Why Choose Philosophy or Religious Studies as a Major?
In today's world many students pursue degrees that are focused on a specific profession. Nowadays job markets "boom" and "bust" very quickly - so much so that a person can train for a career because it is "hot" and has a growing market only to find that once he or she has earned a degree in that profession that the job market is flooded with other equally-qualified job seekers and that demand for that profession has fallen. Or a new graduate can start a career only to lose employment within a few years because of unexpected changes in the economy or because of new technologies in the workplace. Young professionals more and more frequently find themselves forced to start all over again with new training for a new profession.
The traditional collegiate liberal arts curriculum - a diverse education rich in learning in the sciences and humanities - has enjoyed a stable presence in higher education precisely because it produces a well-rounded individual who is "educated" in the broadest sense of the word: a person with a broad range of intellectual skills and background knowledge who has the flexibility to adapt quickly in a changing workplace. Moreover, the individual educated in the liberal arts experiences personal fulfillment in his or her education and has the background and perspective to be a socially engaged and active citizen.
In contrast with a more specialized major that trains one for a narrow and specific range of careers, the study of a major in the humanities is an approach that instead favors producing an individual with a flexible set of skills that are valued in a wide range of workplaces. Each discipline in the humanities focuses on several intellectual skills that prepare one for work and life in a variety of situations.
The fields of philosophy and religious studies in particular focus on the valuable skills of:
- Logic and critical thinking - the ability to scrutinize and evaluate evidence and reasoning
- Interpretation and comprehension - the ability to examine and understand new ideas and problems in order to plan creative and intelligent responses to them
- Flexibility of thought and perspective - the ability to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" and to think creatively - a crucial skill for collaboration and leadership.
These skills have an advantage over vocational and specialized professional training because they can be applied in many and diverse contexts in the work world - business, law, industry, politics, government service, etc. A college graduate with these skills is better equipped to adapt when faced with a change of career.
Because of the skills that they offer, the majors of philosophy and religious studies complement other majors in arts and sciences and can be a valuable part of a double major. Many students combine a philosophy major or minor with a major in political science and psychology. A religious studies major complements a major in sociology and anthropology, for example.
Philosophy and religious studies are challenging fields of study - they require a great deal of careful thinking and a willingness to look at familiar beliefs and assumptions in new ways. Philosophy and religious studies pose many questions about the world and our lives in it, but provide few definite answers. But the person with an education in philosophy or religious studies is well prepared for the hard work of finding new and better answers to these questions in a changing world.