Here’s a riddle: I’m usually in solitary contemplation, I smoke a lot of marijuana, I have a long beard that I like to stroke while going, “Hmm, ahh” and I’m always sneering at anti-intellectuals on my social media feed. What college major am I?
That’s right, philosophy!
While at least two of those things are true about me, being a philosophy major is widely misunderstood. And considering the most common criticism of the major — “What can you do in the real world with a philosophy degree?” — I have a lot of clearing up to do.
So, why study philosophy? Well, in the “real world” as opposed to the abstract one of fantasy land that, according to some people, better suits my studies, a degree in philosophy is not only intellectually advantageous, it’s practical and financially beneficial as well.
Philosophy degrees pay you back if you’re willing to wait.
The Wall Street Journal has a handy chart from salary information company PayScale that shows, by major, the salary increase from starting to mid-career positions.
Biology majors have a starting median salary of about $38,800 and a mid-career median salary of $64,800, for a percentage change of 67 percent. The numbers for chemistry majors are $42,600 and $79,900 respectively, with a growth of 87.6 percent. For my fellow journalism majors (my other major), the percentage growth is similar to that of chemistry, with pay going from $35,600 to $66,700.
Those that major in philosophy are tied for first in percentage growth, tying mathematics at 103.5 percent. That means if I follow the median starting salary at $39,900, I’ll be making about $81,200 mid-career. Take that, majority of Stony Brook’s STEM suckers.
To me, this growth can be attributed to how we learn, not what we learn. Technical and scientific knowledge are beneficial in their applications, but their applications are limited. Adaptive and analytical knowledge is much more helpful for moving up the occupational hierarchy, learning new environments and, therefore, making more money.
Philosophers have your back when you’re in trouble with the law.
Derek T. Muller, an Associate Professor of Law at Pepperdine University School of Law, charted the LSAT scores and GPAs of all law school applicants in 2013 by major.
Classics majors came first, with an average LSAT score of 159.8 out of a possible 180. Sixth on that list, ahead of more common majors like economics, history and political science, was philosophy, with an average score of 156.8.
As philosophers, it’s our job to see everything from as many perspectives as possible, so it’s easy to see how students who study studying perspectives can excel in the legal profession.
So be nice to that bearded stoner by himself in the corner: one day, he’ll be a clean-shaven, suit-and-tie-wearing stoner defending you in the courts.
Philosophers can do or be anything.
As a philosophy major, you can…
Be the first woman to run a top-20 company ranked by Fortune magazine, and then go on to run a presidential campaign downplaying the necessity of women in power: Carly Fiorina.
Be brutally stabbed by your moody son: Harrison Ford.
Be the host of one of the most famous game shows of all time: Who is Alex Trebek?
Be a viable GOP presidential candidate and not get crushed in the polls by Donald Trump: not Marco Rubio, because he decided to bash philosophers. Philosophers don’t often call upon the powers of karma, but if there really is some evil-balancing force in the universe that we’re missing, I’m glad it’s catching up to Rubio.
Majoring in philosophy is not a death sentence. It is rather an affirmation of mental flexibility and maturity. It will shake up the foundations of your thoughts and actions and it will give you new perspectives on everything around you.
And if, in the end, you don’t think it can even supplement another major and still believe it fruitless, then at least entertain the idea that nothing matters anyway and you’re ultimately wasting your time accomplishing nothing and affecting no one.
FEATURE IMAGE CREDIT: KRYSTEN MASSA/THE STATESMAN