Associate of Arts & Sciences: which title would you choose?
Aug 6, 2015 at 12:46 AM Post #16 of 17

Nusho

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The question is what employers think of when they see that. Government and Third-sector employers would probably consider that important depending on the position, but the private sector is a lot less likely to look at it the same way. At best, a strong background in Logic and debate varsity participation prepares one for Law or specialized advanced degrees in the social sciences. The problem with these though is that if you take the latter, even if for example you take some units in political and social philosophy, you'd have to catch up on statistics depending on the program.
 
It would be better to do it the other way around - a social science major with a minor in philosophy. I'm not sure how US colleges spread out the units, but over here we have to devote 12units to electives, which will then be considered as a "minor" degree in something else if you use them all in subjects mandated by the other department. We all take soc sci and humanities basic classes, so for example you still effectively end up with 18units of History since there are 6units mandatory. In the Jesuit college I attended, this was on top of 12units of Philosophy mandatory for everybody, and applying for a minor means another 12units. What I did was not get an official minor degree but used half in additional international relations classes and the other half in history classes. I can't remember what I did for one class though as it can be registered as an IR class as well as a history class, with one half of the semester delivered by a History professor then the other half handled by a Political Science professor who would look into the history of it within an IR framework including quantitative/behaviorialist analysis (with the conclusion of the analysis being, "look, landscape theory can get this close, but ultimately in social science there are too many variables that you can't isolate nor account for").

 
 
You are correct in that US colleges have general education requirements which almost always require an individual to dabble in philosophy. As for what exactly is studied in philosophy, it is hard to say. The field is so broad. If you study emotions then you would be useful for firms that deal with psychology. If you study human relations then working in consumer relations and such would make much sense. Of course if you study more obscure fields such as religious philosophy then marketability of the major goes down. IR and other such fields are usually a very specialized version of philosophy -- in this case, a study of how these human constructions called "states" operate in a world of divergent interests, trying to appeal to their own populations while not trying to piss any other states off too much. But you are basically correct that Philosophy is useful for further education. Yet many employers would likely remain skeptical. It is better to market a philosophy degree based on what type of philosophy is studied: "I studied human emotions" is better than "I studied philosophy," so for that reason I will concede and say that if an employer would only see "philosophy" as your degree, with no further description, then you are at a disadvantage
 
On a side note, I find it humorous that many find a math major as something generally marketable but not a philosophy major. Both are the study of the essential questions and methods which define many other fields. Math is a study of the methods which underscore physics, social statistics,  and computer science. Philosophy is a study of human thought, logical, and systematic modeling which basically underscores almost all the other fields you put up there. Both math and philosophy seem to be extremely marketable, then, if companies are willing to spend a month or so to train you in what they do (which they normally do for more specialized majors anyway).
 
Finally, which country do you live in?
 
Aug 6, 2015 at 2:33 AM Post #17 of 17

ProtegeManiac

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You are correct in that US colleges have general education requirements which almost always require an individual to dabble in philosophy. As for what exactly is studied in philosophy, it is hard to say. The field is so broad. If you study emotions then you would be useful for firms that deal with psychology. If you study human relations then working in consumer relations and such would make much sense. Of course if you study more obscure fields such as religious philosophy then marketability of the major goes down. IR and other such fields are usually a very specialized version of philosophy -- in this case, a study of how these human constructions called "states" operate in a world of divergent interests, trying to appeal to their own populations while not trying to piss any other states off too much. But you are basically correct that Philosophy is useful for further education. Yet many employers would likely remain skeptical. It is better to market a philosophy degree based on what type of philosophy is studied: "I studied human emotions" is better than "I studied philosophy," so for that reason I will concede and say that if an employer would only see "philosophy" as your degree, with no further description, then you are at a disadvantage

 
That's why I personally would go for the social science degree, then carefully pick philosophy subjects to get to the core of the theories. Over here the political science and sociology majors have to take a political-social theory class, and depending on the university it may be two classes handled by each department. In the Jesuit school I attended each had their own; in the state university I'm in now, it's registered as SocSci 201/202 or 203/204 (in both universities it will be 6units over two semesters). 
 
The problem with this core is that it's not a real philosophy course, the first problem being that it's just meant as a general survey. And by "general" I mean you go from Socrates all the way to Keynes in two semesters. You won't be able to go into the meat of even each core philosophy, much less give a more comprehensive view of the historical situation at the time they were written. While those may not be in the heavily abridged selection of readings in a single textbook, they do come out during discussion, either by the professor's notes or by the students who actually read a lot more. We managed to "waste" one week's worth of sessions with somebody cheering on Aristotle while many of the people more frustrated with fools getting elected into office argued against it using Plato's philosophy, Socrates' execution (and all other ostracized Athenians) as proof of how it can't be much different from tyranny under a single fool if you're under hundreds, and then lambasted it by quoting Mel Gibson's line from The Patriot ("one tyrant, 3000 miles away for 3,000 tyrants one mile away") and paraphrasing Aristotle's shining defense of democracy as "the best you can come up with is that it stinks the least, well, it's still schiit, and we wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole," while symbolically pointing up as in the painting of the two in The Lyceum. 
 
 
 
On a side note, I find it humorous that many find a math major as something generally marketable but not a philosophy major. Both are the study of the essential questions and methods which define many other fields. Math is a study of the methods which underscore physics, social statistics,  and computer science. Philosophy is a study of human thought, logical, and systematic modeling which basically underscores almost all the other fields you put up there. Both math and philosophy seem to be extremely marketable, then, if companies are willing to spend a month or so to train you in what they do (which they normally do for more specialized majors anyway).

 
 
The thing is that employers think it translates easily, but the problem is that it doesn't necessarily mean that it would for example be a substiitute for actuarial studies. I mean, if you really understood what you were doing and applying it practically along the way, then it does; but if one is too caught up on the theory, then no. It's kind of like how people don't realize that studying quantum physics does not mean you can actually build The Bomb, much less the guidance system. At best you'd be able to calculate where a projectile of a given weight launched at a given muzzle velocity is likely to land given atmospheric conditions. 
 
 
Finally, which country do you live in?

 
The Philippines, my location is displayed as Metro Manila on the upper right of my replies. I'm not in the old city of Manila near the bay, but in the northern part of the Greater Metro Area built around the old walled city and its surrounding towns. The universities I talk about relocated here after the war thanks to the older Manila (not the Spanish-era walled city, but the greater city around it) getting flattened by the B-17s and the Jap marines. The Army retreated into the mountains up north, which was more practicable, but a fanatic Navy commander wanted to hold Manila for a possible resupply drop, using the main coastal road as a runway if necessary. It didn't happen but they held out, city got flattened during the fight. MacArthur was so pissed he made sure General Yama****a was hanged for it, but note how in the North if they had been cut off from communications my grandparents thought the only bad aprt was the supply and infrastructure issue. As in they were bussed around by Imperial Army vehicles (schools, markets, etc), soldiers hang out in places where the proprietors looked like friends and family back home...if supply wasn't a problem they would have been partying up there.
 

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