The Labor Market for Philosophers
By Bryan Caplan
Probably not. However smart you may be, when you apply for that coveted position at the
University of Colorado, your application will go into a pile of 300 others, of which at least 20
will look about equally good. All 20 of those people will have been the best philosophy students
at their colleges. Think about the smartest person you have ever known. Now imagine that there
are 20 copies of that person competing with you for a job. That is roughly what it will be like.
12. Why the hell would I want to become a philosopher??
You probably wouldn’t. Philosophy graduate school is only suitable for a minuscule fraction
of the population. If either (a) you would enjoy teaching basic philosophical ideas to
undergraduate students for most of your life, or (b) you are extremely intelligent and
intellectually innovative and you eat and drink philosophy, and in either case (c) you would be
satisfied with a much lower income than other people of your level of education and
intelligence, then philosophy graduate school may be for you.
The tiny number of people who will be able to land–and keep–jobs as researchers in
philosophy will have what may be, for them, the world’s best job:
a. You can work, for the most part, on your own schedule…
b. You can spend the summers how and where you like.
c. You get paid, in large part, for talking about philosophy. Point (c) is the key point. If that sounds like an amazing deal to you, then philosophy might be
for you; if not, then it isn’t.
If Mike crushes your hopes and dreams, don’t despair. Just get a Ph.D. in economics instead.
HT: Katja Grace