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The Philosophy Major

Why major in Philosophy?

For the money, of course!

(Okay, maybe not. But read on.  This article, though, takes the idea seriously:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/nov/20/choosingadegree.highereducation?fb=optOut.)

In order to do philosophy well, one must have a high level of reading comprehension, clarity of thought, and good communications skills (both oral and written). Put simply, then, philosophy teaches one how to read, think, speak, and write well. This might sound like a rather modest set of outcomes, but even a little reflection reveals that these skills are fundamental to all intellectual endeavors. It’s no coincidence that some of history’s greatest scientists, theologians, and artists were also philosophers.

Here are some interesting facts1:

  • LSAT scores for philosophy majors rank third among the twenty-two undergraduate majors represented by examinees. Only mathematics and economics majors score higher, on average.
  • GMAT scores for philosophy majors rank second among the nineteen undergraduate majors represented by examinees. Only mathematics majors score higher, on average.
  • GRE/Verbal scores for philosophy majors are the highest among the twenty-four undergraduate majors represented by examinees. (Mathematics majors rank fourteenth.)
  • GRE/Quantitative scores for philosophy majors are ninth among the same twenty-four majors, ranking higher than business majors, all majors in the social sciences, and all other majors in the humanities. And consider the majors that rank higher than philosophy: physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science, chemistry, other sciences, economics and biology. These majors include extensive training in quantitative thinking, philosophy relatively little.

If we consider these four tests cumulatively by summing the respective rankings by major, philosophy majors come out on top (15), followed by math majors (18). Examinees majoring in chemistry (26), economics (30), and engineering (30) round out the top five; no other major is even close.

Conclusion: if you want to develop a broad range of skills that prepare you for a wide variety of intellectual challenges, you should seriously consider becoming a philosophy major.

1 Based on standardized test performance by undergraduate major between the years of 1977 and 1982, where rankings were calculated by average mean differential. The data were reported in Clifford Adelman’s The Standardized Test Scores of College Graduates. Despite the fact that such a detailed compilation of recent data is for the most part unavailable, all evidence suggests that current performance is practically identical to that of Adelman’s study.

Why major in Philosophy at Boise State University?

One might think that a department as small as ours would fall short in the area of student service. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s precisely because we are so small that we are accustomed to intimate, personalized attention. The proof is in the pudding: the Philosophy Department has produced eight Top Ten Scholars since 1993 — a truly impressive record, considering the relatively small number of our majors.

When asked to explain their success, many Philosophy majors cite faculty contact as playing a leading role. Our instructors are enthusiastic about the discipline and are committed to student success. The Philosophy Club provides an exciting and fun way to get to know other students, to engage in one-on-one conversation with professors, and to participate in events that contribute to the improvement of Boise State and the wider community.

What’s required for the major?

Major Requirements [31 hrs.]    Major Evaluation Form

To receive a BA with a major in Philosophy, a student must have 31 hours of Philosophy Credit. Twenty-two [22] of those hours consist of required courses: PHIL 101, 201, 211, 305, 309, 413, 433, either 406 or 435, and 495. The remaining six hours must be electives within Philosophy. Philosophy majors should bear in mind that the University requires the completion of a total of 40 hours of upper division credit by all graduating seniors.

Minor Requirements [18 hrs.]    Minor Evaluation Form

To receive a minor in Philosophy, a student must have 18 hours of Philosophy Credit. Nine [9] of those hours consist of required courses: PHIL 101, 201, 211. The remaining nine hours must be electives within Philosophy [with the exception of PHIL 489].

Wondering what to take your first semester? Here’s a list of recommended courses.