Philosophy & Religious Studies

Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophy students take time to think carefully about life's most important questions

Philosophy courses at WIU focus on questions concerning:

  • What is right or wrong? What is the nature and justification of moral values?
  • What is a good life? What is a good death?
  • What is the best form of government? How should we make and enforce laws?
  • How do our beliefs/emotions/desires affect our action? What is the nature of consciousness?
  • How to we decide among the alternative accounts of reality?
  • What are scientific explanations? How do we evaluate scientific endeavors?
  • What are the best principles of reasoning and argumentation?
  • Is faith rational? Should it be? What arguments are there for the existence of God?
  • How do we know and learn anything? What is knowledge? When are our beliefs justified?

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Philosophy students acquire the ability to:

  • Reason critically
  • Analyze and evaluate arguments
  • examine multifaceted data and identify the most important information
  • Read and understand challenging but important text
  • Explain complex ideas clearly both verbally and in writing
  • Defend opinions with reason and arguments
  • Understand and appreciate multiple responses to problems

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Philosophy graduates have great earning potential

Most graduates will change their career five or six times, and a philosophy degree provides adaptable skills for nearly any career. The skills identified above are very desirable in the workforce, which is why the typical person with a degree in philosophy makes much more than most people think.  For example, at mid-career, those who majored in philosophy are in the top 10 in earnings of all majors offered at Western Illinois University. Nationwide, Philosophy majors at mid-career out-earn 75% of all other majors. It is one of only three majors (of more than 200 surveyed) that more than doubles the starting salary by 10 - 15 years into the workforce. You can start with a technical degree and possibly make a better salary at first, or major in philosophy and soon end up running the company that hires those who have technical degrees, with 20 to 30 more years of salary growth. (Source: Payscale.com - you may need to create an account to see the full list, but there is no charge to do so.) A Forbes article examines the total earnings advantages of majoring in philosophy, showing a lifetime advantage in earnings at more than $650,000.

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What companies are looking for in new employees

In a recent study it was found that more than 80% of employers desired that colleges and universities place more emphasis on critical thinking, analytical reasoning, complex problem solving, and effective communication both orally and in writing. These are the top priorities identified by employers and precisely the skills developed in every philosophy course. (See p. 8 of the survey conducted for The Association of American Colleges and Universities.)

The tech companies PayPal, Linkedin, Flickr, Overstock.com, and Slack Technologies were all founded (or co-founded) by philosophy majors, and these corporations seek employees with philosophy majors. See this Business Insider article for more details and names.  Stewart Butterfield, cofounder and CEO of Slack (whose stake in the company could be worth $300 million or more) was a philosophy major. Butterfield states, “Studying philosophy taught me two things . . . I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings." ( Forbes )

Major corporations understand the value of training in philosophy and the humanities more broadly. Edward B. Rust Jr., chairman and CEO of State Farm Insurance Companies, states that "at State Farm, our employment exam does not test applicants on their knowledge of finance or the insurance business, but it does require them to demonstrate critical thinking skills" and "the ability to read for information, to communicate and write effectively, and to have an understanding of global integration." These are skills developed in philosophy courses.

Marissa Ann Mayer (ranked eighth on the list of America's most powerful businesswomen of 2013 by Fortune magazine and the current President and CEO of Yahoo!) when an executive and spokesperson for Google reported, "We are going through a period of unbelievable growth, and will be hiring about 6,000 people this year — and probably 4,000-5,000 from the humanities or liberal arts."

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Philosophy students at WIU get personal attention from faculty

Philosophy faculty members have PhDs from top graduate programs and are readily available to help with assignments, prepare for exams, or have a conversation about course material. 

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Considering law school?

The philosophers at Western have developed the Pre-Law Option that includes courses specifically designed to get students ready for success in law school.  Philosophy majors consistently have the highest average LSAT scores among the common majors for students going to law school.  If you plan to attend law school, you should prepare by taking challenging courses that develop all of the skills you will need for success: critical thinking skills, the ability to analyze arguments, the ability to both read and clearly explain dense and challenging material, and the ability to defend one’s views both orally and in writing. These are precisely the skills emphasized in all philosophy courses, no matter what the particular topic of the course.  WIU graduates have been accepted at schools such as the University of Illinois, U. of Minnesota, Indiana University, SMU, Kent, John Marshall and others.  Many are currently practicing law and have positions in private practice, as public defenders, or in large firms.

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Considering graduate school or a professional degree?

Philosophy majors have the highest mean composite score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) , a requirement for pursuing graduate degrees in a wide range of disciplines. In particular, they have the best mean verbal score and mean analytical writings score of any major.  (Source: http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/2010-11_gre_guide.pdf )  

Philosophy majors’ average on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is higher than all business majors. The GMAT is the exam required for graduate programs in business such as the M.B.A. (Source: Profile of GMAT Candidates, 2006–07 to 2010–11, the Graduate Management Admission Council.)

Philosophy majors have the highest acceptance rate into medical school!  A Harvard Medical School Professor explains why here.

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What do Philosophy students say about their studies at WIU?

Joshua Smith I have received wonderful support from the WIU Philosophy department and its professors. My philosophy education is an invaluable resource; and if you plan to have a career in law, I can think of no finer discipline to pursue.”
- Joshua Smith, Assistant Public Defender and 2003 WIU Philosophy Graduate

 

 

“My philosophical education at WIU is the foundation for my success in law school thus far, and will be the basis for my success as lawyer.”  
- LaQuenta Rudison, WIU Philosophy Graduate and student at John Marshal Law School, 2014

 

 

 

“Studying philosophy forces rational adaptation; teaches time proven skills; and develops the mind not in how to replicate a specific task but, instead, in how to think in various ways.” 
- Kyle Cabrera, IT Professional and 2008 WIU Philosophy Graduate

 

 

“Every single philosophy class that I have taken at WIU has taught me something useful; this is not restricted to the material covered in class.” 
- Brett Furmanski, 2014 WIU Philosophy Graduate, Inaugural Mary Olive Woods Academic Excellence Scholarship recipient, and Second Year Law Student at Indiana University

 

 

“I appreciate more and more every day the critical thinking skills that I have developed in my philosophy classes at Western.  The professors in the department were fantastic and extremely involved in their students’ success."  
- Starlet Baker, 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army and 2012 WIU philosophy graduate

 

 

“My education in Philosophy feels like an inexhaustible treasure to me. I certainly got the better end of the deal; I received a meaningful education of a lifetime and all you got was money.”  
- Tristan Honn, 2013 WIU Philosophy graduate

 

 

“Philosophy teaches me how to think for myself and how to base my opinions in logic, reason, and an understanding of the human condition.”
- Hannah Drake, 2014 WIU Philosophy Minor

 

 

“A Philosophy degree can be applied to nearly any field. A businessperson who can come across in conversation and on paper as being intelligent and, more importantly, correct is a great asset to any company.” 
- Cody Stults, 2014 WIU Philosophy Graduate

 

 

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