What is The Average Philosopher Salary?
Reviewed by Jacob Imm
May 03, 2023
Philosopher Salaries - The Ultimate Guide
For thousands of years, philosophers have worked to steer our societies in the best possible direction. What is the study of philosophy? Philosophy—which translates to “love of knowledge”—has always seen the brightest minds working toward human betterment and understanding.
Today’s philosophers fulfill a similar role, though they do so in various positions. While you may rarely see someone with the title of philosopher on their resume, philosophy graduates are everywhere. A philosophy degree can act as a sort of “master key” to the professional world; thanks to the transferable skills that philosophy majors learn, there are few doors that the philosopher can’t unlock.
As a result, philosophy graduates can impress their way into all kinds of careers—and earn a respectable salary as they do it. In this comprehensive guide to post-graduation earnings, let’s review a variety of philosopher salary estimates.
What Fields Can Philosophers Work In? And How Much Do They Earn?
The beauty of a philosophy degree is that the sky’s the limit. That’s because philosophy teaches students to think outside the box. When so many other degree programs are informing students exactly how to do a job, philosophy instructs pupils to ask, “Why?”
This level of critical thinking translates well to nearly any profession, so there’s plenty of demand for someone with an undergraduate degree in philosophy or a philosophy graduate degree. So, what can you do with a degree in philosophy? Let’s explore some of the fields that a philosophy degree makes available.
Many philosophy graduates go on to teach the next generation of brilliant minds how to learn and think critically. Some potential positions include:
- Postsecondary teachers – University-level professors challenge college-age students to question and explore the world around them. The average salary for postsecondary educators is $79,640 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Studies (BLS).
- Postsecondary education administrators – Some philosophy professors go beyond teaching and enter an administrative role, helping students with lofty problems outside the classroom. While a master’s degree is often required for these positions, earning one is well worth the effort: administrators can bring home $96,910/year, per the BLS.
- Archivists and curators – Philosophy has always been closely connected with art, history and culture. As such, philosophy graduates will feel at home working in a museum. Archivists, curators and museum workers earn a average annual salary of $50,120 as stated by the BLS.
- High school teachers – Many high schools offer philosophy courses. And even if there’s no dedicated philosophy course, philosophers can still instruct at the high school level with a philosophy degree (plus any other license the state requires for teachers). According to labor statistics from the BLS, high school teachers earn a average salary of $61,820 per year.
Business and Management
Because of its emphasis on problem-solving and clear communication, philosophy graduates often possess the critical thinking skills employers look for when hiring. Ideal careers for a philosophy major hoping to work in business include:
- Advertising, promotions and marketing managers – Philosophers tend to become very familiar with what makes humans tick. It’s no wonder, then, that many find themselves in marketing-focused positions. In managerial roles, philosophy majors can earn upward of $133,380 per year, according to the BLS.
- Social and community service managers – For philosophers who lean toward the morals and ethics side of philosophy, a job in government or a nonprofit society is an ideal choice. According to the BLS, professionals in these roles earn a average salary of $74,000 per year.
- Medical and health services managers – Similarly, many philosophy majors go on to work in healthcare and wellness, helping make overarching decisions that put people first. Management positions in the medical industry pay a average salary of $101,340 a year, per the BLS.
- Public relations and fundraising managers – In some ways, a public relations role combines all the skills of the jobs listed above. PR and fundraising managers work to ensure their message lands with the public, all while keeping ethics at the forefront. Professionals in these high-profile positions earn an average salary of $119,860 per year, as stated by the BLS.
A degree in philosophy is an excellent first step toward working as a legal professional. In fact, more than 10% of workers with a philosophy degree work in legal occupations according to the BLS. Many colleges even offer law-focused philosophy programs.
Of course, a philosophy degree alone will rarely be enough to launch your legal career. For example, you’ll still need to complete law school and obtain a Juris Doctor (JD) degree to work as a lawyer. But to study philosophy—with its emphasis on morals and critical thinking—is a terrific jumping-off point for a career path in the legal field.
With the proper training, philosophy majors may be able to find work in the following roles:
- Lawyer – Representing businesses or individuals in court, lawyers make excellent use of the debate skills learned in many philosophy courses. Long hours are the norm, but so are high wages; lawyers earn an average salary of $127,990 per year, according to the BLS.
- Judge – Like a philosopher, a judge must hear both sides of an argument and decide which one is the logical, ethical choice. According to the BLS, judges take home an average salary of $128,710 per year.
- Paralegal – Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers with various tasks—no JD degree required. Paralegals bring home an average salary of $56,230 a year, per the BLS.
- Conflict resolution specialist – Arbitrators and mediators help individuals and businesses settle disputes outside of court. In most cases, a JD is not necessary. These professionals can earn an average annual salary of $49,410, per the BLS.
How to Earn More as a Philosopher
The philosophy degree salary estimates above represent the average figure for each profession. In other words, some workers will earn less, while others can make far more.
Where you’ll fall on this scale will ultimately depend on several factors, including:
- Your work experience
- Your chosen industry (public or private)
- Your education level
- Your negotiation skills
- Your location
If you want to increase your chances of earning more than the average salaries listed in this guide, you may want to follow these steps.
Pursue Higher Education
One of the best ways to improve your earning potential is to go back to school after receiving your bachelor’s degree. Studies from the BLS show a correlation between advanced education and higher salaries. Professionals with advanced degrees are also less likely to be unemployed.
Here’s a breakdown of salary by education level:
- Bachelor’s degree – The average weekly earnings for a bachelor’s degree holder come in at $1,334. The unemployment rate for this group sits at 3.5%.
- Master’s degree – Those with a master’s degree take home an average weekly salary of $1,574. The unemployment rate for this group is 2.6%.
- Doctoral degree – Professionals with a doctoral degree earn an average weekly salary of $1,909. The unemployment rate for this group is only 1.5%.
Philosophy students have several options to further their education after earning a bachelor’s degree.
First, you can pursue a master’s degree in philosophy. These graduate school programs generally take two to three years of full-time study.
Next, you can work toward a PhD to become a doctor of philosophy. These high-level programs typically require an additional one to two years of full-time study.
Finally, if you see a career in law in your future, you can work toward a Juris Doctor degree (JD) after obtaining your BA. In most cases, a JD program will take three years to complete.
No matter which route you take, you can improve your odds of earning more by learning more.
Improve Your Skills
Another way to bring more value to an employer is to develop your most marketable skills skills. As a philosophy student, those skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Creative problem-solving and analysis
- Written and oral communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Research skills
- Time management
Of course, you’ll improve many of these skills through workplace experience. If you want to practice each skill in a professional setting before entering the workforce, you may find an internship is excellent preparation. Within your undergraduate degree, participating in extracurricular activities, such as a philosophy club, are also beneficial to practice these skills if you’re at a lower experience level.
One of the most significant factors in salary is location. Due to differences in demand and cost of living, the average salaries for every profession vary considerably from state to state (and even city to city).
For example, philosophy professors in different states can have vastly different salaries. According to data from the BLS, these are five top-paying states for philosophy teachers:
- California ($138,640 per year)
- Maryland ($117,770 per year)
- Rhode Island ($116,300 per year)
- Massachusetts ($109,580 per year)
- New Jersey ($103,140 per year)
Other high-paying states in the $88,250–138,640 per year range include:
- New York
On the other hand, philosophy teachers in some states earn far less. The following states fall under the lowest annual salary range ($50,770–71,740 per year):
- West Virginia
Each philosophy-friendly profession will have a slightly different spread of best- and worst-paying states. However, as a general rule, professionals in higher-cost-of-living locations tend to earn more.
Begin Your Journey with a Philosophy Program
If this guide’s salaries and job descriptions appeal to you, you may be wondering how to become a philosopher. Ultimately, it all starts with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
With a philosophy degree under your belt, you can begin to ask and answer fundamental questions in the professional world—and earn enough to live comfortably while you’re at it. As long as you study at a school with a strong philosophy program like North Central College, the world will be your oyster after graduation.
Share in the knowledge passed down by some of the best thinkers in history—your philosophy degree awaits.
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.
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