If you are deciding between majoring in economics or philosophy, you might want to know more about what each major has to offer. This post will show you the key facts about each major and help you to decide which would be a better degree for you.

At a glance:

PhilosophyEconomics
Payscale reported
average pay
$70,000$71,173
Job prospectsAverageAverage
Types of jobs
you can qualify for
(some require
advanced degree)
Teachers
School administrators
Analysts
Clergy
Lawyers
Physicians
Service managers
Chief executives
Data analyst
Business analyst
Operations manager
Financial analyst
Actuarial analyst
Difficulty of the
major
ModerateModerate
Key things to note



It can be difficult to find
a job with just a bachelor’s
degree in philosophy.


The major can become
more employable if
combined with a more
technical minor.

Can be a good pre-law
major.
Can be difficult to
get a job with just
an economics
bachelor’s degree.

Many of the more
lucrative economics
jobs require at least
a master’s degree.

Becomes a lot more
employable if
you combine it with
programming and
data analysis skills.

Source for philosophy salary
Source for economics salary and jobs

There are a number of things to consider when choosing between the two majors. Below, are details about each major, their differences and reasons to choose one or the other.

Details about a Philosophy degree

Below are some of the key details involved in a philosophy degree.

Pay

According to Payscale, the average pay of someone who has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy is $70,000. However, it is important to be aware that the average will be being increased by people who also went on to get more advanced degrees.

According to the BLS, the median salary of someone with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy was $54,000 in 2018. The average salary across all majors was $59,000 so this suggests that philosophy majors earn less than most other majors.

Jobs

According to the BLS, typical jobs people with a philosophy degree get includes:

  • Teachers
  • School administrators
  • Analysts
  • Clergy
  • Lawyers
  • Physicians
  • Service managers
  • Chief executives

You’ll see that many of the jobs, on the list, require an advanced degree. As a result, with just a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, you will likely have a hard time when seeking a job. The reason for this is likely to be that the major will not feature many technical classes that are directly employable.

This means that philosophy can be a good major if you plan on getting an advanced degree, especially in law. It also means that, if you major in philosophy, without planning on getting an advanced degree, it will be important for you to take more technical electives, that are directly employable, otherwise you might have a hard time when seeking a job.

Also, according to this data, the philosophy unemployment rate is 6.2% and the underemployment rate is 50.9%. Whereas, the unemployment rate, across all majors is, 3.9% and the underemployment rate is 42.9%.

Difficulty

Philosophy is a major that will require a lot of dense reading where you will be reading dense texts about philosophy. You will also be writing a lot since you will have to summarize arguments made by authors and provide your response. As a result, you can expect philosophy to be a major that will require a lot of study time. When compared to humanities majors, you can expect philosophy to be more difficult. When compared with most STEM majors, you can expect philosophy to be slightly easier depending on your own strengths. When compared with an economics major, you can expect philosophy to be similar in difficulty.

Classes

Classes in a philosophy major can include:

Logic
Introduction to philosophy
Ancient philosophy
Modern philosophy
Metaphysics
Ethics
Political philosophy

You can see an example degree sequence here.

Things to consider

Philosophy can be a good degree if you are planning on going to graduate school. Philosophy majors typically perform very well on exams such as the LSAT and the GRE. As a result, if you are planning on going to law school, philosophy can be a good option.

Another thing to consider is that there will be lots of dense reading and writing. This means that it is important that you have good reading and writing skills. If you do not, you will likely have a very hard time in the major.

Philosophy is a useful degree in life, in that it will help you understand people’s arguments and to think logically, but it lacks technical aspects. People will often argue that critical thinking skills will help in getting a job. However, technical skills are also important and a philosophy major lacks in technical skills unless you take more applied classes in your electives. This is why an undergraduate degree in philosophy alone can be difficult to find a job with.

With that being said, philosophy can be a very good minor when combined with something more employable at the undergraduate level such as computer science.

If you do major in philosophy, it is important to minor in something more employable such as computer science. This is so that you will have some technical skills that you can use to help you when seeking a job.

Details about a degree in economics

Below are some of the key details of the economics major.

Current pay

According to Payscale, the average salary of a person with a bachelor’s degree in economics is $71,173.

Types of jobs you can get

With a bachelor’s degree in economics you can expect to qualify for jobs such as:

Data analyst
Business analyst
Operations manager
Financial analyst
Actuarial analyst

Since economics makes use of a lot of statistics, you can qualify for many different types of “analyst” roles. Many of these roles will require the knowledge of programming in programming languages such as R and Python. While doing an economics degree, it would help a lot to make sure to learn R and Python and to be able to show projects that show that you are able to make use of those languages in a useful way.

Difficulty

The difficulty of an economics degree will depend a lot on the specific program. Some economics programs will be very math heavy and focused on statistics and its use in economics. Whereas, other programs will not even require calculus and will be more focused on broad economic theory.

If you do decide on an economics major, it would help a lot to consider what you want to get out of it and the jobs you are interested in so that you can choose an economics program that is suitable for you.

Types of classes you’ll be taking

As mentioned above, economics programs can vary significantly. However, there are some classes that you can expect to be taking including:

Principles of microeconomics
Principles of macroeconomics
Intermediate microeconomics
Intermediate macroeconomics
Statistics and probability
Political economics
Econometrics
Topics in money and finance
Topics in banking


Depending on the program, you might also be required to take mathematics classes including:

Calculus
Linear algebra
Discrete mathematics

Important things to be aware of

An economics degree, by itself, can be difficult to get a job with. As a result, it would be very important to take classes related to the job that you are interested in getting.

It is common for economics majors to end up in programming type roles after graduating. It would help you a lot to make sure to take some programming classes as electives and a CS minor would likely be a very good option. Doing this would open you up to good-paying roles such as software engineering.

In addition, if you are interested in going to graduate school for economics, it would help a lot to make sure to take more advanced mathematics classes since they are often required for graduate economics.

As mentioned above, the classes in an economics degree can vary a lot. It would help to look at the degree sequence for the economics degree program at your university and to make sure the required classes are suitable for the types of jobs you are interested in.

Reasons to choose an economics degree

When compared with philosophy, you can expect an economics degree to qualify you for more jobs, most of which will be “analyst” type job roles. In this case, it would help to make sure to learn how to program in R and Python, to take some data analysis classes, and to emphasize more on statistical classes in your major requirements.

However, when compared with other alternatives such as computer science, finance, or statistics, an economics degree will usually give worse job opportunities.

Reasons to choose philosophy

While an economics degree combined with the right classes and projects does have better job prospects than philosophy, at the bachelor’s level, there are still some reasons why you might want to choose philosophy.

If you are sure that you want to get into law school, then philosophy can be a good major since philosophy majors tend to do the best on the entrance exams.

If you want to go to graduate school for philosophy, then a philosophy undergraduate degree can also be appropriate.

However, in both cases, it is important to remember that you might change your mind half-way through the major. As a result, it would be worthwhile to minor in something more technical, such as computer science, so that you have something to fall back on if you do change your mind.

Regardless of the degree that you choose, it will be very important to make sure that you choose classes related to what you want to do after graduating. It is also important to consider what type of job you are most interested in and to choose your major accordingly.

Author

I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.