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Undergraduate Programs

The Department of Philosophy offers an undergraduate major leading to either a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree, allowing students maximal flexibility in tailoring their programs of study to their intellectual interests. Students interested in literature and foreign languages are better served by the B.A. degree track, whereas students interested in the sciences and mathematics are better served by the B.S. degree track. The two degree tracks also allow students in any degree program to easily add philosophy as a second major. Either degree can be received with departmental honors. In addition to the major, the department offers a program of study leading to a minor, which is a rewarding complement to nearly any major, and it coordinates the undergraduate certificate of study in applied ethics.

Some outstanding features of these programs are:

An Excellent Faculty

The department is nationally renowned for its outstanding graduate faculty, all of whom teach undergraduate courses each semester, including introductory-level general education courses. Feedback from students and graduates consistently praises the quality of teaching in the department along with faculty attention to and concern for students.

Availability of Graduate Teaching Assistants

The department’s nationally ranked M. A. program attracts promising young teacher/scholars who carry out indirect instructional responsibilities under the direct supervision of faculty. The responsibilities of graduate teaching assistants include grading, tutoring, and maintaining regular office hours. The availability of these highly qualified teaching assistants provides undergraduates ready access to additional help with questions or problems concerning course assignments or lectures.

Program Size

Although contained within a large and diverse university, the philosophy program is comparatively small. Undergraduates receive individualized attention from their professors, student/faculty interaction is frequent, and upper-division class sizes are conducive to in-depth discussion and dialogue. Surveys of current majors and of recent graduates indicate these factors as being among the program's greatest strengths.

Preparation for Success in Diverse Careers and Occupations

The study of philosophy imparts skills and capabilities that are conducive to success in a wide variety of careers and occupations. Indeed, a degree in philosophy provides excellent preparation for graduate study in many academic disciplines; for professional studies in fields such as law, medicine, or business; and for a wide variety of careers in education, business, government, industry, information technology, non-profit organizations, and social service.

According to PayScale, philosophy majors who choose to enter the work force directly after graduation from college are most frequently employed as retail store managers, program coordinators in non-profit organizations, paralegals, senior software engineers/developers/programmers, information technology managers, and general/operations managers. The State of Illinois Occupational Employment Projections (Long-term) 2006-2016 lists all of these as growth fields.

A major in philosophy is also excellent preparation for further graduate and professional study. As the table below shows, philosophy majors average among the highest scores of all majors on standardized tests for admission to graduate and professional schools, including business and law. (Percentages in the table are the percentages by which the average scores of test-takers by major differ from the average score of all test-takers. Source: Chronicle of Higher Education.)

MAJOR LSAT GMAT GRE verbal GRE quant.
Philosophy +8.7% +11.0% +17.6% +4.6%
Arts & Music -.05% -1.2% +14.5% -5.7%
English +5.6% +4.1% +14.5% -5.7%
Foreign Langs. +5.7% +3.3% +7.9% -4.2%
History +2.9% +4.6% +10.8% -5.5%
Gen. Humanities +4.7% +1.8% +7.3% -5.0%
Political Science -1.6% +.06% +3.5% -5.0%
Psychology +0.9% +0.8% +3.1% -4.0%
Sociology -7.0% -5.0% -5.0% -15.0%
Education -8.7% -4.2% -10.4% -15.8%
Speech -2.7% not reported -6.0% -14.3%
Biology +4.0% +3.3% +5.4% +8.0%
Mathematics +12.8% +13.3% +2.7% +26.3%
Chemistry +7.6% +7.5% +2.1% +18.3%
Business Adm. -4.5% -0.8% -9.1% -2.3%
Management -5.4% -7.7% not reported not reported

A salary survey conducted by PayScale, and reported by the Wall Street Journal, found that, on average, philosophy majors more than double their salaries over their first ten years in the work force. Indeed, philosophy majors have the highest percent change from starting median to ten-year median (103.5%) of any major (except for mathematics, with which it is tied). This is strong evidence that philosophy majors have capabilities that make them highly valued and highly rewarded employees.

NIU Career Services provides assistance with career decision making, career preparation, internships, job searches, and graduate school applications. The Philosophy page of the NIU Major WebLinks provides a wealth of career-related information for philosophy majors.

Prospective students with questions about the philosophy programs should contact the department at askPhilosophy@niu.edu.