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School of Humanities

Why Philosophy Is a Surprisingly Good Major

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Questions about the Philosophy Major at USM 



What Is Philosophy?

Philosophy involves you in thinking about some of the big questions of life. Do we have free will? Does God exist? Does science explain everything? What makes actions right or wrong? Studying philosophy means learning what the great thinkers have said on these subjects, but it also means getting the tools that will enable you to make your own informed judgment.


How Can Studying Philosophy Prepare You For A Career?

Our graduates in philosophy acquire general abilities that can be applied in many careers to evaluate information, understand other people, and come up with creative solutions. Unlike some majors that prepare you to do a single, specific job, philosophy is for people who realize that the job market of the future is likely to change and that strong critical thinking skills and adaptability are essential for future success.

Philosophy majors develop valuable career skills, such as reading and understanding complex materials, making logical arguments, explaining ideas clearly in oral and written form, and thinking about things from multiple perspectives.  Our graduates have become teachers, business managers, lawyers, ministers, counselors, strategic planning directors, diplomats, nonprofit administrators, and more.

employment outcomes

Philosophy majors who apply their skills in the world of business tend to do well. A study in the Wall Street Journal showed that the median salaries of undergraduate philosophy majors ten years after graduation, compared to other majors, ranked 16th out of 50, ahead of the standard business majors.



Is A Philosophy Major Helpful If You Plan To Go To Graduate School?

Philosophy majors do well on entrance exams for graduate or professional school. According to a study by the National Institute of Education they have

  • The highest GRE verbal reasoning score of ANY major
  • The highest GRE analytical writing score of ANY major
  • The highest GRE quantitative score of any humanities or arts major
  • The 2nd highest LSAT (law school) score of any major (after Physics)
  • Higher scores than any business major on the GMAT (Graduate Business Exam)


verbal performance


quantitative performance


At USM we recently began offering a version of the philosophy major that is specifically designed for people who want to go to law school. Learn more about the Philosophy Pre-Law BA.

LSAT performance


What Kind of Courses Does A Philosophy Major Take?

Required Courses

  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Comparative Religion
  • Logic
  • Ethics
  • Classical Philosophy
  • Modern Philosophy
  • Philosophical Discourse

Elective Options

  • Critical Thinking
  • Philosophy of Love and Sexuality
  • Philosophy Through Science Fiction
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Human Nature
  • Existentialism
  • Political Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Evil
  • Contemporary Philosophical Issues
  • Contemporary Moral Issues


study what you love


Are There Activities Outside of Class?

The Department coordinates a series called Philosophical Fridays in which speakers from other universities address topics that draw audiences from across the university community. Typically there are three events each semester. Topics have ranged from “The Physics and Metaphysics of Multiple Universes” to “Love in the Age of Miley Cyrus”. We are also the coordinators of the Fairchild Lecture Series, which sponsors programs related to religion or ethics. Past topics have included visits from experts on Islam, Buddhism, and Native American Religions, as well as issues such as “Faith in the Age of Science” and “Business Ethics”. 

Philosophical FridaysThe Logos Club for philosophy majors provides opportunities for students to explore philosophical issues of particular interest. Guest presenters, as well as students in the club, explain and defend their philosophical ideas and participate in lively discussion.




What Are The Teachers Like?

The philosophy teachers at USM are scholars in particular areas of philosophy who have written books and articles for philosophical journals. But they are also approachable and interested in presenting complex ideas in ways that people who are not experts can understand. They are eager to prepare those who want to do advanced work in philosophy, as well as those who will apply the skills gained in the major to a variety of professional pursuits.




financial aid

Are Any Scholarships Available?

The Department of Philosophy and Religion offers Forrest Wood Scholarships for an outstanding new student and an outstanding continuing student.

Students can also compete for cash prizes in the annual Forrest Wood essay contest.


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