How thinking about thinking benefits you!
Author: Neil Middlemiss
As the following year approaches, many students will finally discover what they really wanted to study. You might begin to question whether you’re due for a change of major or perhaps consider adding a minor in an area that interests you. Making these decisions is incredibly difficult given how future-oriented they are; it is often hard to tell why one option is better than another. So let me lend a hand and suggest something a bit counter-intuitive: you should probably study more philosophy.
I’ve met a lot of students on campus who find the study of philosophy a bit peculiar. Many don’t know what we’re studying or why we’re doing it. For the most part, a philosophy major is considered a future burger-flipper or a disheveled recluse pseudo-mystic. I won’t rule out the latter option as a distinct possibility for myself.
The truth is more positive. Although working as a full-time, teaching and researching philosopher is difficult, and growingly increasingly so, those with a philosophy background are typically successful in their future employment. Data in the Wall Street Journal’s “Degrees That Pay You Back” show that philosophy majors have a higher median annual salary ten years into their career than majors in business management, IT, geology, chemistry, nursing, and more.
I don’t think that this result is that surprising. A good philosophy education refines your critical thinking skills while also nurturing a mind for creative solutions. Although some students don’t see the relevance of some of the questions asked in philosophy – and some philosophers are in agreement there – by honing your ability to wrestle with complicated problems you prepare yourself for success in almost any career.
This skill development helps you in that difficult process of translating your skills into the job market, a task that every student is faced with. Thankfully, a good philosophy major is precisely the student who should be well equipped for this task. We don’t necessarily apply for philosophy positions, but we do apply for positions where reasoning skills can be of use; that sounds like most jobs to me.
Another benefit is that, if you decide to go to grad school, you’ll be well-prepared for that too. Philosophy majors rank first in the verbal and analytical sections of the GRE, first in LSAT scores and rate of acceptance into law school, and second – after math majors – on the GMAT, used for admission into MBA programs.
It’s not that there is something special about the students that do philosophy. It is the study itself that is life enriching. I don’t deny that of many other areas of study – in fact, studying most things in depth eventually brings you to philosophical questions – but I do recommend philosophy heartily for its fulfillment. As Descartes recognized, your mind is, in a sense, your constant companion. The simultaneous sharpening and opening of it – a task aided by the study of philosophy – can only reward you now and in the future.