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Explore the World of Philosophy

Are you always asking why? Philosophers, throughout history, have always been curious about the deepest questions we can ask, questions about the foundations of ethics and justice, human freedom, thought and consciousness, and the nature of human knowledge. Does this sound like you?

In the Philosophy BA program at IUP, you'll develop your abilities in researching, evaluating arguments, unpacking today's most challenging social issues, and constructing reasoned responses. One day, these skills may lead you to shape law, business, politics, economics, and science—or simply win your next argument.

Earning a philosophy degree will enrich your life and positively affect nearly all aspects of your future. You'll learn to think clearly and critically about the most profound questions of human existence.

Why Major in Philosophy at IUP?

Whether you choose to study philosophy as a step toward a graduate degree or plan to enter the workforce after graduation, you’ll be well prepared. Employment and salary reports indicate that workers with philosophy degrees have the highest growth trajectory from entry to mid-career. Data also show that philosophy majors do exceptionally well in standardized tests for graduate school (GRE), law school (LSAT), and business school (GMAT).

Philosophical questions arise in every academic discipline. You may discover that philosophy is an ideal double-major, especially because the program is designed to be flexible enough to add as a secondary degree.

What You’ll Learn

You’ll learn about traditional philosophical topics such as the nature of morality, justice, freedom, and consciousness, as well as how philosophical theories apply to the real world. Your classes will address fundamental questions about the role of technology in society, biomedical ethics, race and gender, criminal responsibility, and the ethics of climate change.

You’ll explore influential philosophers from previous eras like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, and Kant. You'll also study cutting-edge, contemporary work, including how philosophy intersects with other disciplines, such as cognitive science, environmental studies, women’s and gender studies, and law.

Imagine Your Future

Studying philosophy is intellectually demanding, and you’re ready for the challenge. Future employers will appreciate your work ethic, mental discipline, and proficiency in critical thinking and public expression, all essential skills for leaders, lawyers, and executives.

In fact, philosophy majors enjoy the highest salary growth trajectory among graduates with just a bachelor’s degree, from entry positions to mid-career, and can move more easily into high-level positions.

“The surprisingly robust ROI for philosophy majors can be traced to its intellectual rigor,” reports Forbes. “Philosophers are taught to seek out the pressure points in arguments and to reason for themselves … philosophers are comfortable in the courtroom, control room, or boardroom.”

Learn more about IUP philosophy degree program alumni and get their perspectives. Then, check out this list of well-known philosophy majors who have worked in these and other fields on the American Philosophical Association’s “Who Studies Philosophy?” page.

Many of our IUP philosophy majors have achieved career success in impressive professions:

  • Analysts at the Federal Reserve
  • Attorneys
  • Biotech researchers
  • Data analysts
  • Professors
  • Military officers
  • Talent agents

Industries Looking for You

  • Academia
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Business
  • Government and Politics
  • Law
  • News and Journalism
  • Writing

Early-career median salary


Mid-career median salary


Classes and Requirements

You’ve probably never taken a philosophy class. That’s why many of our philosophy majors declare only after completing their first philosophy class here on campus.

The Philosophy BA program is designed to be flexible for those who declare the major as sophomores or even juniors and for double-majors. After taking an introductory class, you can complete the program by taking further classes in nearly any order. Remember to always consult with your advisor for recommendations.

What You’ll Study

Courses for the major fall into four categories: Logic, History, Mind and World, and Ethics and Values. You’ll need to take one course from each category and six free elective courses that can be chosen from any category.

The Logic category covers topics such as:

  • Critical thinking
  • Argument construction and evaluation
  • The differences between good and bad reasoning
  • Symbolic logic

The History category covers:

  • Ancient thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle
  • Early modern thinkers such as Descartes, Locke, Hume, and Kant
  • Existentialist thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and de Beauvoir

The Mind and World category covers topics such as:

  • The difference between knowledge and mere opinion
  • The nature of thought and consciousness
  • The existence of free will
  • The nature of reality
  • Artificial intelligence

The Ethics and Values category covers topics such as:

  • The nature of justice and rights
  • Theories of right and wrong
  • The meaning of life
  • Morality and law
  • Ethics of climate change

Full Academic Catalog Listing

The course catalog is the official reference for all our degree and course offerings. Check it out for a full listing of the classes available and requirements for this degree.

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Philosophy Minor

A philosophy minor can boost your major. When tailored to your specific needs, a philosophy minor can help you better understand the fundamental assumptions in your field of study.

If you're thinking about adding a minor, be sure to plan your schedule carefully. Select classes with your Philosophy Department advisor's assistance—and approval—to help ensure your success.

Full Academic Catalog Listing

The course catalog is the official reference for all our degree and course offerings. Check it out for a full listing of the classes available and requirements for this degree.

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Philosophy Majors Excel on Entrance Exams for Graduate, Law, and Business Schools

With such academic rigor behind them, it’s no surprise that philosophy majors outperform all other majors on the Analytic Writing and Verbal Reasoning sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Philosophy majors also outperform business, finance, economics, marketing, and accounting majors on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). In fact, they outperform every undergraduate major except physics, mathematics, and engineering.

Philosophy majors also have the second-highest average score on the LSAT (behind economics) among most other majors who choose to take the standardized law school entrance exam.

GRE Analytical Writing: Mean Score by Major

Major Mean Score
Philosophy 4.3
English Language and Literature 4.2
Political Science 4.2
Religion and Theology 4.2
History 4.1
Foreign Languages and Literatures 4.1
Anthropology and Archaeology 4
Biological & Biomedical Sciences 3.9
Physics & Astronomy 3.9
Sociology 3.9
Psychology 3.9
Economics 3.8
Chemistry 3.8
Business Admin and Management 3.8
Communications and Journalism 3.7
Mathematics 3.6
Elementary Education 3.6
Accounting 3.4
Banking and Finance 3.4
Computer and Information Sciences 3.4

GRE General Test Interpretive Data by Borad Graduate Major Field, based on seniors and nonenrolled college graduates who tested between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2020.

GRE Verbal Reasoning: Mean Score by Major

Major Mean Score
Philosophy 160
Religion & Theology 158
English Language & Literature 157
Political Science 157
Foreign Languages & Literatures 156
History 156
Physics & Astronomy 155
Anthropology & Archaeology 155
Economics 154
Mathematical Sciences 153
Biological & Biomedical Sciences 153
Chemistry 153
Sociology 153
Business Admin & Management 153
Psychology 152
Banking & Finance 151
Communications & Journalism 151
Elementary Education 149
Accounting 149
Computer & Information Sciences 149

GRE General Test Interpretive Data by Broad Graduate Major Field, based on seniors and nonenrolled college graduates who tested between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2020.

Opportunities for Philosophy Majors on Campus and Beyond

Experience an Internship

Prepare for the real world after college. You can take advantage of internships tailored to your specific areas of study and get a head start on your career. Recent philosophy student internships have included placements at the Washington Center, the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital in Pittsburgh.

If you're interested in pursuing an internship, please contact our internship coordinator, Hans Pedersen, at c.pedersen@iup.edu

Present Your Research

As a philosophy major, you may have opportunities to present your work at national and regional conferences. IUP students have presented at meetings of the American Philosophical Association and the Interdisciplinary Association for Philosophy and Religious Studies within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Graduate with Honors in Philosophy

For students who excel in their philosophy courses, there is the option of adding a two-semester, six-credit Honors Thesis Independent Study to your coursework. You will complete your honors thesis under the direction of a Philosophy Department faculty member who specializes in your area of interest. Then a thesis committee, comprising the director and two other readers, will review it.

Please contact Leo Yan (lyan@iup.edu), honors coordinator, for more information.

Full Academic Catalog Listing

The course catalog is the official reference for all our degree and course offerings. Check it out for a full listing of the classes available and requirements for this degree.

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Howard Z. Fitzgerald Philosophy Essay Contest

Are you an avid writer-philosopher? Possibly an aspiring one? Enter IUP’s exciting and thought-provoking annual undergraduate philosophy essay contest. It kicks off in late spring. Past prize-winning topics include essays on altruism, the death penalty, affirmative action, sociolinguistics, and much more.

Take Your Philosophy Degree to the Next Level

Some of our philosophy majors go on to graduate, law, or medical school after graduation. You’ll find that IUP faculty members are available and eager to assist you with all aspects of the application process, including letters of recommendation.

We’re proud that our philosophy graduates have been accepted to institutions such as:

  • Florida State University College of Law
  • King's College London (UK)
  • Marquette University Law School
  • Ohio State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Temple University
  • University of Colorado–Boulder
  • University of Maryland School of Law
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison

What IUP Philosophy Alumni Say

We recently completed an anonymous survey of IUP philosophy alumni as part of an evaluation of our program. Here are a few of the questions and sample responses.

How has the philosophy major at IUP changed your views about yourself and the world?

“On a conceptual level, the Philosophy program at IUP offered an opportunity to consider carefully and systematically myself and my perception of the world. I learned to question assumptions and evaluate arguments, especially regarding the relationship between the world and the way I think about it. On a practical level, the work required for completing the major is difficult, and the students are appropriately held to high standards. It is a valued fact that this program taught me to meet deadlines.”

“One thing I learned is that careful, critical consideration of my beliefs, and the many presuppositions underlying those beliefs, can show you that some of your deepest commitments are often no more than mere prejudices. How did philosophy do this? That’s what philosophy does—it teaches you how to critically engage any and all claims no matter the discipline. In particular, I found the most esoteric areas of philosophy to be the most helpful in teaching me how to think critically about extremely difficult and abstract concepts. If you can think and write clearly in a metaphysics class, then you can think and write clearly on almost anything.”

“I don’t think I can even begin to explain why and how philosophy has changed my views without devolving into generic answers that don’t really do justice to what studying philosophy really means to me. It has changed my views about everything and in the deepest of ways, and this is just because it asks the most basic of questions about everything. Nothing can escape its domain.”

List the ways you have grown or developed as a result of IUP Philosophy.

“I have learned how to find the main points of an argument or idea and the assumptions that underlie the idea. I can now do that with any idea, which helps me to assess and effectively interact with the statements in any discipline or in daily life. As I said above, I have also grown a lot in confidence about my own abilities as a thinker! So I don’t need to shy away from hard or technical texts wherever I encounter them. I have learned how to ask good questions. All of these things will benefit me for the rest of my life in any field of study and in daily life.”

How has IUP Philosophy helped prepare you for your career?

“I think you teach some of the only skills that will help any career path: critical thinking and self-reflection. These are methods of examination and inquiry, rather than a mere bundle of facts or statistics. I would say that any student hoping to enter a creative field in which problem solving is a requirement (engineering, business, teaching), you better have a strong ability to think critically, question the ideas of others as well as yourself, and recognize how some decisions, actions, and positions are either tenable or untenable.”

“I am confident that my future career as a physician will involve cases that I am not going to be prepared for. The dexterity and nimbleness that is being fostered in my mind as a result of pursuing philosophy coursework will, in my opinion, translate well into the field of medicine, because I will be able to respond quickly and appropriately to unforeseen problems, and also because discussions in the classrooms will better prepare me for discussions with patients.”

“Philosophy, more than many majors, teaches you skills that make you an incredibly flexible employee. If you have the ability to think critically and clearly (which philosophy trains you to do), then you’re in good shape no matter where you go.”

“I believe the Philosophy Department has taught me the most important skill any person could develop: how to think. This is done by coming alongside the greatest minds in history and learning to think like them and ask questions like them. How could this not help me in my career path? Beyond the career path, this is a skill essential to living a better life!”