Monday, August 13, 2012

What happens to philosophy majors

Here's a great resource to use when advising students (and especially when recruiting philosophy majors). Satyan Devadoss, a mathematician at Williams College, tracked the career paths of over 15,000 students at Williams College and created this fantastic visualization linking majors to eventual career paths. It's interactive, so you can mouse over different disciplines to see what happens to students who major in those disciplines.

Here's the visualization for philosophy and religion majors:

Now the interesting thing about this is that it echoes what I tell students who come to me with the "what kind of job can I get with a philosophy major?" query. My answer is: Just about any kind you'd like. Philosophy majors have decent numbers of students in nearly every career path category. Granted, there are few more in law and education, but it's a striking representation of the idea that philosophy is good preparation for practically anything. (Well, except maybe engineering — if you squint you can make out the faintest of lines for that category.)

Compare this to the visualization for biology:
Here we see very strong tracking from major to career paths (health/medicine, obviously). 

What I think we can sell students on with these graphics is the idea that while philosophy doesn't open any particular doors especially wide (in the way that biology seems to open the door to medical careers), it opens practically every door a little bit. So with the likely exception of law, if a student has her heart set on a career in a particular field, philosophy probably doesn't rule that field out (even if by itself, the choice to be a philosophy major doesn't provide a comparative advantage in that field). For students who want to keep their options, or who don't see a clear path yet for themselves, philosophy provides a skill set that enables vocational flexibility and adaptability. That's a very positive message to be able to broadcast — with evidence! — to students attracted to studying philosophy.

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful; thanks for the link.

    Still... must we always be linked with Religion or Religion Studies? I cannot help but notice that Biology is not lumped in with Chemistry.

    Further, I am confused by the comments about PHL and Law; it seems to me the graphs (plus experience) indicate the PHL students do quite well in Law.


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