Opportunities After Graduation

Everyone knows that few jobs specifically require a philosophy major.  The resulting popular perception is that philosophy majors are not prepared for many positions.  The reality is that the skills learned through the study of philosophy are valuable in just about any professional career. 

“I tell people the most useful classes I took were all in philosophy. Yes, the course of study that has long been denigrated as frivolous and useless in the job market has been the part of my education that I lean on again and again. For work and everything else… . [A] smattering of undergrad philosophy classes taught me something applicable to any and every job: clarity of thought. Name me one aspect of your life that doesnt benefit from being able to think something through clearly.”
Shannon Rupp, journalist
To read the full article by Rupp, click here.

Philosophical study requires the ability to read complex materials, over a wide range of subjects.  Philosophy develops reasoning skills, essential for problem-solving in many areas.  And philosophy demands clear and effective writing.  Philosophy also raises central values questions that underlie career decisions: what kind of life do I seek to lead, what contribution might I make, which organization would be a good fit given my beliefs and commitments?

Some MBA programs, like Georgetown and Wake Forest, have gotten the message. They now incorporate the study of philosophical works, as a way to encourage students to reflect on the ‘big picture’. Read more about it here.

“While working with a team this past year to develop an entrepreneurial education program, I met with dozens of entrepreneurs from around the world, listened to their stories, and looked for patterns in their experience. Even in skill-specific fields such as technology, many successful entrepreneurs studied — and were downright passionate about — philosophy.”
Christine Nasserghodsi, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, GEMS Education
Read the full article by Nasserghodsi here.


Law schools have known all along; Philosophy is regularly listed as a top major for law school. For 2013-14 applicants to ABA law schools, the Law School Admissions Council reports that 85% of philosophy majors were accepted. That’s tied for the highest rate among the top twelve majors in terms of numbers of applicants. (Read more here.)

So it’s not surprising that our alums are engaged in a wide range of careers, from the arts and communication to business and law—and to teaching philosophy. While completing a PhD, one alum has returned to teach courses at Lake Forest. Glen Sisk ’98, notes, “The philosophy major at Lake Forest College provides the skills to critically analyze any situation. Studying the variety of approaches offered in philosophy classes allows an individual’s mind to expand. This in an invaluable tool in life.” And in many careers. Consider the wide range of fields generally considered appropriate for philosophy majors, from community service to business to consulting to education administration. 

Include in a box:


Check with CAC to ad info for 2014 and 2015.


And various studies suggest Philosophy majors do well as their careers progress.  As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Your parents might have worried when you chose Philosophy or International Relations as a major. But a year-long survey of 1.2 million people with only a bachelor’s degree by PayScale Inc. shows that graduates in these subjects earned 103.5% and 97.8% more, respectively, about 10 years post-commencement.” [Link: http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-Degrees_that_Pay_you_Back-sort.html]  The average starting salary for Philosophy majors was 39,900; the mid-career average was $81,200.  Compare that to mid-career averages for Accounting ($77,100), Biology ($64,800), Information Technology ($74,800), International Relations ($80,900), Marketing ($79,600), and Psychology ($60,400).


  1. Starting a Career with a BA Degree in Philosophy


[Include a box with some comments from recent grades in interesting jobs—start with those already on the site]



Of course, jobs do not just fall into one’s lap.  As for other disciplines, Philosophy majors are encouraged to work with our professionals in the Career Advancement Center.  Philosophy majors should highlight essential skills developed through their studies.  Career Advancement Center [include link to CAC] staff regularly work with students to craft effective resumes and to develop interviewing skills.  Of course, the job search is the last stage in a long process. CAC staff, as well as Philosophy faculty, are prepared to help with the earlier reflections on what kind of professional life one seeks. 


Students often arrive on campus with a settled vision of their future career, but many will see that vision change during their undergraduate years.  And given our constantly evolving world, many people change jobs and even careers in the course of their lives.  The reflection needed for dealing with these ‘big picture’ issues in one’s life can be enhanced by the skills and perspective offered through the study of Philosophy, but much more is needed.


Include in a box:

The American Philosophical Association provides information related to non-academic careers for Philosophy majors.  [Include some points and a link]

            http://www.apaonline.org/?page=nonacademic (and APA guide for undergrads:




Philosophy majors have plenty of time during their four years to take advantage of opportunities that will help them decide on career paths and gain valuable experience. 

Thus students are encouraged to experiment throughout their college careers, by exploring new areas both on campus and off.  As one’s vision for life after Lake Forest becomes more settled, course work, extracurricular activities, and off-campus study can be invaluable.  Those interested in business can take courses in Economics, Finance, and Business.  Students considering careers in nonprofit or service organizations can explore  courses in Social Justice as well as disciplines like Sociology.  Students interested in media and the arts can take courses in Communication as well as Art and Music.  All students are eligible for internships, and the Chicago area offers opportunities in business, government, and nonprofit organizations.   


Include in a box:

[M]any leaders of the tech world — from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman to Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield — say that studying philosophy was the secret to their success as digital entrepreneurs.


“The thought leaders of our industry are not the ones who plodded dully, step by step, up the career ladder,” said Horowitz. “They’re the ones who took chances and developed unique perspectives.


Carolyn Gregoire, “The Unexpected Way Philosophy Majors Are Changing The World Of Business” Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/05/why-philosophy-majors-rule_n_4891404.html



  1. Admission to Professional and Graduate  Schools (other than Philosophy)


If more evidence of the broad value of Philosophy were needed, consider the ranking of Philosophy majors on various professional and graduate admissions tests.


LSAT (Law Schools)                         Philosophy majors regularly rank in the top six, often                                                                         in the top three, and tied for the top slot in 2011-12

                                                            [Include link:



GMAT (Business Schools)               Philosophy majors averaged 5th of all reported, the

                                                            highest ranking for any Humanities or Social Science

                                                            major Include link. [Include link:



MCAT                                                            For 2014, Humanities majors averaged 29.5, slightly

(Medical Schools)                             higher than the average 28.6—and than Biological

                                                            Science majors: 28.5. [Include link:



GRE                                                    Philosophy majors often rank first among all

(Various disciplines,                         majors in the Verbal and Writing sections—and

including Philosophy)                     highest of Humanities majors on the Quantitative

                                                            section. [Include link:




In a box on the page:

Comments from a few alums who went on to professional programs, e.g., Aleks

Petrovich, ’14, reports a lawyer friend noting that the only group he was jealous of in law school was Philosophy majors, since they were so well prepared.  Read more about Aleks’ story. [link to her story: http://www.lakeforest.edu/live/news/4861-aleks-petrovic-14-on-her-experience-as-a]



Law schools and business schools welcome students with diverse majors, but the admission test data suggests that Philosophy is especially helpful in developing essential skills for these fields.


In box on the page:

A “degree in philosophy prepares the student to enter law school by teaching students how to understand and analyze situations and flesh out details. They will learn how to define and interpret complicated situations. They are also taught how to examine evidence and create compelling arguments that are cohesive and logical. Arguing a case in court also requires the ability to see all sides of the argument.

[Students] will discover how humans think and be exposed to a variety of worldviews. By understanding how others think and believe, the student is able to prepare for opposing arguments in advance. The philosophy student will also have ample opportunity to unravel complex situations and speak with a strong degree of confidence.

LawyerEdu.org (link: http://www.lawyeredu.org/best-pre-law-schools.html)



On the other hand, though it may be surprising, Humanities majors, like Philosophy, also perform well on the medical school admission test.  And Philosophy majors have been admitted to medical school at relatively high rates.  [Include link: http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/documents/what-can-i/Medschool.pdf]  Of course, they need the the required science courses, and some may double major in a field like Biology.


Philosophy majors also attend other graduate programs, such as communication and media or cinema studies.  Here, the GRE can be a requirement for admission.  And remember that Philosophy majors regularly score highest of all majors on the Verbal and Writing tests, while scoring best of all Humanities majors on the Quantitative section. [Include link:http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table4.pdf]


Philosophy faculty are available to counsel students about professional schools, though it is also essential for students to work with those on campus who have expertise in their area of interest.


Law School: Link to Prelaw page: https://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/programs/prelaw/  One of the College’s prelaw advisors is Chad McCracken, a  member of the Philosophy Department.  Prof. McCracken was a practicing lawyer and taught LSAT prep courses.  He is a valuable resource for students considering law school.


Medical School and other Health Careers: Links to basic information [https://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/programs/prehealth/advising.php] and the Health Professions Advisory Committee [https://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/programs/prehealth/advising.php]


Business School (MBA): Contact the Career Advancement Center [Link: https://www.lakeforest.edu/careers/


Of course, staff at the Career Advancement Center are available to talk to students about any career paths.



  1. Admission to Philosophy Graduate Programs


While most of our graduates either seek immediate employment or attend professional schools, we regularly have students interested in graduate work in Philosophy.  And we have an enviable record for admissions to quality programs.


In a box:

List of schools students accepted to in last 5 years—also our students who are teaching Phil)



While a Ph.D. is generally required for a permanent teaching position in Philosophy, students need not apply directly to Ph.D. programs.  There are now a number Masters programs in Philosophy which have strong records of placing their graduates in top Ph.D. programs.  We encourage our students to consider both paths, leaving their options open.


Admission to graduate programs is competitive; our faculty members are committed to working with student during the application process.  A quality writing sample is essential, and our emphasis on independent work with faculty (in tutorials, research projects, and senior theses) helps ensure our students have strong submissions.


Numerous online sources are available for students considering graduate work in Philosophy.  Among these are rankings of graduate programs.  Especially for Ph.D. programs, however, at least as important as the general ranking is whether a department has faculty members working in an applicant’s primary area of interest.


In a Box:

Useful Online Information for those Considering Graduate Work in Philosophy

            American Philosophical Association Guide to Graduate Programs

              [link: http://www.apaonline.org/?page=gradguide]

American Philosophical Association  Information on Teaching Careers                                Link: http://www.apaonline.org/?page=placement_brochure&hhSearchTerms=%22academic+and+careers%22

            Ranking of grad programs

              Link: http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/overall.asp

            Philosophy Without Rankings

                        Link: http://philosophyrankings.com



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