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What can I do with a major in Philosophy?

What is Philosophy?

Short answer: More than you think!

Philosophy is the study of central questions of human existence. What is it to be a human being? Do we have free will? How does the mind relate to the body? Is the world wholly material, or is there a spiritual dimension, and if so what is it like? What can we as human beings expect out of life in such a world? How should we live? What should be important in life? What are our obligations to ourselves, what re our obligations to others? What are human rights, and what rights do we human beings have? And how should we go about answering these and other questions, that is, how do we acquire knowledge, and what does it take for a belief to be knowledge? Philosophy is the attempt to answer such questions through rational investigation — applying developed techniques of logical reasoning and analysis to observation and experience.

If “working out” is body-building, philosophy is mind-building, but the mind-building is done while exploring the most fundamental questions of life.

This mind-building results in philosophy majors scoring extremely well on the LSAT, the GRE, the GMAT and other standardized tests required for professional and graduate schools. For evidence, click here.

How does it help me career-wise?

1. College Teaching and Writing: Of course, some people will want to pursue a career in philosophy, going on to the Ph.D., and then teaching and/or writing and publishing in philosophy. We can help you get into a first-rate graduate program.

2. Law: Philosophy majors do exceptionally well on the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT), and generally do very well in Law School. Law professors often recommend Philosophy as the best, or one of the best, undergraduate majors, because it trains students to think analytically. “We’ll teach you law,” a University of Maryland law professor once said to his class, “but you’ve got to come here knowing how to think”. In fact, TCNJ students trained in philosophy who seek law school admission are regularly accepted by the better law schools.

The philosophy department offers students the opportunity to major or minor with a concentration in philosophy and law, which provides a helpful introduction and a rigorous background for further study of law. Students interested in pursuing a concentration in philosophy and law should contact Dr. Melinda Roberts.

3. Business, Government, and Much Else: Likewise, studies have shown that Philosophy majors do well in business, tending to advance faster into middle and upper management positions than students from most other majors. For careers which require high level management and other business skills, a great route is a Philosophy undergraduate major followed by an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree from a first-rate graduate school of business. Philosophy students tend to do particularly well also on the GMAT, the aptitude test used by business school admissions departments. Philosophy is an excellent background too, for: government work of all sorts from intelligence to social service), medical school (we are an accepted major for the 7-year NJ program), journalism, publishing, advertising, religious vocations, and psychological counseling and social work (in conjunction with more specialized majors).

4. Also High School Teaching: Some of our graduates have combined a philosophy major with a major in another field, such as English. They teach their other subject primarily, but teach some philosophy courses as well. Philosophy courses are not yet common in high schools but more and more schools are offering them, and others would do so if they had qualified faculty. Increasing attention is also being given to courses in Critical Thinking, which philosophy graduates are especially well suited to teach. Having a second major in philosophy can therefore by a real plus.

Why is it that Philosophy majors do so well?

In a changing world, with new technologies, new forms of business organization, people from widely different backgrounds — a world in which many people change their career areas several times in their lives — the most needed attributes are:

  • a trained intelligence
  • questioning mind, that seeks new alternatives or confirms independently the validity of old ones
  • an ability to analyze problems in a wide variety of areas
  • an ability to see connections between things where others don’t
  • a deeper understanding of human nature — of what makes people tick, of where they’re different and where they’re similar
  • a richer sense of the range of values and activities that make life worth living
  • perspective — the ability to step back and see things whole, to adapt to change while preserving and even enhancing who you are

The study of philosophy develops these attributes as well as, or better than, any other area of concentration does. And it does so while enriching you in many ways, helping you to better understand yourself and the world around you, and to connect the things you’re learning into one unified whole. It teaches you to think for yourself, and how to do that well. What more could you ask?

Fellow Students and the TCNJ Philosophical Society

There are currently about 50 philosophy majors and 20-25 philosophy minors. These are some of the most interesting students on campus — but they don’t fall into any one “type”. They are widely different in terms of interests, backgrounds, personal style, and future plans. What they have in common, though, is a love of philosophy — of questioning, analyzing, reflecting. The student-run TCNJ Philosophical Society meets every two weeks to discuss topics of philosophical interest to students. Often a student will lead discussion, sometimes a faculty member or off-campus speaker will give a presentation.

The Faculty

TCNJ has a strong faculty in philosophy, covering a wide range of philosophical areas and philosophical orientations. Our professors have Ph.D.s from Claremont, Columbia, CUNY, Penn, Illinois, UMass, Rutgers, Bowling Green, and Syracuse, and have published several books and many articles. All are highly respected as scholars in their fields, and some have distinguished international reputations; some have taught by special invitation at major universities in England, Holland, Germany, Japan, and South Africa. And all are first and foremost dedicated teachers, who consistently get high student evaluations of their teaching.

For Further Information

Call or write to: Pierre Le Morvan, Chair
Ewing, NJ 08628-0718
Bliss 104
(609) 771-2391

Make an appointment to come in and meet the faculty and some of the majors. Maybe even attend a class or two, or a Philosophical Society meeting. If you’re not already a student here, and you’ve written something philosophical, show it to us. We’ll give you some comments, and if it’s good it could help us support your application for entrance into The College of New Jersey as a philosophy major.