Prelaw and Careers

Section 1

Main Content

A Philosophy Degree and Your Career

A major in philosophy is an education that will prepare you well for any career. Because philosophy is a theoretical discipline emphasizing both deductive reasoning and rational argumentation, students gain powerful critical and independent thinking skills that lead to successful careers in fields as wide-ranging as law, business, to public service, to academics and medicine. Because of the degree of writing and argumentation required in studying philosophy, majors develop written and verbal skills that often make them stand out among their peers.

"In the US, where the number of philosophy graduates has increased by 5 per cent a year during the 1990's, only a very few go on to become philosophers. Their employability, at 98.9 per cent, is impressive by any standard....Philosophy is, in commercial jargon, the ultimate 'transferable work skill'." ["Philosophy: A Quintessentially Modern Discipline", London Times]

"Every year around graduation time we hear the reports of average starting salary of college graduates by major. This data is often used to discourage people from majoring in disciplines like philosophy. Now, however, PayScale.com has released data showing average mid-career salaries of college graduates by major. This data makes the philosophy major look like a much more prudential choice. PayScale.com’s current data on 'Best Undergrad College Degrees By Salary' (www.payscale.com/2008-best-colleges/degrees.asp) lists starting median salary and mid-career (15.5 years after graduation) median salary for 50 different university majors. Of the fifty, the philosophy major ranks sixteenth in mid-career median salary. Seven of the majors ranking above philosophy are various engineering fields. Of particular interest is the comparison with Business Management. The starting median salary for Business Management majors is $43,000, while the starting median salary for Philosophy majors is $39,900. By mid-career, the median salary for Business Management majors has risen to $72,100, while the median salary for Philosophy majors has jumped to $81,200." [American Philosophical Association]

A recent comprehensive study of college students' scores on major tests used for admission to graduate and professional schools shows that students majoring in Philosophy received scores substantially higher than the average on each of the tests studied. Philosophy majors' scores on the verbal portion of the GRE were higher than in any other major, even English; and although several science majors showed higher averages in the quantitative portion of the test, philosophy majors scored substantially higher than all other humanities majors and were alone among humanities majors in scoring above the overall average. [http://www.physicscentral.com/buzz/blog/index.cfm?postid=6469561661568777605]

A Philosophy Degree and Law School

Philosophy majors received higher scores on the LSAT than students in all other humanities areas, and higher scores than all social and natural science majors except physics, mathematics, and economics, and higher scores than all applied majors. Moreover, the differences are in most cases substantial: for example, philosophy majors scored over 10% better than political science majors on the LSAT. On the GMAT philosophy majors outperformed business majors by a margin of 15%, and outperformed every other undergraduate major except mathematics." ["Philosophy Students Score High on LSAT, GMAT & GRE", Andreas Teuber]

LSAT Scores by Major: The 2008-2009 Class Update

 

TABLE 1. Average 2007-2008 LSAT Scores with over 1,900 students taking the exam.

Economics    157.4 3,047
Philosophy 157.4 2,184
Engineering 156.2 2,197
History 155.9 4,166
English 154.7 5,120
Finance 153.4 2,267
Political Science 153.0 14,964
Psychology 152.5 4,355
Sociology 150.7 1,902
Communications 150.5 2,230
Business Administration 149.1 1,971
Criminal Justice 145.5 3,306

 

TABLE 2. Average 2007-2008 LSAT Scores with at least 450 students taking the exam.

 

Physics/Math 160.0 577
Economics 157.4 3,047
Philosophy/Theology 157.4 2,581
International Relations 156.5 1,520
Engineering 156.2 2,197
Government /Service 156.1 578
Chemistry 156.1 632
History 155.9 4,169
Interdisciplinary Studies 155.5 652
Foreign Languages 155.3 1,084
English 155.2 5,899
Biology/Natural Sciences   154.8 2,201
Arts 154.2 1,438
Computer Science 154.0 682
Finance 153.4 2,267
Political Science 153.1 15,181
Psychology 152.5 4,355
Liberal Arts    152.4 3,892
Anthropology/Geography 152.2 808
Accounting 151.7 1,439

Submitted to Journal of Economic Education, June 25, 2009 [http://www.potsdam.edu/academics/AAS/Phil/upload/LSAT-Scores-of-Majors.pdf]

Pre-Law Advising Services is part of the UIUC Campus Center for Advising and Academic Services.

They provide advising and information to all undergraduates interested in pursuing a postgraduate legal education. For example, they can help you to figure out the following:

  • how to explore your interest in legal careers
  • how to prepare for law school
  • how to figure out which is the best law school for you
  • how to apply to law school
  • how best to prepare for the LSAT
  • any other questions related to law school or legal education

For more information or to set up an appointment click here: http://prelaw.illinois.edu/.