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Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophy is interesting and useful. It will invigorate and discipline your mind, and give you skills that are important for a successful career and life. But some people – your parents and friends may be among them – think that philosophers study pointless and unanswerable questions, and leave college fit for nothing but a career as philosophy professors (or worse!). Let us explain why they are wrong.

What is philosophy?

Philosophy is defined by:

1. Its People

Including Plato, Hypatia, Confucius, St. Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Wollstonecraft, and more.

2. Its Questions

Do we have free will? What is good, and what is right? What is the connection between mind and body? What can I know? Is there a God? You might think these questions are unanswerable, but you are too young to despair! Progress is slow, but real, in philosophy.

3. Its Method

Philosophers construct and defend answers to these questions, and they evaluate others’ answers to them. They take account of the relevant facts, and build arguments using reason and logic.

What can I do with a philosophy degree?

Anything you want!

Only a tiny fraction of philosophy students go on to teach philosophy. The rest pursue a variety of careers, in fields such as law, business, medicine, government, and education.

Don’t believe me? Use the Field of Study Explorer feature on LinkedIn and search “philosophy.” You’ll be amazed at the variety of rewarding careers philosophy majors pursue. So will your parents.

If it’s fame you want, here is a list of famous philosophy majors, from left to right: Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, David Souter, retired Supreme Court Justice, Phil Jackson, NBA player and coach, Wes Anderson, film director, and Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and investor.

What are the advantages to studying philosophy?

Here are three:

1. Philosophy majors get jobs and make money

Here is a list of starting and mid-career salaries for three majors at Bentley.

Salary by Major

Starting Salary: $43,000 
Mid-Career Salary: $77,100

Starting Salary: $43,000
Mid-Career Salary: $72,100

Starting Salary: $39,000
Mid-Career Salary: $81,200

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Lots of people have wondered how philosophy majors do so well in their careers, and they’ve come up with some interesting answers. Check them out:

“Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?” The Atlantic, Oct. 16, 2011.
“Philosophy graduates are suddenly all the rage with employers” The Guardian, Nov. 19, 2007
“Philosophy majors are not just contemplating the meaning of life – they are also launching careers in law, medicine, business, and high technology” The Denver Post, Nov. 21, 2011.
"To beat the market, hire a philosopher” New York Times, Jan. 10, 1999.

But it is not really that hard to understand why philosophy majors succeed. Philosophy is all about trying to understanding really difficult questions, and coming up with defensible answers to them. In doing this, philosophy students develop skills of (i) clear presentation, (ii) cogent argumentation, (iii) creative thinking, and (iv) attention to detail. These skills are important in every career

2. Philosophy majors do well on standardized tests

On the GMAT, philosophy majors get the 4th highest scores, behind math, physics, and engineering. -2010 Profile of Graduate Management Admission Test Candidates

On the LSAT, philosophy majors get the 2nd highest scores, behind physics majors, and tied with economics majors).
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On the GRE, philosophy majors get the highest scores on the verbal and analytical writing sections, and the 16th highest score (tied with accounting) on the quantitative section.
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Caveat! We can’t be sure that studying philosophy causes high test scores. Perhaps the kinds of people who would do well on these tests anyway are attracted to philosophy. See your nearest philosopher of science for a detailed discussion of causation vs. correlation.

3. Philosophy is really interesting!

Many college students are under pressure to get trained for a specific job, and even to get their foot in the door at a specific company or two. We in the philosophy department recognize and support those efforts. At Bentley, you will get job training, and you will be prepared.

But you can combine your business studies with the study of extraordinarily valuable questions, some of which have perplexed human beings for centuries. This is the perfect time in your life to begin to think seriously about these questions. We promise it won’t be your last.

You’ve convinced me. How do I study philosophy at Bentley?

There are a variety of ways to study philosophy at Bentley.

You can become a philosophy major.
You can become a philosophy minor.
You can pursue the ethics and social responsibility concentration in the liberal studies major.

Would you like to know more? Contact us.