Data on Philosophy PhDs in Non-Academic Positions

How many philosophy PhDs go on to pursue non-academic employment?

14%, according to surveying done by Academic Placement Data and Analysis (APDA).

[photo by J. Weinberg]

In a post over at The Philosophers’ Cocoon, Marcus Arvan (Tampa), who is on APDA’s board of advisors, shares a good amount of information that the project collected about non-academic careers for philosophers.

Here’s one tidbit:

  • Mean salaries reported 
    • Academic: $79,237 (n = 477)
    • Non-Academic: $179,833 (n = 42)
  • Median Salaries
    • Academic: $73,000 
    • Non-Academic: $100,000 

Head to the Cocoon for further details.

Related: Non-Academic HiresSupporting Non-Academic CareersProgram Funds Non-Academic Internships for Philosophy PhD StudentsDuties to Graduate Students Pursuing Non-Academic CareersAPA Issues New Guide For Philosophers Seeking Non-Academic JobsNew Site Interviews Philosophers With Non-Academic CareersProfiles of Non-Academics with Philosophy Degrees

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Grad Student
2 years ago

That mean salary looks quite tempting…

(Though the data set is small.)

Reply to  Grad Student
2 years ago

With such a small sample size a couple of outliers can really bring that mean up. For example, if there’s a single CEO in there making a few million/yr we’d see something like that. Might be interesting to see what it looks with outliers removed. Somewhere around the median seems more realistic for most, unless you’re in tech in the bay area (in which case you’d might be double or triple for a VHCOL area).

Last edited 2 years ago by David
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  David
2 years ago

Maybe worth noting: we ran a regression analysis on the salary data in 2017 and found the difference to be statistically significant:

“The analysis we performed was a generalized linear regression to evaluate predictors of annual salary…Predictor variables included the following: gender (“man”or “woman”), race/ethnicity (grouped into either “white, non-Hispanic” or “person of color”), Area of Specialty(“LEMM,” “Value Theory,” “History & Traditions,” or “Science, Logic, & Math”), position obtained (“permanent aca-demic,” “temporary academic,” or “non-academic”), and graduation year (2012-2016)…yearly salaries for non-academic positions were signicantly greater than for permanent academic positions (β= 37309, t(158) = 4.44, p < 0.001)”

In other words, those in non-academic jobs make around $37,000 more than those in permanent academic jobs, and this does not appear to be driven by “noise” or other easily predictable factors. (We have not run an analysis like this on this year’s data, but there is no reason to think this effect has changed in the past few years.)

Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
2 years ago

Thanks Carolyn! I totally believe there’s a significant difference between academic and non-academic salaries. After all, I currently hold both academic and non-academic positions and see that firsthand.

I was talking about the mean non-academic salary compared to the median non-academic salary. Those leaving academia probably shouldn’t expect the mean non-academic salary figure here (which is tempting the person I replied to).

Last edited 2 years ago by David
2 years ago

I’m curious about data for graduate students earn an MA but leave their program before finishing a PhD. For alt-ac fields, I wonder if there is a salary increase associated with the PhD degree. (I suspect there is no increase for PhD holders vs MA holders.)

Adam Rigoni
2 years ago

Just reading some of the responses in the post at the Cocoon shows that one of the non academic respondents is a CEO and another is a business lawyer. This will doubtless drive up the salary data.

The business lawyer case illustrates why I find it hard to know what to make of this PhD data. Becoming a lawyer (in the US at least) requires that the student go get a whole other different doctorate degree. It’s great if their graduate school education helped them in that and in practice, but it’s very hard for me to think that the connection between their career is any more than incidentally related to their work in philosophy graduate school. I have a hard time imaging circumstances where a PhD student interested in business law would not be best served by immediately leaving the program to enroll in law school (maybe if you’re really close to defending? I mean getting an extra year head start on working as an attorney is pretty valuable).

I think it’s really important for graduate programs to be supportive of students who desire non-academic positions— they are no less your students for that, after all. But a big part of that in my view is being honest with folks about whether completion of the degree, which often includes teaching at a very low wage, is in the student’s best interest.

Matt L
Reply to  Adam Rigoni
2 years ago

When I was in law school (I was working on my PhD in philosophy at the same time) I knew a handful of people who already had PhDs and had gone back to law school. If I remember right, only one of these people had a PhD in Philosophy. One of them (w/ a PhD in either chemistry or biology) became a law professor. The others became lawyers. The lawyers all almost certainly make more than even the law professors and certainly more than a typical philosopher professor would, but as noted by Adam, this required spending another 3 years getting a degree, and, perhaps, $100,000 or more in tuition (it would perhaps be more now) depending on what sort of financial support they got. If you can get a PhD in philosophy, you can almost certainly do well in almost any law school, but if you want to be a lawyer, getting a PhD in philosophy first is probably not the best path to take.

Naveed H Sandeelo
2 years ago

It is really hard to get job after getting degree in philosophy. Because in pakistan, government is not intended to intellectually elevate youth. They are not considered as part of revolutionary change in society. We are being destroyed through this bogus system.

Accidental prof
2 years ago

This also leaves out very important quality of life variables. Many academic positions are 9 month appointments, so they get all summer off and a month at Christmas. If they choose to teach and do research over the summer, they can get close to that non-academic mean, or they can enjoy time with the family. There is also a level of autonomy in academic work that isn’t offered outside. Of course, bureaucratic issues can cancel that out.