Majoring in Philosophy
Philosophy addresses problems and questions that arise in all areas of human thought and experience and in all disciplines. Recurring questions about the nature of value, the good life, right conduct, knowledge, truth, language, mind, and reality are central to philosophical study. Philosophy also investigates the methodologies and assumptions of the major disciplines in the university in order to deepen our understanding of the sciences, of mathematics, art, literature, and history, and of religion and morality. It leads us to address issues about the nature of these subjects, about the methods of reasoning characteristic of them, and about the contributions they make to our understanding of ourselves and our world. Philosophy contributes to the liberal education of its students. The department emphasizes an analytic approach to philosophical questions, which trains students to understand and evaluate arguments and to think and write precisely and clearly. These skills are of immense value in a variety of careers.
Philosophy is an excellent primary or secondary major for students interested in going to medical school. Despite the common belief that a major in the biological sciences is required for admission to medical school, only half of students admitted to med schools followed this track. A philosophy major may help the pre-med applicant stand-out among the crowd. In fact, admitted humanities majors have slightly higher MCAT scores than those from the sciences. Majoring in philosophy for pre-med provides students with critical thinking and analytical abilities valued by medical schools for admission. These intellectual skill sets are a crucial foundation for a successful career in medicine. The philosophy major at UC Davis is flexible to accommodate a pre-med student’s enrollment in prerequisite science courses for admission to medical school. Indeed, the course offerings in the philosophy department provide an excellent complement to those in the sciences. Such courses include bioethics, appraising scientific reasoning, and philosophy of biology.
Students interested in going to law school should consider philosophy as a primary major. Though law schools do not favor a particular major in their admissions, according to the American Philosophical Association, "philosophy majors consistently perform best or near best on graduate school admission exams, year after year and across various sections compared to other majors." This is no surprise, as a major in philosophy provides students with extensive training in critical analysis of texts, analytical thinking skills, verbal communication, and rigorous, persuasive writing. Each of these skill sets is crucial to success in law school. Beyond this, the UC Davis Philosophy Department has a variety of course offerings on topics relevant to someone interested in practicing law. These include: critical reasoning, logic, ethics, and philosophy of law. Recent UC Davis philosophy majors have attended law school at UC Davis, UCSD, UCLA, and the University of Chicago, among others.
A philosophy major is an excellent choice for students interested in going to law school and medical school. Philosophy is a rigorous and well-respected major that hones a student’s critical thinking and analytical skills. Here is some more information for pre-law and pre-med students, respectively.
This FAQ page answers a number of questions that students often have about majoring in Philosophy.