Philosophy Professor Career Guide 2024

Table of Contents

Philosophy Professor Salary in United States for 2023

Average Annual Salary: $78,780 

Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor via the ONET Web API. Updated at December 8, 2023

Best Colleges and Universities for Philosophy Professors in 2023

Best College Majors for Philosophy Professors in 2023

Projected Job Employment for Philosophy Professor:

Estimated YearProjected YearEstimated EmploymentProjected Employment% ChangeProjected Annual Job Opening

Philosophy Professor Career Path Overview

Becoming a Philosophy Professor requires a significant level of dedication, formal education, and a deep understanding of the complex world of philosophy. This career path often involves years of rigorous study, research, teaching experience, and the ability to impart knowledge to others with clarity and passion. The first step in the Philosophy Professor career path is typically obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy. During this undergraduate study, students are introduced to various schools of philosophical thought, logic, ethics, metaphysics, and other foundational areas. The next step is pursuing a Master's degree in Philosophy. This level of education provides an opportunity for students to delve deeper into specific areas of philosophy and engage in more sophisticated philosophical discourse. While some may start teaching at community colleges or online with a Master's degree, many aspiring Philosophy Professors continue their education to earn a Doctorate (PhD) in Philosophy. Earning a PhD in Philosophy is a demanding process that usually takes between 4 to 7 years. It requires students to contribute original research to the field and complete a dissertation. The dissertation often involves years of research on a specific philosophical issue or thinker, culminating in a lengthy written work that is defended before a committee of experts. Upon completion of their doctoral studies, aspiring professors often begin their careers in postdoctoral research positions or as adjunct faculty members at colleges and universities. They typically teach classes, publish research in academic journals, present at conferences, and continue developing their expertise in their chosen area of philosophy. Achieving tenure is a significant milestone in a Philosophy Professor's career path. Tenure provides job security and allows professors to pursue their research interests more freely. To be considered for tenure, professors usually need to demonstrate excellence in teaching, make significant contributions to philosophical research, and participate actively in their academic community. Becoming a Philosophy Professor is not just about teaching and research, it also involves mentoring students, participating in departmental and university service, and continually updating one's knowledge and skills in the ever-evolving field of philosophy. This career path is challenging and requires a high level of dedication, but it can be incredibly rewarding for those with a passion for philosophy and a desire to contribute to the academic community.

Philosophy Professor Career Path Education and Training

To become a Philosophy Professor, one needs to follow a structured career path that includes specialized education and rigorous training. This journey is marked by years of academic dedication, intellectual curiosity, and a passion for the philosophical discipline.

Earning a Bachelor's Degree

The first step in becoming a Philosophy Professor is completing an undergraduate degree program. Most aspiring professors choose to major in philosophy to gain a solid foundation in the discipline. During this period, students are introduced to various philosophical theories, critical thinking skills, and argumentative writing techniques. However, it's not uncommon for students to start their academic journey in other humanities or social science programs before transitioning to philosophy.

Completing a Master’s Degree

After obtaining a Bachelor's degree, the next step is to pursue a Master's degree in Philosophy. This stage involves more advanced study and usually requires students to specialize in a particular area of philosophy such as ethics, metaphysics, logic, or political philosophy. A Master’s degree provides students with the opportunity to delve deeper into philosophical research and critical analysis.

Obtaining a Doctoral Degree

The capstone of educational requirements for a Philosophy Professor is earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy. This degree demands extensive research and the completion of a dissertation – an original piece of research in a specific area of philosophy. The process involves presenting and defending the dissertation before an academic committee. A doctorate signals the highest level of proficiency and expertise in philosophy and is a prerequisite for most professorship positions at colleges and universities.

Post-Doctoral Training

In some cases, after earning their Ph.D., individuals may choose to engage in post-doctoral training or fellowships. These opportunities allow recent graduates to conduct further research, publish their work in academic journals, and gain additional teaching experience. Post-doctoral training can be beneficial for those aspiring to work at highly competitive institutions or for those interested in specialized areas of philosophy.

Teaching Experience

In addition to the formal education path, gaining teaching experience is critical for anyone pursuing a career as a Philosophy Professor. This experience often starts during graduate school, where students may have opportunities to teach undergraduate courses or assist professors in their classes. Such experiences not only help build valuable teaching skills but also enhance a candidate’s resume when applying for professorship positions.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

Even after securing a position as a Philosophy Professor, the learning journey doesn't end. Professors are expected to keep up with new developments in their field, engage in continuous research, publish scholarly articles, and attend academic conferences. This commitment to lifelong learning and professional development is a key aspect of a Philosophy Professor’s career path. In conclusion, the career path to becoming a Philosophy Professor is marked by extensive education and training, requiring a deep commitment to the discipline of philosophy. It's a journey that demands intellectual rigor, passion for teaching and research, and an enduring dedication to learning.

Philosophy Professor Career Path Progression

The career path progression for a Philosophy Professor is multifaceted, offering diverse opportunities for growth and advancement. The journey typically begins with gaining a solid educational foundation, followed by academic and professional experience, and can lead to a variety of advanced positions within academia or other industries.

Educational Requirements

Becoming a Philosophy Professor starts with an undergraduate degree in philosophy or a related field. This provides a foundational understanding of critical thinking, logic, and various philosophical theories. A Master’s degree is the next step, offering the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of philosophy. However, most universities require Philosophy Professors to hold a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD). This highest level of academic achievement allows aspiring professors to conduct original research and contribute new knowledge to the field.

Early Career Experience

Beyond education, hands-on experience is essential in this career path. Many aspiring Philosophy Professors begin gaining experience as Graduate Teaching Assistants during their doctoral studies. These positions allow them to assist with teaching undergraduate courses, grading assignments, and conducting research under the guidance of experienced professors.

Professional Development

After earning a PhD, many graduates take up Postdoctoral Fellowships. This offers further opportunities to conduct research, publish papers, and gain teaching experience. Networking at academic conferences and events is also crucial for professional development. It's through these avenues that philosophers can share their ideas, receive feedback from peers, and potentially secure job offers.

Advanced Positions

With sufficient experience and a strong academic portfolio, Philosophy Professors can progress to senior roles within their institutions. They may become Department Heads or Deans, overseeing faculty members and shaping departmental or institutional policies. Some professors might choose to move into administrative roles within universities or colleges, contributing to strategic planning and decision-making at the highest levels. Beyond academia, Philosophy Professors can use their skills in a variety of industries. They might become authors, consultants, or policy advisors, leveraging their expertise in critical thinking, ethics, and problem-solving.

Continuing Education

The field of philosophy is constantly evolving, with new theories and ideas emerging regularly. As such, Philosophy Professors must engage in lifelong learning to stay current. This could involve attending academic conferences, participating in workshops or seminars, or undertaking further postgraduate study. In summary, the career path progression of a Philosophy Professor involves a combination of education, hands-on experience, professional development, and a commitment to lifelong learning. While the journey can be challenging and time-consuming, it can also be deeply rewarding for those with a passion for philosophy and teaching.

Philosophy Professor Career Path Specializations and Subfields

The field of philosophy is both broad and deep, offering a variety of specializations and subfields that Philosophy Professors can choose to focus on. These specializations can greatly impact the course of their career, the research they undertake, and the classes they teach. In this section, we'll explore some of these specializations and subfields, highlighting their unique aspects and the opportunities they present.


One of the main specializations within philosophy is Ethics. Philosophy Professors specializing in this subfield engage with moral questions, studying concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, virtue and vice. They often explore ethical theories from different philosophical traditions and historical periods. A career in this area could involve teaching courses on topics like medical ethics, business ethics, or environmental ethics. Additionally, professors in this field often contribute to public debates on contemporary ethical issues.


Metaphysics is another core area of philosophy. This subfield involves studying the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and body, the nature of time and space, and the concept of existence itself. Philosophy Professors specializing in Metaphysics often teach courses that delve into these profound and complex topics. Their research might involve analyzing classical metaphysical texts or developing their own theories about the nature of reality.


Epistemology, the study of knowledge and belief, is a fascinating subfield for Philosophy Professors. Those specializing in Epistemology address questions such as "What is knowledge?", "What can we know?", and "How do we know what we know?". They might teach courses on skepticism, the theory of knowledge, or the philosophy of science. Professors in this area also often engage with interdisciplinary research, connecting philosophical inquiry with cognitive science, artificial intelligence, or information theory.

Political Philosophy

Political Philosophy is a specialization that examines ideas about government, law, liberty, justice, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Philosophy Professors specializing in this subfield might teach courses on the history of political thought, contemporary political theory, or specific topics like democracy, human rights, or justice. Their research might contribute to public policy debates or provide new perspectives on longstanding political issues.


Existentialism is a philosophical movement that addresses questions about the meaning of life, freedom, death, and personal identity. Philosophy Professors specializing in this area often teach courses on existentialist thinkers like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or Sartre. They might also explore related topics like the philosophy of art, the philosophy of religion, or the philosophy of literature. These are just a few examples of the many specializations and subfields within philosophy. Each offers unique opportunities for teaching and research, shaping the career paths of Philosophy Professors in exciting and meaningful ways.

Philosophy Professor Career Path Job Market and Outlook

As a Philosophy Professor, the job market and outlook for your career is intricately linked to the overall trend in higher education and the humanities. Although Philosophy is one of the oldest academic disciplines, its relevance in today's digital age continues to be profound, particularly with the rise of ethical questions surrounding artificial intelligence, data privacy, and other emerging technologies.

Current Job Market

The current job market for Philosophy Professors is competitive due to limited positions and a large pool of qualified candidates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of postsecondary teachers, in general, is projected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. However, this growth is not evenly distributed across all fields. The market for Philosophy Professors might be tighter due to budgetary constraints on humanities departments in many universities. Although tenure-track positions are often highly coveted, there are other opportunities available. Adjunct positions, teaching at community colleges or smaller liberal arts institutions, or pursuing administrative roles within higher education are all viable paths. Moreover, Philosophy Professors may find opportunities in interdisciplinary work, as their skills in critical thinking and ethical analysis are valuable across various fields.

Future Outlook

Looking ahead, the outlook for Philosophy Professors remains uncertain but promising in some respects. While traditional tenure-track positions may continue to be competitive, there is a growing interest in ethics and philosophy due to the rise of new technologies and societal challenges. This could potentially lead to more opportunities for Philosophy Professors to contribute their expertise. Furthermore, as online education continues to expand, there may be more opportunities for Philosophy Professors to teach remote classes or develop online courses. This could broaden the job market by making it possible for professors to teach students from around the world, regardless of geographical location.

Skills and Qualifications

To succeed as a Philosophy Professor, you need to have a strong foundation in philosophy and a mastery of various philosophical theories and concepts. A Ph.D. in Philosophy is typically required for most professorial roles. In addition, strong teaching skills are essential as you'll be responsible for conveying complex ideas in a way that students can understand and engage with. Furthermore, Philosophy Professors often need to have good writing and research skills, as publishing academic papers and books is a key part of the role. The ability to think critically and analytically is also important, as you'll need to evaluate arguments and ideas in your teaching and research. In conclusion, the career path of a Philosophy Professor is a challenging yet rewarding one. Despite the competitive job market, there are opportunities for those who are passionate about philosophy and committed to sharing their knowledge with others. With the right qualifications and skills, you can make a significant impact in this field.

Philosophy Professor Career Path Salary and Compensation

The career path of a Philosophy Professor can be rewarding in several ways, one of which includes a competitive salary. The salary and compensation package for Philosophy Professors can vary depending on factors like geographical location, years of experience, level of education, institution type, and the specific field of philosophy specialization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for postsecondary Philosophy and Religion Teachers was $72,540 in May 2020. However, this figure can be higher or lower depending on the aforementioned factors.

Entry-Level Salary

For Philosophy Professors at the beginning of their career, the entry-level salary can be somewhat modest. The BLS reports that the lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,760. This reflects an early-career professor's position where they may be working as adjunct faculty or in a non-tenure-track role.

Experienced-Level Salary

As Philosophy Professors gain more experience and achieve tenure, their salaries tend to increase significantly. The top 10 percent in the profession earned more than $126,230 annually according to BLS data. These figures are typically associated with senior professors at prestigious institutions or those who have taken on additional responsibilities such as department chair roles.

Additional Compensation

Beyond the base salary, Philosophy Professors may also receive additional compensation. This can include benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. Some institutions may also offer housing allowances or tuition waivers for professors and their dependents. Moreover, Philosophy Professors often have opportunities to earn extra income through other activities related to their profession. These could include writing and publishing academic papers or books, speaking at conferences or other professional events, consulting work, or summer teaching. In conclusion, while the initial salary of a Philosophy Professor may not be as high as in some other professions, the potential for growth and additional compensation makes it a competitive option. Furthermore, the intrinsic rewards of teaching, researching, and contributing to the field of philosophy can be highly fulfilling for those who choose this career path.

Philosophy Professor Career Path Tips for Success

Embarking on a career as a Philosophy professor can be both rewarding and intellectually stimulating. However, it requires a significant amount of dedication, preparation, and strategic planning. Here are some invaluable tips to help you succeed in this career path.

1. Obtain the Necessary Education

To become a Philosophy professor, you'll first need to earn a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy or a related field. This is typically followed by a Master's degree, and ultimately, a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Some universities may hire individuals with a Master's degree for adjunct positions, but tenure-track professorships generally require a doctoral degree.

2. Gain Teaching Experience

While pursuing your advanced degrees, aim to acquire teaching experience. This could be as a teaching assistant during your Master's program or teaching your own classes during your doctoral studies. The more experience you have in teaching, the better positioned you will be for professorship roles.

3. Publish Scholarly Work

Publishing scholarly work is crucial for those pursuing a career as a Philosophy professor. Many universities consider publications when hiring or promoting faculty members. Writing and publishing papers in respected philosophy journals can also help you establish yourself as an authority in your area of expertise.

4. Network within the Academic Community

Networking is an essential aspect of any career, and academia is no exception. Attend academic conferences, participate in workshops, and engage with other philosophers and academics in your field. These connections can often lead to collaborations, job opportunities, and valuable mentorships.

5. Specialize in a Particular Area of Philosophy

Philosophy is a broad field with numerous sub-disciplines such as metaphysics, ethics, logic, epistemology, etc. Specializing in a particular area can make you more attractive to universities that are seeking experts in that field. This also allows you to focus your research and publications, further establishing your authority.

6. Stay Current with Developments in Your Field

The field of philosophy is constantly evolving, with new ideas and theories emerging regularly. Staying current with these developments is crucial for a Philosophy professor. This not only ensures that your teachings are relevant and up-to-date but also helps in contributing to the advancement of your field. Remember, becoming a successful Philosophy professor involves more than just obtaining the necessary degrees. It requires a commitment to continuous learning, effective networking, and contributing to your field through teaching and scholarly publications. With determination and strategic planning, you can navigate this career path successfully.

What Does a Philosophy Professor Do?

A philosophy professor instructs students at the post-secondary level in various branches of philosophy, such as ethics, logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and the history of philosophy. They prepare course materials, deliver lectures, facilitate classroom discussions, and evaluate student performance through assignments and examinations. Philosophy professors are also expected to conduct original research in their area of specialization, publish scholarly articles and books, and participate in academic conferences. Additionally, they may serve on faculty committees and contribute to departmental administration.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Philosophy Professor?

To become a philosophy professor, an individual typically needs to have a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Philosophy. This involves years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree, including the completion of a dissertation based on original research. Prior to pursuing a Ph.D., a master’s degree in philosophy or a related field may be beneficial. Some universities may also require postdoctoral research experience. Apart from educational qualifications, aspiring philosophy professors should have strong critical thinking skills, excellent communication abilities, and a passion for philosophical inquiry. Experience in teaching or academic research can provide a competitive edge.

What is the Employment Outlook for Philosophy Professors?

The employment outlook for philosophy professors varies depending on factors like geographic location, type of institution (public vs. private), and area of specialization within philosophy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of postsecondary teachers in general is projected to grow 9% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. However, competition for tenured positions is expected to be strong as many universities are shifting towards hiring more part-time or adjunct professors. Professionals with a Ph.D., extensive teaching experience, and a strong record of published research will likely have the best job prospects.

How Much Does a Philosophy Professor Make?

The salary of a philosophy professor can vary widely based on factors such as the individual's level of experience, the location and type of the institution, and the specific field of philosophy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for postsecondary philosophy and religion teachers was $71,830 as of May 2019. However, salaries can range from less than $39,760 to more than $117,330.

What is the Career Path of a Philosophy Professor?

The career path of a philosophy professor typically begins with obtaining a bachelor’s degree in philosophy or a related field. This is followed by earning a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in philosophy. After completing their doctoral studies, individuals often start their careers in temporary or part-time postsecondary teaching positions. During this time, they may also engage in postdoctoral research. With more experience and a robust portfolio of published research, philosophy professors can progress to full-time, tenure-track positions. They may also choose to specialize further within their field or take on administrative roles within their department.

What Are Some Related Careers to a Philosophy Professor?

Related careers to a philosophy professor include other positions within academia such as a college administrator, librarian, or student affairs administrator. Outside academia, philosophy professors' skills in critical thinking and ethical reasoning can be valuable in careers like law, counseling, public policy, and writing. Furthermore, some philosophy professors may choose to work as consultants or public speakers.