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Study Philosophy, why & how to study

Do you like to ponder about existence? Then a Philosophy course may be a logical route for you.

Statue of Aristotle


  1. What’s Philosophy?

  2. What Philosophy degrees can you study?

  3. What do you need to get onto a Philosophy degree?

  4. What topics does a Philosophy degree cover?

  5. How will you be assessed?

  6. Why study Philosophy?

  7. What do Philosophy graduates earn?

  8. What jobs can you get as a Philosophy graduate?

  9. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  10. Similar subjects to Philosophy

  11. Have any questions?

What’s Philosophy?

Philosophy is generally the study of whether we can trust our reality or not. It's from the Ancient Greek ‘Philosophia', meaning 'love of wisdom'.

The subject is made of several subfields, divided by age, topic and style, all of which rely on rational argument. As a Philosophy student, you'll study some of the greatest thinkers of human history and their investigations into existence, knowledge, values and reason. Philosophers include Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Marx and Nietzsche.

What Philosophy degrees can you study?

While you can study this subject on its own, joint degrees offer combinations with languages or other subjects from maths to music. Undergraduate degrees in Philosophy include:

  • Philosophy and Linguistics BA
  • Philosophy and Social Anthropology MA
  • Philosophy and Statistics BSc
  • Philosophy BA
  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion BA
  • Philosophy, Politics and Economics BA

Degrees can offer an integrated foundation year or master’s. Options may include a professional practice year or study abroad.

What do you need to get onto a Philosophy degree?

Entry requirements for a Philosophy degree at a university range from 96–168 UCAS points. This could include the following range of qualifications and grades:

  • A Levels: A*AA–BCC
  • BTECs: D*D*D*–DMM
  • Scottish Highers: AAAAA–BBBB (Advanced Highers: AAB–AA)
  • International Baccalaureate: 42–26

Good subjects to have studied include:

  • Essay-based subjects at A Level (or equivalent)
  • General studies and critical thinking A Level may not be accepted

Experience that would look good on your application:

  • Entering essay competitions like the Trinity College or Lloyd Davies philosophy prizes
  • Finding out more about philosophy – you can find suggested reading lists on university websites, and check the website and YouTube channel of the Royal Institute of Philosophy for resources
  • Some unis might run pre-university philosophy courses or offer free lectures online
  • Summer schools, if eligible, such as UNIQ or Sutton Trust

Other requirements for this subject include:

  • Interview and entry assessments may be required by some universities

What topics does a Philosophy degree cover?

Typical modules for courses in this subject include:

  • Ancient philosophy
  • Descartes and the rationalists
  • Heidegger and phenomenology
  • Issues in contemporary ethics
  • Kant and the empiricists
  • Knowledge and reality
  • Language, logic and reality
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Political philosophy
  • Reason, argument and analysis
  • World philosophies

How will you be assessed?

Courses are assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the module:

  • Essays
  • Exams
  • Online tests
  • Poster presentations
  • A dissertation may be a final year option

Why study Philosophy?

It can be one of the most intellectually rewarding subjects. To study Philosophy is to grapple with questions that have occupied humankind for millennia, from injustice to imbalance and unfairness. It's a subject for those who hate constraints more than anything else.

Your studies will also enable you to develop skills that are valued across a whole range of careers.

Career-specific skills:

  • Understanding of the development of philosophical inquiry and related areas including moral and political philosophy
  • Strong reasoning and debating skills
  • Ability to critique and analyse a range of texts

Transferable skills:

  • Communication
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Presentation
  • Problem solving
  • Reflective thinking
  • Research

Professional accreditation:

  • Joint degrees may be accredited by relevant professional bodies, such as the British Psychological Society (BPS) for combinations with psychology

What do Philosophy graduates earn?

Salaries for Philosophy graduates start at around £18,000–£25,000.

This degree lends itself to a wide range of future careers, particularly in areas where strong reasoning and analytical skills are required.

If you enter the Civil Service Fast Stream, the generalist scheme could lead to work in the Cabinet Office or Department for Work and Pensions while paying you £28,000 as you train. Successful completion of the scheme and promotion could see you earn £39,000–£55,000 as a senior policy advisor or policy lead.

What jobs can you get as a Philosophy graduate?

Particular job areas include teaching and lecturing, law, civil service, local and national government, marketing, journalism, psychotherapy, HR, PR and recruitment, in roles such as:

  • Business manager
  • Careers advisor
  • Chaplain
  • Journalist
  • Lecturer
  • Parliamentary advisor
  • PR officer
  • Solicitor
  • Teacher

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Postgraduate courses in Philosophy may explore the subject in the context of a particular topic or take a deeper exploration into philosophical inquiry. Depending on the course, you may require a first degree in a related subject.

Examples of taught master’s and research degrees at postgraduate level include:

  • Ancient Philosophy MSt
  • Conversion in Philosophy PGDip
  • History and Philosophy of Science PhD
  • Philosophical Theology MPhil
  • Philosophy and Public Policy MSc

Similar subjects to Philosophy

If you’re interested in the whys and wherefores of how things come about along with reasoned argument, you could also consider:

Have any questions?

Get in touch with our experts by emailing with your question about studying Philosophy. We’ll be happy to hear from you!

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