What to Do With A Philosophy Degree
The number of times I and my fellow philosophy-student friends have been asked “what are you going to do with that?” is simply too many to count. There is a quite open myth regarding philosophy degrees: namely, that they are useless. After all, what are you supposed to do with a degree that has you read and write about texts that have little to no practical application?
However, the notion that a philosophy degree is useless and will probably leave its graduates poverty-stricken is nothing further from the truth. Indeed, I wish to argue that it is probably one of the — if not the — most useful degrees one can obtain.
What sort of skills can you get from a philosophy degree? How can these skills be marketable? Do people with philosophy degrees make a lot of money — or, are they doomed to being a barista?
Let’s start with the lattermost question — as, sadly, in our culture, the only thing that seems to matter when it comes to the value of a human being is how much money they make. According to research analyzed by The Atlantic, the average yearly income for someone possessing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy is $82,000. Of course, you are not rich with this salary, but by all intents and purposes, this is a more than livable salary — way more than most college graduates can even conceive of making after they graduate.
What about skills and their marketability? For this point, I would like to quite the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The following is what Wittgenstein believed was the only utility of practicing philosophy:
The object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. The result of philosophy is not a number of “philosophical propositions”, but to make propositions clear. Philosophy should make clear and delimit sharply the thoughts which otherwise are, as it were, opaque and blurred. (Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus 4.112)
I would argue that on top of a philosopher’s ability to make that which is obscure and short, clear and elucidated, philosophy teaches the virtue of independent thought.