Philosophy majors increase across country

Paul Kossof

The number of philosophy majors across the country and abroad has steadily risen over the last few years, and that trend holds true here on campus as well. Villanova’s philosophy department, which has enjoyed a good reputation among American universities for decades, has 49 majors and 20 minors, as well as students in a Ph.D. program.The rising popularity of philosophy as a major here and elsewhere has two causes, according to department chairperson John Carvalho: the response of the job market to philosophy majors and the young generation’s reaction to social problems.Philosophy offers a unique type of relevance to the future job market, Carvalho said. Students now in college will be entering a world composed of many jobs that do not exist yet. They cannot speculate on what these jobs will be, so they choose philosophy, thus ensuring a multi-faceted and adaptive education. Indeed, philosophy majors are doing well in the current job market. An article published in the British newspaper The Guardian on Nov. 20, 2007, analyzes jobs offered to various majors. According to the article, philosophy majors are sought by employers in the fields of finance, property development, health and social work, among others.According to the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, the percentage of philosophy majors found in business, finance, marketing and advertising have all increased from 2001 to 2006. There are also fewer unemployed philosophy graduates than in the past.These companies pursue philosophy majors due to their adaptability and analytical thinking, according to the article. They are also valued for their ethics and consideration of moral issues that arise in the workplace.”Philosophy is the attempt to think through the present,” philosophy professor Alexi Kukuljevic said.Philosophy students examine the social and personal problems that arise in life and have the opportunity to advancing their critical thinking skills, according to Kukuljevic.”You learn how to reason,” Carvalho said. “There is a lot of uncertainty. Philosophy is a good medium for exploring this uncertainty.”According to an article published in The New York Times on April 6, philosophy is also becoming popular because of its application of ancient texts to modern problems. According to the article, philosophy studies transfer well into practical skills and careers.The article also reports that the resources of some colleges cannot adequately support the number of students seeking courses in philosophy; many students are enrolling in online courses instead. Philosophy is one subject often pursued past the undergraduate level. “Twenty-five percent of philosophy majors go to graduate school,” Carvalho said.However, more than that one in four philosophy graduates are found in post-graduate education. Law school is a popular option for philosophy majors.Villanova’s philosophy department has over two dozen faculty members and almost all of them hold doctorates, according to Carvalho. This means that there are fewer than two philosophy majors per professor. This gives a sense of belonging to the students who are pursuing degrees within this field, Carvalho said. Teachers are available for advising or simply to sit down and talk.Villanova also does something unique. It requires philosophy majors to take “tracks.” Seven tracks are designed to direct the student into specific areas of philosophy and help the student focus his or her energy, Carvalho said. It also provides a way for a philosophy major to pursue learning designed for a future career. For example, philosophy majors interested in law school can follow the pre-law track.Carvalho said the tracks attract more majors, and parents feel more comfortable knowing that their child’s philosophy education is structured toward a specific field.Villanova offers a philosophy honors society for philosophy as well as a philosophy club open to students of all majors.