A teaching position at a college or a university is a typical career path for philosophy students. Philosophy is more amenable to discussion and seminar formats than lecture-only courses, so philosophy professors spend more time interacting with students one-on-one and in small groups. In addition to the time they spend in a classroom or a lecture hall, philosophy professors conduct research, write articles and books, confer with colleagues and speak at academic conferences. They also consult with other professionals, such as computer programmers, government officials, healthcare providers, politicians, policymakers and scientists. Other career fields where critical thinkers can find a home include business, government, journalism, law and social services.
Graduates of a philosophy program who opt for a postsecondary teaching career will find the field competitive. A marketable philosophy professor is one who can fill a classroom and attract new majors to the department. Academic institutions will be less inclined to hire those instructors whose areas of philosophical specialization are less in demand. In a growing institutional trend, colleges and universities are hiring more adjunct and part-time, rather than tenure-track, professors, and opportunities should be available at these levels.
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At the undergraduate level, students can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and engage in the rigorous coursework necessary for tackling life's big questions. In addition to philosophy, classes can include the study of ethics, epistemology (the nature of knowledge), logic, metaphysics and semantics. Students who want to teach at the college level will need a Master of Arts or, preferably, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Depending on a graduate student's financial and work situation, area of specialization and individual study pace, a Ph.D. in Philosophy can take 4-10 years to complete. Philosophy majors who enter the teaching field should:
• Be well grounded in traditional philosophy
• Be knowledgeable about different philosophical systems and religions
• Understand the principles and methods necessary for designing and implementing curriculum
• Understand the content and structure of a non-English language
• Understand the causes of historical events and their impact on civilizations and cultures Graduate teaching positions and research assistantships provide students with the opportunity to acquire some real-life classroom experience. The following academic positions from April 2012 give you an idea of what college and university philosophy departments are looking for in the field.
• A university in Minnesota offered an opportunity for a non-tenure-track philosophy instructor to teach an introductory philosophy course, an ethics course and other classes as needed for their Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program. The posting stated that prospective candidates should have a Master of Arts or a doctoral degree in philosophy and prior experience teaching at the college level.
• A state community college in Tennessee advertised for a position for a tenure-track instructor with a master's degree in philosophy or a master's degree and 18 hours of philosophy courses. Candidates, the posting stated, should have prior experience teaching at the community college level and the ability to plan and teach introductory philosophy courses.
• A church-affiliated university in Massachusetts looked for a tenure-track assistant professor of philosophy to teach undergraduate, elective and graduate courses in philosophy, provide Ph.D. supervision and be available for departmental services. In addition to traditional application materials, candidates were also being asked to submit at least one published research paper.
According to the BLS, in May 2011, the median annual salary for postsecondary religion and philosophy professors was $65,000. Although professors in some fields, most notably sciences, supplement their personal and departmental incomes with research grants, few sources of such grants are available for philosophy research.