How to Become a Philosopher: 5 Steps
Reviewed by Jacob Imm
Apr 21, 2023
How to Become a Philosopher: 5 Steps
Aristotle. Descartes. Confucius. Socrates. These are just some of great philosophers whose names are still remembered hundreds—even thousands—of years after they lived.
If you hope to leave a similar legacy, you may be interested in knowing how to become a philosopher. But even if immortality isn’t on your mind, a career in philosophy can be immensely rewarding—both in terms of job satisfaction and philosopher salary.
To help you become the next great influential thinker, here’s a short guide on becoming a good philosopher.
Step 1: Explore What Philosophers Do
Before diving into philosophy, it’s wise to first understand what the field entails. From there, you can decide if a career in philosophy is right for you.
What is the study of philosophy?The word philosophy comes from classical Greek and can be translated as “love of wisdom,” according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. In a broad sense, philosophers use their love of knowledge to ponder questions that don’t necessarily have answers. Through close reading, logical analysis and experimental thought, philosophers look to develop a deeper understanding of our universe and provoke meaningful conversations about the human condition.
Some of the most famous philosophical questions touch on topics like:
- Does free will exist?
- What makes us human?
- What happens after death?
- What does it mean to act morally?
By attempting to unravel each question on this list—and more like them—philosophers work to change our world for the better.
Step 2: Get a Head Start on College
If that description of the field grabs your interest, you may find a career in philosophy worth pursuing. And while the first “official” step to becoming a working professional begins with an undergraduate degree as a philosophy major, you can start preparing for your future today.
No matter where you are in your trajectory as a young philosopher, you can give yourself a leg up in college by developing the vital skills philosophers and philosophy majors use daily. These skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Research skills
- Active reading and listening
- Written and oral communication
- Persuasive writing
- Logical reasoning
- Creative thinking
You may also find it helpful to study another language. Many of the most influential philosophers wrote in Latin, classical Greek, German or French. Reading these texts in their original language allows you to tap into nuances that the translations may miss.
To develop these skills, you can:
- Study philosophy books
- Watch videos and documentaries
- Sign up for a philosophy course or camp
- Ask to sit in on sessions at your local college
Step 3: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
As most philosophy-adjacent careers require at least a bachelor’s degree, your next step is to enroll as a philosophy student in a college degree program.
While a four-year philosophy degree is the most obvious choice for a future in philosophy, other programs can help you break into the field, including:
- Classical Studies – As a classical studies major, you’ll explore every aspect of life in ancient Rome and Greece, including the most famous philosophers.
- History of Ideas – A history of ideas minor challenges you to think deeply about diverse topics—just like a philosopher.
- Religious Studies – Religion and philosophy often go hand-in-hand, so a religious studies degree can be worthwhile.
- Ethics – A minor in ethics will offer a condensed version of some of philosophy’s most fundamental debates.
- Conflict Resolution – In a conflict resolution program, you’ll hone the debate and reasoning skills on which philosophers rely.
In many cases, you can wrap up your college or university experience with an internship. Internships can bolster your chances of finding a job after graduation.
Step 4: Pursue an Advanced Degree (Optional)
To further increase your chances of landing a secure, well-paying job, you may want to commit further to your academic discipline and continue your education. As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Studies (BLS), professionals with master’s degrees earn 18% more per week than those with bachelor’s degrees, while employees with doctoral degrees take home 43% more.
What’s more, some jobs will require an advanced degree, so it’s often worth extending your quest for knowledge by earning a:
- Master’s degree – Master’s programs typically take two to three years of full-time schooling.
- Doctoral degree – Earning a PhD usually takes an additional one to two years of full-time study.
Step 5: Apply for Jobs
Finally, it’s time to search for philosophy work in the “real world.” What can you do with a degree in philosophy? These days, not every professional philosopher has “philosopher” as a job title. Instead, you’ll find philosophy program graduates in diverse disciplines, such as:
Some of the most popular jobs for philosophy graduates may include:
- Lawyer – A philosophy degree is a phenomenal foundation for law school. After earning a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, you can work in courtrooms, representing individuals or businesses on trial. Lawyers take home an average salary of $127,990/year, per the BLS.
- Public relations and fundraising manager – Philosophy’s exploration of the human psyche makes a leadership role in PR a logical next step. Leading nonprofit agencies or government initiatives, these managers earn an average salary of $119,860/year, according to the BLS.
- Philosophy professor – Naturally, philosophy graduates with a master’s or PhD are well equipped to teach the next generation of philosophers. Postsecondary teachers earn an average salary of $79,640/year, per the BLS.
- Journalist – Thanks to their strong written communication skills and extensive background knowledge, philosophers can make excellent journalists. According to the BLS, the average salary in journalism is $48,370/year.
Take the First Step Toward Becoming a Philosopher
Ultimately, philosophy teaches you how to think and learn. These are invaluable skills in today’s professional world—and a philosophy program is the perfect place to explore them.
With just four years of full-time study, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and begin a rewarding career. By pursuing your academic philosophy degree at an esteemed institution like North Central College, you can further increase your chances of finding your dream job as a modern-day philosopher.
Jacob Imm is the associate director of communication in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 13 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.
Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Philosophy. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/philosophy
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, September 8). Education pays. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm
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