Philosophy Degree FAQ

Here are some answers to common questions about the practical value of a philosophy degree and about the K-State philosophy department.

  1. Why should I major in philosophy?
  2. What does it take to do well in philosophy?
  3. What can I do with a philosophy degree?
  4. What sets the philosophy department apart?
  5. What's the K-State philosophy department like?
  6. What degrees does the philosophy department offer?

Why should I major in philosophy?

You should major in philosophy because (a) you find it interesting and (b) majoring in philosophy will help you to achieve your goals. That is, you should major in philosophy because it is both intrinsically and instrumentally valuable.

Philosophical questions are questions whose answers provide insights into some of the most important parts of human life--many people find philosophy interesting because it gives them the chance to think about what the world is like, what it means to be human, how to live, and how to think. If those are problems that interest you, then chances are you will find a philosophy major interesting and rewarding.

But isn't all of this "deep thinking" impractical? If you want to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or a teacher, shouldn't you major in something that is obviously and directly related to your ultimate career goal? Not necessarily. Philosophers actually do much better--in terms of graduate school admissions and mid-career median salary--than many other students graduating with more "practical" majors. (See "What can I do with a philosophy degree?")

What does it take to do well in philosophy?

Philosophy is a challenging major. To do well in philosophy classes, one must be intellectually curious, and also be willing to work hard.

Some hard-working, intellectually curious former philosophy majors include folks such as Andrew Solberg, Angela Davis, Sophie Scholl, Zhang Pengjun, Matthew Yglesias, Phillip Glass, Elizabeth Farrelly, Stacy London, Stewart Butterfield, Stokely Carmichael, Narciso Contreras, and Damon Horowitz.

What can I do with a philosophy degree?

A philosophy major is wonderful preparation for a wide variety of rewarding careers. Among other professions, K-State's philosophy majors go on to work in law, business, education, and the ministry. So, whether you're undecided about your ultimate career goal or have your heart set on a particular vocation, a philosophy major will provide you with an excellent education.

Here are some more details about what philosophy majors do after they graduate:

  • They go to medical school. A 1998 report found that 50% of Philosophy majors applying to medical school were accepted, more than Biology (35%), Chemistry (39%), Biochemistry (43%), and Physics (42%), and more than the average for all majors (37%). (Source: ``Major Anxiety,'' Paul Jung, MD)

  • They go to law school. In 2007-8, Philosophy majors scored an average of 157.4 on the LSAT, tied with Economics, ahead of International Relations (156.5), Prelaw (148.3), and Criminal Justice (146), but behind Math and Physics (both 160). This pattern has remained approximately the same since 1991.

  • They go to business school. In 2009-10, Philosophy majors scored an average of 587 on the GMAT, ahead of Economics (583), Actuarial Science (577), Law (541), International Business (528), Business Education (520), and Marketing (493). Philosophy majors' scores were lower only than the scores of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering majors.

  • They go to graduate school in the humanities. In 2011-12, those intending to go on to graduate study in philosophy scored an average of 160/170 on the verbal portion of the GRE, higher than any other intended area of graduate study. They averaged 4.4/6 on the analytical writing portion of the GRE, ahead of any other area. And they scored 153/170 in quantitative reasoning on the GRE, ahead of any other area in the humanities, and ahead of all business majors other than Banking/Finance majors.

  • They get jobs--good jobs--right out of college. Although median starting salaries for Philosophy majors tend to be bit lower than starting salaries for some business majors, the mid-career median salaries of Philosophy majors are higher than those of people who majored in "more practical" subjects such as Marketing, Communications, Political Science, Molecular Biology, Agriculture, Business Administration, Health Sciences, Public Administration, Human Resources, Mutlimedia and Web Design, Psychology, Medical Technology, Health Care Administration, and Criminal Justice.

    Moreover, in 2010-11, Philosophy and Religion majors (considered as a single group) had lower unemployment than majors in Economics and Political Science.

What sets the philosophy department apart?

Many departments at K-State teach students to "think critically." So, since philosophy is mostly about thinking critically, can't you get all of the same skills in a different department?

The answer here is "no." While other departments do teach critical thinking, the sorts of skills that philosophy majors develop are more specific. Philosophy majors learn:

  • how to rigorously evaluate an argument. Specifically, they learn how to evaluate an argument's structure as well as its content;

  • how to rigorously and explicitly evaluate values. Philosophers don't simply use values, but ask which values are the right ones to use in a given context;

  • how to read very challenging material in a careful, systematic way. The style of reading that philosophers use is different from the style of reading in many other disciplines. By learning to read in this way, you develop a skill that ultimately pays off in many other contexts;

  • how to write in a careful, concise style. Philosophers focus on clarity of thought and expression, and they write in a way that reflects this focus.

What's the K-State philosophy department like?

We are an undergraduate department with eight full-time, research-active faculty members. Our department's research strengths are primarily in philosophy of science, logic and philosophy of mathematics, social and political philosophy, and ethics.

We're also a socially active department. Between a weekly tea-time ("Rationali-tea"), regular meetings of the philosophy club, and frequent guest lecturers, students and faculty have a great deal of interaction with each other. Our department makes it a priority to provide a warm, inclusive environment for our students.

Because the development of philosophical skills often requires extensive feedback and one-on-one work, upper-level philosophy courses are usually quite small (between 8-20 students). No philosophy major is "anonymous" in the department.

What degrees does the philosophy department offer?

At this time, our department only offers undergraduate degrees. We offer a philosophy major, with several different "tracks" one can pursue. We also offer a philosophy minor.