There is truly no one easy way to answer the question of “what is philosophy?” In a sense, philosophy is asking questions. It often deals with the complexity of humanity and trying to understand the fundamental truths about existence, reality, humans, the universe and relationships between these and other entities. Literally, from the Greek language, philosophy means love of knowledge.
As an academic discipline, philosophy tackles a wide variety of concepts. For most curriculums, taking a degree in philosophy would involve taking courses in all major branches of philosophy such as metaphysics, ethics and logic. You will also be exposed to great philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and many more. In some cases, philosophy majors also have the opportunity to integrate theology in their studies.
Aside from the major classes in philosophy, a significant number of institutions require all their students to also take general education courses as a rule set by their administration and sometimes even the government. General education usually includes mathematics, sciences and languages.
Students are also likely to be able to take a specialisation or what some schools call program focus during their degree program. Specialisations will be discussed later in the article.
Entrance into a philosophy degree program varies from institution to institution. Some universities require you to take an entrance exam, while some will take into consideration national or standard exams.
A number of universities take into consideration advanced placement exams, while some consider transfer credits for post-secondary students or applicants. For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to check out or contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accrediting systems for universities, students and graduates. Please check with the institution you are interested in for their accreditation details.
As for certifications, there is no universally recognised certification for graduates with a degree in philosophy. In other words, there is no such thing as a professional philosopher. This is because career choices can be very varied for philosophy graduates, as you will see in the career section of this article.
As mentioned earlier in the article, specialisations are available in a number of institutions. This may be a required part of the degree program for philosophy or it may be optional, depending on the institution. Below is a short list of common specialisations offered by universities:
A student in a philosophy program can also choose to specialise in the school of thought of a particular philosopher, such as Kantianism or Aristotelianism.
An undergraduate degree in philosophy can typically take three to four years. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located. Associate’s degrees are also available for a shorter period of study.
There are also a great number of graduates who wish to take a master’s degree or a doctorate in philosophy. These postgraduate opportunities are usually based on a specialisation and are heavy on writing.
Since philosophy is quite a broad field of study, graduates of degree programs in philosophy also end up in various fields and sectors. This is also partly due to the transferrable skills gained by undertaking such a program.
Philosophy graduates are known to be good communicators, logical and critical thinkers. As such, some end up in marketing, business management or writing and editing. These gained skills are also part of why some choose to enter law school after getting an undergraduate degree in philosophy. Because of students’ exposure to ethics and humanities, some also choose to go into public or foreign service as part of government agencies and NGOs (Non-governmental organisation). Others choose to go into journalism or health care. Those who have graduated with master’s or a doctorate often choose to go into academia to teach at the post-secondary to higher-education levels.
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