Study Philosophy: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate or bachelor's degree in philosophy? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info about courses in these degree programs.
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Philosophy Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

Philosophy is an academic discipline focused on considering elements of existence, such as the nature of happiness or the meaning of suffering. Philosophy majors are introduced to philosophical concepts and methods in metaphysics, aesthetics and logic. Classes available in a philosophy department include classical philosophy, existentialism, religious philosophy and ethics.

Because of the writing, critical reading and analytical skills learned in philosophy programs, this degree is often considered good preparation for law school or religious vocations. Other job possibilities include teaching, but a doctorate degree is usually required to teach beyond the community college level. Philosophy majors can also become writers, paralegals, nonprofit workers, politicians and public interest advocates.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2011, the mean annual salary for secondary school teachers was $57,000, but the rate of job growth from 2010 to 2020 only projected at 7% ( Although this rate is slower than average, the BLS notes that jobs are expected to grow faster in the South and West. The job outlook is less favorable in the Northeast and the Midwest regions.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Students interested in getting a degree that develops critical thinking and writing skills Students who want to enter graduate or law school and those who want a liberal arts degree that helps them hone their writing and critical thinking skills for careers in or outside of academia.
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Teacher assistants ($25,000)*
- Self-enrichment teachers ($41,000)*
- Secondary school teachers ($57,000 - teaching training/certification also required)*
Paralegals and legal assistants ($50,000 - paralegal training/certificate also required)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60-90 credit hours total, including general education courses and 9-18 credit hours in philosophy coursework - Roughly 30-36 credit hours in philosophy
- General education courses
- Foreign language courses
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability No Yes, but it may be easier to find hybrid degree programs

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Philosophy

An associate's degree in philosophy includes courses and instruction about the history of philosophy and how it relates to business, politics, art, religion and other topics. In these programs, you study how cultural settings and different time periods influence philosophy. The introspective nature of this subject makes it a common degree for individuals interested in religious studies. Some schools offer degree programs that combine studying philosophy and religion, while others offer religion courses as electives.

No matter which type of philosophy program a school offers, you should be prepared to develop your reasoning and writing skills. Specifically, you will be encouraged to organize your thoughts and share them with others. Some schools may offer public speaking courses to assist you in this area. Despite the benefits this degree can offer in the workplace, you should be aware that it is not a degree that is usually required for the average job.

Pros and Cons


  • Can be a good degree for many entry-level positions because it stresses developing critical thinking and writing skills
  • May provide a solid foundation for pursuing a more advance degree in the future
  • May offer the opportunity to gain public speaking skills


  • An associate's degree may not be enough education for some professionals, like teachers and paralegals, so additional training may be required for employment*
  • Benefits of this degree may not be readily apparent to some employers because it is often considered a first step toward earning a higher degree
  • Without additional training, the jobs you qualify for may have low salaries

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The course requirements for an associate degree program in philosophy will include courses in philosophy and related subjects, general education courses and electives. Depending on the school, the program may require anywhere from 60-90 credit hours of study. You may be required to take roughly 3-6 philosophy courses. You may also be required, or encouraged, to take at least one course in how to communicate effectively. Typical courses for this degree include:

  • Introduction to philosophy
  • Logic
  • Ethics
  • World religions
  • Literature and philosophy
  • Art and philosophy

Online Degree Options

Online associate degree programs in philosophy are generally not available. However, the curriculum of online liberal arts or general studies program may include philosophy courses.

Stand Out with this Degree

To stand out against your competition with this degree, consider completing coursework in the philosophy of technology. Many programs offer a course, either as a required class or an elective, that covers the philosophical aspects of technology use in modern society. Completing this course will demonstrate to employers that you are knowledge about the philosophy behind the use of cutting-edge technology in today's world.

Bachelor's in Philosophy

The first two years of bachelor's degree programs in philosophy are usually similar to that of an associate degree program. However, during the last two years, you have the opportunity to engage in a more in-depth study of philosophical concepts and how they relate to religion, ethics, politics, art and other aspects of our lives and society. At this degree level, you may be able to focus on your area of interest, which could be religion, pre-law, pre-medicine, ethics or the history of philosophy. Bachelor's degree students should be aware that although the writing and critical thinking skills developed during this program are valuable, core job skills, additional job training will likely be necessary even for entry-level positions.

Pros and Cons


  • The critical thinking and writing skills developed in these degree programs are skills suitable to most jobs
  • Flexible nature of this degree may help graduates adapt well to different job situations and training programs
  • May provide a good foundation for graduate school


  • May be considered too esoteric for some employers, so graduates may have to try harder to demonstrate their value to potential employers
  • Philosophy-focused jobs usually require at least a master's degree
  • Job market for liberal arts majors is very competitive

Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs typically require completion of 10-12 courses in philosophy. Most philosophy bachelor's degree programs also have a foreign language requirement, but some schools offer you the opportunity to test out of this requirement. In additional to core education requirements, a few common courses for this degree program include:

  • Ancient philosophy
  • Modern philosophy
  • Logic
  • Ethics
  • Western philosophy
  • Philosophy and religion
  • Legal philosophy

Online Degree Options

Although online degrees from accredited schools are rare. Attending an on-campus program will help you develop your public speaking skills and receive hands-on guidance in your thought process and writing skills.

Stand Out with this Degree

To stand out with this degree, you may want to show prospective employers that, in addition to having writing and critical thinking skills, you also have technology skills. While philosophy may not seem to have a connection to technology, many bachelor's programs include required or elective courses that discuss technology's philosophical roots. These classes can give you a theoretical framework for technology's importance in human interactions. You can build on this knowledge by obtaining hands-on tech skills, perhaps by starting a blog to discuss philosophical questions or philosophy in general. Having experience using technology in your philosophy studies and being familiar with the philosophy of technology may make you more attractive to employers.

You might also consider completing a research assistantship or independent research project. Having a completed research project or working on a research project shows that you have extensive knowledge about investigating philosophical trends. If you anticipate continuing your education in a master's degree program, this research experience will help you stand out to the admissions council because it emulates the work you will conduct in a graduate-level philosophy program. Additionally, it will help your resume stand out to potential employers, particularly those hiring research associates.

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