Why should I study philosophy?

In part, the answer is because philosophy is a worthwhile pursuit. But you might worry that studying philosophy is poor preparation for the world of work. Of course, if you think that, you probably think the same of studying English, or History. But regardless, this is mistaken. In the past, people often had a vocation: a career that they did for life, and that didn't change much as time passed. Then, it made sense to learn a practical trade and to study something like philosophy only for fun. But things are often different now: many people spend their working lives moving from role to role, progressing in part by being able to adapt to new roles and to apply themselves to new problems. For this reason, the value of modern education often comes from the transferable skills that it teaches you: how to think, how to communicate, and how to work. These skills will help you not just at some tasks, but instead at every task in any job at every stage of your career.

How well does philosophy teach you such transferable skills?
Studying philosophy certainly helps you to recognise problems and solve them methodically, to soundly evaluate claims and theories, to express ideas in a clear, precise and persuasive manner, and so on. These are all skills with universal relevance. And anecdotally, many students report that they find philosophy challenging: that is because it stretches these skills to their limits.

Can we do better than personal impressions like this? Graduate schools in the US try: the GRE test is a relatively standard entry test for further study in the US. The test is designed to measure subject independent skills that are useful in many contexts. And how do philosophers compare? See this blog post. On average, philosophy students are better than all other students at verbal reasoning and at analytical writing, and in the top fifteen in quantitative reasoning: higher than any other arts subject, and higher than some science subjects (such as biology) to boot.

What about employability?
It's hard to get reliable statistics about this, for various reasons. For example, we might want to know about how graduates fare in the long-term (vocational courses probably do better in the short term, but provide less scope for later progression), but this kind of data is harder to gather and possibly no longer relevant by the time you have it. Still, the good university guide has a comparison, and according to their information, philosophy graduates compare fairly favourably to other graduates.


You might also read this document by Eric Wiland, which is great. Daniel Haybron also has a nice page with a collection of links on the various reasons why you should study Philosophy. And Paul Raymond has a fantastic page of links on the careers of philosophy graduates.