communication, critical and logical thinking, and an ability to grasp all angles of an argument and evaluate it effectively.

Graduates of philosophy are adept problem solvers and their skills in laying out information in an organized, considered way to reach reasoned solutions makes them invaluable across multiple professional sectors.

So, while you try and answer the big, existential questions, we’ll try and answer this: exactly what can you do with a philosophy degree?

What can you do with a philosophy degree?

Analytical ability and critical thinking are skills that are greatly valued across numerous sectors, as they show an aptitude for asking useful questions and finding logical solutions to problems. If you study philosophy, you’ll gain a firm grounding for a diverse range of careers, though for some popular pathways (in the field of law for example), you will likely need to earn a further vocational qualification.

Read on for a look at possible philosophy careers and related jobs, with advice and information on what to expect and the skills you’ll need.

Careers in teaching

A philosophy degree can provide a good foundation for careers in teaching at all levels. This is mainly because you will have developed excellent communication and critical thinking skills throughout your degree, which will be extremely desirable in a teaching career.

In most countries you’ll need a professional teaching qualification to pursue careers in teaching, although there are some cases (such as private schools and tertiary level institutions) when a degree is sufficient, although preference may be given to those with a master’s or PhD and some teaching experience.

If you’re hoping to teach at tertiary (university) level, you’ll face fierce competition for junior-level academic positions. However, philosophy graduates are often prime candidates for research careers in relevant fields. You’ll need to show a very high aptitude for and expertise in your chosen area of specialization and present a clear vision of how your target research project will enrich the existing academic landscape.

Careers in the public sector

Careers in the public sector are as diverse as they come, encompassing all state-funded roles within a country. Those who study philosophy may be well-placed for careers in the public sector if their degree has helped them develop an understanding of complex societal issues and world affairs, as well as general analytical abilities.

Possible careers in the public sector include roles in the civil services, government, health services, police forces and the armed forces. Many administrative and other office-based roles are found across all of these areas.

Careers in publishing and journalism

Careers in publishing revolve around the production of magazines, books, newspapers and academic journals and other forms of publishable media. The huge growth of digital publishing both online and for electronic devices (e-books) means that careers in publishing are plentiful. Common careers in publishing include roles in editorial, production, marketing and sales.

Journalism careers, meanwhile, can include roles with a focus on research, writing, editing, presenting and various forms of broadcasting and multimedia. A postgraduate degree specializing in an area of journalism is often not essential but can be helpful. In order to boost your chances of entering careers in journalism, you should develop a portfolio of journalistic work alongside your degree and gain some work experience in the field.

Less typical philosophy careers

Careers in law

You may think legal careers are predominantly the domain of graduates with a law degree, but in fact a philosophy degree can provide a good foundation for this career path. Your skills in research and analysis will be invaluable within this industry, and although specialized roles, such as a solicitor or barrister, are reserved for those with legal training and qualifications (e.g. LLB, JD, LLM), graduates from other subjects can enter the industry by doing a law conversion course, or through other roles such as research, secretarial and paralegal positions, with the potential to develop their legal training on the job.

Careers in psychotherapy and counselling

Given the analytical and methodical skills acquired on a philosophy degree, philosophy graduates may also be well-matched candidates for careers in psychotherapy and counselling. These roles, although often requiring a specific vocational qualification, do not commonly require a postgraduate degree. While wannabe psychologists will have undertaken a more formal route (likely via a psychology degree), therapists and counsellors often come from various educational backgrounds, experience and further training being key to development.

The most vital qualities within this field are excellent communication skills, knowledge of psychological processes and an ability to empathize. The majority of work will be client-facing, allowing you to work closely with individuals, couples, families or groups, to help others overcome emotional and psychological barriers using various methods of therapy and discussion.

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If none of these industries appeal to you, there are plenty of roles across the worlds of media, business, healthcare, advertising, public relations, human resources and marketing are all areas where your skills can be utilized.

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‘What Can You Do With a Philosophy Degree?’ is part of our ‘What Can You Do With…’ series. 

We have also covered artbiologybusinesscommunicationscomputer scienceEnglishengineeringfashionhistorygeographylawmarketingmathematicsperforming artspolitics, psychologysociologychemistryeconomics and physics.

This article was originally published in March 2015. It was updated in November 2019.

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Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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1 Comment

hey Laura I have pursued b.tech in electronics and communication & I need your help in choosing the right university which offers dual degree in philosophy and literature at a cheap and affordable tuition fee. It will be great if you can tell me about the scholarships