I recently saw a non-political PolicyMic article that piqued my interest. It was an article in defense of pursuing a philosophy degree. And while the author decides to pursue a philosophy degree despite many voices telling him not to, I would tell others who are facing the same decision to heed those voices. If I had a chance again, I would not choose to major in philosophy. Here's why.
Before I begin, I just wanted to make one thing clear. This is not an attack on the author or the institutions that grant philosophy degrees. It is simply a voice on the other side of the argument. The author is correct on the many merits of holding a philosophy degree — the ability to critically analyze and synthesize information, the ability to concisely and precisely write, and the opportunity to explore the rich history of philosophical thoughts since the beginning of mankind. But I think he misses the point on the costs and drawback of having a philosophy degree. Needless to say, my experiences are only anecdotes of the larger picture as a whole — the problem of induction, as many philosophers are aware of — so take it as you will.
First things first: salary. Is spending four years examining Plato's Republic and Kant's categorical imperative worth the amount of student debt you will incur upon graduation? According to the latest report by Pay Scale, philosophy majors rank 58th, averaging $38,000 starting off and earning around $72,000 mid-career. By no means is this bad, but if you look at the majors of higher earners, they are much more technical and, dare I say, practical.
Second, the author points out the advantages of having a philosophy degree in the context of taking many graduate admissions tests such as the GRE and the LSAT. Philosophy majors do well on these tests. Actually, very well. But, given the uncertainty of this economy, is it wise to attend these schools? Many have made the arguments against going to graduate schools, and even moreso law schools. If you are going to major in philosophy simply because you think it will help you do well on these graduate admissions tests, I'd suggest picking a major that will offer greater professional opportunities.
Third, just because you love books and tend to be philosophically inclined, does not mean you need to major in philosophy. I believe a statistics degree is just as analytically rigorous as a philosophy degree. But the kicker? They're in much more demand! If I were an employer, I would understand that a philosophy major would be able to critically think about a problem, but I'd be much more interested in someone who can do the same, build the toolkit to analyze it, and provide valuable and practical insight into how to solve it. As Buddha, a philosopher (in my eyes), once said, "An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”
If you're smart enough to be successful with a philosophy degree, then you're smart enough to realize you could do without it. Hmmm ... maybe there's a logically fallacy somewhere in there.