Undergraduate Program

“Is the mind anything more than the brain?”  “Are there moral rules that apply to everyone, everywhere?”  “What is free will, and do we have it?”  “Do non-human animals have rights?”

The Philosophy Department offers wide-ranging introductory courses at the 1000- and 2000-levels, 3000-level courses on the history of philosophy, and 4000-level courses on specialties such as ethical theory, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of religion. Courses at the 4000-level are taught by faculty members with national or international reputations for expertise in the relevant areas of philosophy. Upper division courses are small (usually 15-25 students), enabling you to get to know your professors. 

Philosophy majors can expect personal attention from the Department’s faculty, who are strongly committed to excellence in undergraduate teaching. Every major is assigned a faculty mentor, whose role is to be available to discuss such things as the overall shape of your education at MU and any problems you might be having. Our current class of about 50 majors come from many different backgrounds and hold a wide variety of political and religious views. 

The Department also offers a Departmental Honors programa minor, and a Certificate in Ethical Theory and Practice.

Why major in Philosophy?

What skills will I acquire?
The practical value of studying philosophy lies not in vocation-specific information it imparts but rather in the intellectual training that it provides. Successful study of philosophy requires, and helps develop several intellectual abilities:

  • To grasping the big picture as well as fine details
  • To think, speak, and write about highly abstract and conceptually demanding questions
  • To identify key assumptions made in arguments
  • To make relevant conceptual distinctions
  • To assess the pros and cons of proposed solutions

Philosophy majors do extremely well, on average, on the main standardized tests:

  • On the GRE (for graduate school), students intending to study philosophy have (out of 51 majors) the highest verbal reasoning scores, the highest analytical writing scores, and the sixteenth highest quantitative scores (second only to Economics among MU's Humanities and Social Sciences). For 2019-2022 data, see here.
  • On both the LSAT (for law school) and the GMAT (for business school), philosophers do exceptionally well.

Of course, the test scores for philosophy majors may be high in large part because students who major in philosophy tend to be highly talented in the areas tested; see here. Moreover, one learns a lot from being in the same class as a group of highly talented people.

To find out more about the benefits of an undergraduate major in philosophy, check out the American Philosophical Association's Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates.

What kind of job can I get?
A very small percentage (e.g., less than 5%) of philosophy majors go on to earn a PhD in Philosophy and become a philosophy professor. Some go on to earn PhD’s in other disciplines (such as Psychology or Economics). Many go on to law school, medical school, or other professional programs. On average, philosophy majors do extremely well in such programs. Others find jobs in fields like web design, technical writing, copyediting, and programming. For information on the many careers pursued by humanities graduates in general, see here

Although a philosophy major does not prepare you for any particular job, the skills you learn (critical thinking, reading, writing) prepare you well for a wide range of jobs. Although Philosophy majors without graduate degrees tend to have relatively low initial salaries, their salaries tend to increase faster than most other majors. According to the latest (2023) PayScale College Salary Report, the mid-career (10+ years of experience) median salary of employees whose only degree is a BA in Philosophy is $105,500—which beats out BA’s in most other Humanities subjects as well as many vocational BA’s and BA’s in the sciences.  
Some prominent people with philosophy degrees:
Aung San Suu Kyi -- Nobel Peace Prize winner
David Souter, Stephen Breyer -- US Supreme Court Justices
Beverly McLachlin -- former Chief Justice of Canada
Martin Luther King, Jr -- minister and civil rights leader
Vaclav Havel -- former President of Czechoslovakia
Pete Buttigieg -- US Secretary of Transportation
Philip K Dick, Mary Higgins Clark, Ken Follett, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn -- authors
Ricky Gervais, Steve Allen, Steve Martin -- comedians
Sheila Colleen Bair -- 19th Chairperson of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
Herbert Simon, Maurice Allais, John Harsanyi, Amartya Sen -- Nobel Prize winners
Carly Fiorina, George Soros, Eva Chen, Peter Lynch -- business people
Susan Sontag, Rebecca Goldstein, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ayn Rand -- authors
Terrence Malik, Deepa Mehta, Ethan Coen, Wes Anderson -- filmmakers
Susan Sarandon, Harrison Ford,  David Duchovny, Kumail Nanjiani -- actors
Steve Reich, Philip Glass -- composers
Amy Ellis Nutt -- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Tamara Keith -- NPR White House Correspondent
For many more examples, visit here.

Some amazing Mizzou Philosophy alumni share their success stories.


2019 Senior Seminar
2019 Senior Seminar
2019 Senior Seminar
2019 Senior Seminar

Photos from the 2019 Senior Seminar with Dr. Andrew Melnyk. Photos by Fernando Alvear.

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