It’s not just a myth that philosophers live in ivory towers and have a harder time getting good jobs than other graduates; in fact, the very reverse is the case.
While more philosophy graduates than ever before are qualified to teach in schools, given the huge increase in the numbers of pupils taking both Philosophy A-level, or the Philosophy and Ethics component of Religious Studies A-level, it is also true that 60-70% of all jobs advertised for graduates are non-subject specific and that with respect to such jobs, philosophy students have for decades had an impressive employability record, scoring consistently higher than graduates from all other disciplines (apart from maths and economics) in a whole ranges of Graduate Aptitude and Management Admissions Tests.
That’s why, in 2007, The Guardian published a now famous article entitled ‘I think therefore I earn’ explaining why philosophy has come to seen as such a good preparation for a career.
This should come as no surprise since philosophy fosters an impressive range of transferrable skills:
- A greatly enhanced sensitivity to linguistic nuance and logical structure, enabling you to say exactly what you mean and to mean exactly what you say – this is especially useful in legal contexts (which is why every year a good number of our students are accepted for law conversion diplomas), and also in the civil service, journalism and publishing.
- A sharpened ability to assess evidence, to argue cogently and to dissect carefully the arguments of others – once again applicable in legal, government, and PR work, and in business and consultancy services.
- An excellent training in the art of discussing difficult and controversial issues – particularly relevant in industrial relations, arbitration services, personnel management, politics and government.
- The capacity to state the obvious and root out common assumptions that may be taken for granted even when inappropriate – very helpful when working with people from other cultures, in computer programming, or when dealing with children or helping adults suffering from various kind of intellectual disability
- A stronger and more controlled imagination formed by trying to think up counter-examples to the claims typically made by philosophers about what features of reality must necessarily, always and everywhere go together. This skill is particularly conducive to innovation in product design, advertising, government, marketing, management consultancy
In the end what most employers are primarily interested in is the chance to train up people who have developed skills like these by studying something inherently fascinating like Philosophy.
So philosophers do not have to live in ivory towers. The list of famous people who studied philosophy at university includes:-
- Bill Clinton (former U.S. President)
- Katherine Hepburn (famous actress)
- Baroness Warnock (who headed the Warnock Commission)
- George Soros (international financier)
- Pope John Paul II,
- Ricky Gervais (comedian)
- Claudia Kennedy (the first female US army general)
- Carly Fiorina (ex-CEO of Hewlett Packard)
- Larry Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia)