Philosophical Non-Academic Jobs


A graduate student writes in asking for suggestions of “careers that might be especially ‘philosophy friendly’. By that I mean careers that either have employers who typically value the skills developed and areas of research explored in the study of philosophy or allow someone who studied philosophy to do something semi-related they might enjoy.”

He adds, “I’m thinking that someone who was interested in the more formal side of philosophy might be able to leverage their strong background in math logic in some sort of a programming role (maybe natural language processing for someone with more of language interest). Being able to utilize their formal training in their job might also make such a career one they’d be more likely to enjoy. For someone willing to go to law school, I’ve often been told law is a good fit.”

If you have suggestions for non-academic positions that might be a good match  for philosophical training (generally or for particular areas of specialization), please share  them in the comments.

Also, don’t forget our listing of Non-Academic Hires and the earlier post on what departments can do to help those who are seeking to leave academia.

guest
4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Katie Stockdale
Katie Stockdale
6 years ago

I worked as a Policy and Research Analyst for a Higher Education Commission, then decided to return to my PhD. Side suggestion: if you are worried about the job market and your graduate program allows you to take a leave of absence without the leave affecting your funding, this is a really good option. You can apply for non-academic jobs and take a leave of absence if/when you get one. You may love the job and not want to return to academia, or you may realize that you really do want to finish the PhD and return with important skills and solid non-academic references in place for when you graduate. I was surprised at how supportive my direct supervisor and the CEO were of my decision to return to grad school. They were sad to see me go, but kept me on as a consultant and have suggested that they might call me back for work in the future. I feel much happier in my PhD program knowing that I can survive outside of academic philosophy, and this has made me a more productive grad student.

About policy: the job required at least a Master’s degree and a few staff had PhDs. Interestingly, only one employee had a graduate degree in public policy. Everyone else had an academic (as opposed to a professional) graduate degree. I am not sure about policy jobs in other areas, but in Higher Education policy, potential employers will know a bit about philosophy and value it for the training philosophy students get in critical thinking. My job involved evaluating program proposals for new and modified undergraduate and graduate programs, writing analyses on proposals based on quality assurance standards, and other research related to developing Higher Education policy. I found that my background in philosophy was all I needed to do the job well, and you can definitely spin your graduate education on a resume and cover letter to look impressive and valuable for this sort of job.

I hope this helps! Best of luck.Report

James Manos
James Manos
6 years ago

Checkout the Public Fellows program with the American Council of Learned Societies, it helps to transition social science and humanities PhD’s into public policy and non-profit jobs at a variety of different levels.Report

Tyler
Tyler
6 years ago

I have bachelors and masters degrees focused on philosophy of science and I now work for the federal government. I strongly believe that philosophers bring skills that would be valued in a variety of both generalist and specialist jobs in the government. Typically, it is very hard to get into the government, especially as the USAjobs.gov sorting process can bias hiring toward late-career applicants.

Luckily, there is already a mechanism that could ‘short cut’ this and help bring more philosophers into the federal government: the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF). (http://www.pmf.gov/) Existing since the 70s, this program is the premiere hiring mechanism for graduate students in the federal government, and it applies to US citizens who are finishing or recently finished a graduate degree in any field. It is open to all degree fields and, despite the name, there is nothing about it that involves a focus on management. The federal Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) runs a six month PMF application process every year that culminates in about 600 people being named finalists for the PMF in March. If an agency hires a PMF, they become a full civil servant, and are considered to be a fellow for 2 years. Almost every agencies tries to keep their PMFs on permanently, so getting a PMF job is generally seen as getting a permanent position.

PMF can be a big equalizer for philosophers in competing for federal jobs. There is no disciplinary filter to get a PMF finalist spot, so philosophers have the same odds as everyone else. Once you’re a finalist, it effectively clears you from applying to jobs through USAjobs.gov. If an agency has an opening, they can decide to hire a PMF finalist on the spot. Agencies value this because they have a hard time hiring good people. If they see a smart, dedicated PMF finalist eager to fill the role (regardless of discipline), they will be very likely to go for it.

PMF has its own challenges: it can have around a 5% success rate to become a finalist, and the evaluation techniques can seem random. The quality of the job you end up getting depends greatly on who your eventual boss is. Students may need to travel to semifinalist interviews, and universities should try to support the costs for the travel.

But the upsides are so great that almost every U.S. masters or Phd student should apply for PMF, if only to keep their options open. A finalist can always turn it down if she or he so chooses. Once inside the civil service, your flexibility in trying to find your ideal job can be significant, and PMF requires that agencies let the fellow do detail assignments to other offices or agencies, helping to broaden their experiences. If the philosophy community encouraged applications to PMF, the fellowship could be a way to get a few dozen philosophers into the government every year, which would likely have significant unintended consequences!

The annual PMF application starts every year from October 1-14: if you set a calendar reminder now, you can make sure to help remind graduate students about it. The official site and an unofficial website on PMF applications are below.
http://www.pmf.gov/
http://pathtopmf.com/Report

Manju
Manju
6 years ago

George Soros has degrees in philosophy (including a Ph.D) and studied under Karl Popper. Source: Wiki. I gather he also fancies himself a philosopher. Also, the type of trading he engages in requires a “strong background in math logic”. A lot of these quant-based funds go as far as not hiring any MBAs. So I would suggest looking into Hedge Fund Management.Report