Careers

On “The Value of Philosophy,” Bertrand Russell wrote:

“Philosophy is to be studied … because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.”

Philosophy is worth studying not because you learn facts that can be put to any particular purpose, but rather because the study of philosophy is valuable in itself.  But this does not mean that philosophically trained minds cannot be put to use! Philosophers make more money and do better on various exams for graduate and professional schools than almost any other liberal arts major (source: csbsju, 2012). Philosophy majors have gone on to success in a wide variety of professions. Famous Philosophy majors include Carly Fiorina (CEO, Hewlett-Packard), Larry Sanger (Co-Founder, Wikipedia), Vaclav Havel (President, Czech Republic, Playwright), Aung San Suu Kyi (Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize), Matt Groening (Creator of “The Simpsons”), Mary Higgins Clark (Novelist), George Soros (Investor and Philanthropist), Susan Sarandon (Actress), and Stokely Carmichael (Civil Rights Activist) (source: Business Insider, 2014).

Meet with advisors

  • Explore possibilities with your faculty advisor. Your professors can also help you with advice on career questions in their field of expertise.
  • Define your goals and develop search strategies. Career Advisors at the Career Development Center (CDC) are here to help you develop strategies to find jobs and internships, improve your resume and cover letters, and access resources.
  • Learn how to conduct informational interviews with people working in the field and find alumnae through the Alumnae Association Career Directory. They can provide valuable guidance when considering career options, including internships, jobs and graduate school.

Resources

  • Professional organizations
    • American Bar Association: The section for students provides resources on graduate schools, careers, foreign study programs, internships.
    • American Philosophical Association: Organization of current and aspiring professional philosophers. Has job listings, and job-related information.
    • American Philosophical Practitioners Association: Trains and certifies philosophy majors to do work similar to psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Builds graduate programs in philosophical practice in universities throughout the country.
    • American Philosophical Society: A scholarly organization established by Benjamin Franklin in  1743. Promotes knowledge in the sciences and humanities through research, meetings, publications, and library resources.
  • Students and alumnae who studied this major or are working in the industry can provide valuable guidance when considering career options, including internships, jobs, and graduate school.  Use the MHC Intern Network to connect with MHC students and recent alumnae who have held internships. Search by major, location, position, or employer.
  • USA Jobs: Resource for federal jobs and employment information.
  • Buzzfile and Vault Career Insider are useful tools available through the CDC for in-depth career research into specific areas of interest.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook: Maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor, this online database gives a detailed description of various fields/occupations including interpreters & translators, social scientists, teachers, and international business consultants.
  • GoinGlobal provides country-specific career information, expert advice, and insider tips for finding employment opportunities at home and abroad. Login with your Handshake account.

For Further Information

Check out the Department of Philosophy’s Facebook page, where you can see profiles of philosophy alumnae, what careers they have pursued, and get in touch with alumnae, current students, and professors. You’ll see what actual philosophy major alumnae from Mount Holyoke College have been up to. You should also come to a meeting of the student-run philosophy society, which meets weekly to discuss philosophical topics informally over pizza. And feel free to contact the chair of the philosophy department with any questions.

What Careers Can I Pursue with a Philosophy major?

"Majoring in philosophy is not a way to get a specific job. If you want only that—a job that will not be outsourced overseas right after you accumulate a lot of student loans—you should consider studying to become an electrician, a brick mason, a plumber, or some other skilled trade. These are lucrative and noble careers.

If, however, you are instead working on your Bachelor’s degree, you probably hope to become some sort of knowledge worker. Such work is vulnerable not only to overseas outsourcing but also to technological disruption. The average person doing such work will have several different kinds of careers in his or her lifetime. The days that a knowledge worker does the same thing for forty years and then retires are almost over.

In light of that, how can you best prepare yourself for a world where the ability to acquire knowledge quickly is the new currency? It will do you little good just to memorize information that employers can retrieve electronically. It costs them far less to use Google than to hire you. Instead, you must demonstrate to potential employers that you can quickly learn how to do whatever they need done. Employers do not want to hire people who (already) know only one particular thing.

They want to hire smart people who can adapt as circumstances demand. To do this, you need to show that you are intelligent, that you can analyze problems, and that you know how to write clearly and concisely. Philosophy, fortunately, is a remarkably hard-headed discipline. Employers do not want employees who merely can recite what others say. They want employees who can understand the strengths and weaknesses of various ways of doing things, and who can teach themselves how to implement the best way. Philosophy teaches you to do just that"- (source: “The Philosophy Major at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.”