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Philosophy major statistics

Looking for philosophy major statistics to make a major life decision? Use these enrolment numbers, salary data, and employment figures to inform yourself. They come from only the best sources, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Brookings Institute, and the Federal Reserve Bank.

Find your facts below!

 

5 facts about philosophy majors including the gender breakdown of degrees conferred, how many are in the workforce, the median salary, and philosophy program growth from 1971 - 2020.

 

Facts about philosophy major

Use this section to find philosophy major facts about enrolment, degrees conferred, as well as  analysis by degree level and gender.

Here you can see bachelor’s degrees conferred in philosophy and religious studies as tracked by the National Center for Education Statistics (the NCES often groups them together for long-term tracking). These numbers are often used as proxies to measure the health of an educational program.

Philosophy degrees conferred annually in the United States have increased 45.8% between 1971 and 2020.

 

Orange line graph showing the number of philosophy degrees conferred between 1971 and 2020.

 

Year Degrees conferred
1971 8,149
1976 8,447
1981 6,776
1986 6,396
1991 7,423
1996 7,900
2001 9,442
2006 12,841
2007 11,969
2008 12,257
2009 12,448
2010 12,503
2011 14,336
2012 14,104
2013 14,338
2014 13,776
2015 12,925
2016 12,133
2017 11,740
2018 11,872
2019 11,981
2020 11,889

 

Here you can find the statistics on gender breakdown to compare male vs. female enrolment in philosophy programs (excluding religious studies). In 2019, 65% of philosophy degrees were conferred to men and 35% to women, accounting for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

Green pie chart showing the gender distribution for all philosophy degrees conferred in 2020.

 

In the chart below you can see the gender breakdown of each level of philosophy degree, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral.

  • Bachelor’s degrees: 63.6% conferred to men, 36.4% conferred to women.
  • Master’s degrees: 75.2% conferred to men, 24.8% conferred to women.
  • Doctoral degrees: 67.2% conferred to men, 32.8% conferred to women.

 

Bachelor’s Master’s Doctoral
Total 5,954 710 418
Male 3,788 534 281
Female 2,166 176 137

 

Three pie charts showing the gender distribution for bachelor's, master's, and doctoral philosophy degrees.

 

There were 7,082 philosophy degrees conferred within the United States in 2019. This is the share of that number for each level of degree.

  • Bachelor’s degrees: 84.1%
  • Master’s degrees: 10%
  • Doctoral degrees: 5.9%

 

Pie chart showing how many philosophy degrees conferred annually are bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

 

One of the interesting facts about philosophy majors is that, while the share of conferred degrees to women drops from 36.4% at the bachelor’s level to 24.8% at the master’s level, it climbs back up to 32.8% at the doctoral level.

 

Philosophy major employment statistics

Here you’ll find the most common jobs held by philosophy majors, the industries where you’re most likely to find them, as well as their unemployment and underemployment rates as recent graduates.

Here are quick employment statistics for philosophy and religion majors:

  • There are 473,500 philosophy and religion majors in the American workforce.
  • 18% of those working majors are employed part-time.
  • 66% work in jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree.

Below are the 10 most common jobs for philosophy and religion majors as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

Orange bar graph showing how many philosophy and religion majors occupy their 10 most common roles.

 

Job % of grads in job Job growth, 2020 – 2030
Post-secondary instructors 7% +24%
Software quality assurance testers 2% +22%
Lawyers 9% +9%
High school teachers 2% +8%
Education administrators 2% +8%
Service managers 3% +7%
Elementary school teachers 3% +7%
Physicians 2% +5%
Clerics, spiritual advisors 9% +3%
Chief executives 2% -6%

 

Data from the BLS indicates that philosophy majors have roughly a 2% chance of becoming a CEO, which is the same as English majors, history majors, and even computer science majors.

These are the most popular industries where philosophy and religion majors work:

  • Management: 15%
  • Education and libraries: 14%
  • Community and social services: 13%
  • Legal: 10%
  • Business and finance: 7%
  • Other areas: 41%

 

Pie chart showing the top 5 employment categories for philosophy and religion majors.

 

Unemployment statistics for philosophy majors seem harsh for recent graduates, but this is common among humanities graduates. You can see the unemployment rate in the bar chart below.

 

Orange bar graph showing the unemployment rate of philosophy majors compared with 21 other university programs.

 

Immediately after graduation, philosophy majors have a:

  • 4.3% unemployment rate
  • 53.6% underemployment rate

You can see the underemployment rate compared with other traditional post-secondary programs below.

 

A blue bar graph showing the underemployment rate of philosophy majors compared to 21 other programs.

 

Salary stats for philosophy majors

Philosophy and religion majors do not make minimum wage forever. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that they make a median of $55,000 overall. That puts them in the middle of the median salary range for most humanities majors, as you can see from the bar graph below.

 

Green bar graph comparing the median salary of philosophy majors with other humanities programs.

 

This is how philosophy majors’ median salary compares with other humanities programs in hard numbers:

  • Archaeology and anthropology median salary: $66,000
  • Political science median salary: $64,000
  • History median salary: $60,000
  • Philosophy and religious studies median salary: $55,000
  • Law median salary: $53,000
  • English median salary: $51,000
  • Visual and performing arts median salary: $42,000

The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project provides more granular salary data, recording the median salary for philosophy majors for every year after graduating. It shows that philosophy grads do earn well beyond $55,000 over the course of their lives, even reaching $78,000 at their peak earning power.

 

Orange line graph showing the median salary for philosophy majors over time.

 

Here are the median figures for individual years, adjusted to 2018 dollars.

Years after graduation Median salary
1 $32,000
2 $32,000
3 $38,000
4 $37,000
5 $38,000
6 $42,000
7 $45,000
8 $42,000
9 $48,000
10 $46,000
11 $55,000
12 $59,000
13 $53,000
14 $64,000
15 $64,000
16 $61,000
17 $70,000
18 $78,000
19 $63,000
20 $66,000
21 $62,000
22 $67,000
23 $79,000
24 $73,000
25 $78,000

 

The statistics show that philosophy majors do find gainful employment and do earn reasonable salaries, both in general but particularly as they progress through their careers. Philosophy majors experience high unemployment rates and underemployment rates immediately after graduating, but the data shows that they fill positions tailored to their skills in education, libraries, and quality assurance.

Also check out these statistics pages to round out your research:

 

 

Sources: NCES 1, NCES 2, NCES 3, BLS, NYFRB, Hamilton Project

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb is on a mission to show humanities graduates how to land jobs and build careers. He turned a history degree and a 9-month stretch of unemployment into a fulfilling career in digital marketing and technology, then founded the Employed Historian blog to show humanities grads how to build their careers, too.

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