While getting a bachelor's degree in philosophy is not for everyone, it is more than just for those who want to teach college level philosophy. Studying philosophy, aside from the considerable intrinsic pleasures it affords, prepares students for a wide range of careers.

Is majoring in philosophy right for you? After graduating do you want to:

go to law school ?

go to medical school ?

go to business school ?
go to graduate school ?
stop going to school and get a job ?
The data below are all collected over a specified time period and in some cases covering relatively few test takers. Drawing broad conclusions on the basis of what is provided below may not be warranted.

Philosophy as preparation for law school.


According to data from the Law School Admission Council (unpublished, 1999) there were 71,726 applicants to at least one of the American Bar Association (ABA) approved law schools nationwide for the application year of 1997-8. Their average Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score was 151.4 and 70.1% of them were admitted to at least one law school.

Below are the figures for the five majors with the largest volume of applicants for that year.
 
Major # of Applicants Average LSAT score Rate of Admission
Political Science 12,737 151.4 73.5%
History 4,988 154.1 80.1%
English 4,854 153.8 78.4%
Psychology 4,062 151.8 73.8%
Criminal Justice 3,283 145.0 56.7%

Compare the numbers above with those of philosophy majors below.
 
Philosophy 1,570 156.9 82.4%

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Philosophy as preparation for medical school.

Unfortunately the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the administrators of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), keeps data only on the performance of broad major areas (e.g. humanities) rather than specific majors (e.g. philosophy). Below are the results of the April 1999 MCAT performance of students in some of these broad major areas. Note that humanities majors scored only very slightly (0.1 points) below math and statistics majors on all but the writing sample section of the exam, but did significantly better on the writing sample section.

Be advised that humanities majors wishing to go to medical school will have to prepare by taking pre-medical courses in addition to what is generally required by their majors.
 
Major Area # of test takers Verbal Reasoning Physical Sciences Biological Sciences Total Writing Sample
(percentile rank range)
Math & Statistics 162 8.6 9.5 9.1 27.2 47.6-62.2
Humanities 949 9.3 8.9 8.9 27.1 62.3-83.8
Physical Sciences 2833 8.2 9.3 8.7 26.2 47.6-62.2
Social Sciences 2642 8.5 8.2 8.4 25.1 47.6-62.2
Biological Sciences 15,926 7.9 8.3 8.6 24.8 47.6-62.2
Specialized Health Sciences 1408 7.1 7.3 7.5 21.9 34.2-47.5

 

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Philosophy as preparation for business school.

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the administrators of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), in their latest Five-Year Summary (1992-1997), provide the following data for the 1996-97 year.
 
Major Number of Test-takers Mean Score
Physics 1391 587
Mathematics 3031 573
Engineering 32474 564
Philosophy 709 560
History 3261 556
Chemistry 2513 549
Economics 17405 546
Biological Sciences 6034 545
English 4854 537
Copmuter Science 5843 537
Political Science 6496 525
Foreing Language 2709 524
Statistics 674 524
Psychology 4643 514
Finance 20197 514
Architecture 1050 512
Accounting 27591 500
Fine Arts 1202 497
Sociology 1820 493
Education 1437 471
Management 21165 471
Marketing 15151 469

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Philosophy as preparation for graduate school in the arts and sciences.

According to data from Educational Testing Service (ETS), the administrators of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), philosophy majors did better  between October 1, 1994 and September 30, 1997 on the combined GRE score than students with every other major except physics & astronomy and the mathematical sciences. The following table indicates the average scores for students in 27 majors. (Refer to the ETS site and search for 'test percentage distribution' for the complete tables.)
 

Analytical Verbal Quantitative Combined Score
Physics & Astronomy 648 537 717 1902
Mathematical Science 636 499 700 1835
Philosophy 630 582 599 1811
Economics 618 504 673 1795
Chemistry 611 498 655 1764
Computer & Info Sciences 605 482 675 1762
Engineering 596 471 691 1758
Linguistics 593 535 590 1718
Earth, Atmospheric and Marine Sci 595 504 605 1704
Biological Sciences 593 4988 597 1688
Religious Studies 587 547 551 1685
English Lang & Lit 584 555 526 1665
Banking and Finance 577 464 621 1662
History 585 542 532 1659
Anthropology & Archaeology 584 534 536 1654
Political Science 580 513 552 1645
Art History 577 532 528 1637
Foreign Lang & Lit 559 517 536 1612
Natural Sciences 559 465 547 1571
Psychology 550 472 514 1536
Sociology 540 477 506 1523
Health & Medical Sci 541 448 520 1509
Communications 535 466 504 1505
Education 533 446 503 1482
Business Admin & Mgmt 523 436 521 1480
Accounting 521 414 531 1466
Home Econ 511 428 467 1406

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Philosophy majors in the job market.

According to an informal survey reported in an article in the New York Times (Dec. 26, 1997, Business section, page D1) the philosophy majors from the class of 1977 at four schools (Princeton, University of Virginia, University of Nebraska and Texas A&M) had done "remarkably well" twenty years after graduation. The article reports that incomes of $50,000 or $60,000 are common, "and a few earn more than $200,000."

In the same article, Jorge Secada, director of undergraduate studies in philosophy at University of Virginia, is quoted as saying: "we are doing better in finding employment for graduates than most majors in the arts and sciences areas. Apparently people in the real world think philosophy majors are well trained. They are trained to think, to analyze. They express themselves well. They write."

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