Careers outside academic philosophy

Reader Bakka has contacted us with this question, which I’m sure is becoming increasingly widespread in the current academic job climate.

I have a question for the feminist philosophers. I am finishing up my PhD in philosophy, specializing in feminist ethics and health care ethics. Throughout my studies I was pretty sure I wanted to continue on the academic path and try to land a tenure-tack job. During the course of writing my dissertation, however, I have become unsure that I want to continue down this path. Further, I think many of my colleagues are in a similar position. For some this is in part because the job market does not look very good for those of us about to graduate.

I noticed that in your description of yourselves in the “our policies” section you list that some of you are philosophers who are working outside the academy. I was wondering if anyone would want to share what kinds of careers they have pursued beyond the academy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing non-academic careers?

I know many of our readers are also working outside academia. It would be great to hear from you in response to this question!

8 thoughts on “Careers outside academic philosophy

  1. I feel fairly uncompelled to pursue the tenure-track route as well. I have about a chapter to go, and work full time in IT while teaching online and evening classes. I think I’m actually OK with this career choice, and doubt I’ll go on the market once this final beastly chapter is completed.

    Teaching intro to the students who tend to take night classes (many non-traditional and older students who are much more interested in the questions than your average 18 y/o) is much more fulfilling in my experience, teaching critical thinking online is surprisingly easy, and I always get the really fun summer courses that nobody else feels up to, like Existentialism and Critical Theory. I loves me a little Horkheimer and Habermas as a break from the ol’ M&E treadmill now and again. Then there’s the fact that when it’s not your primary career you can publish (or not) at will…

  2. Hi rachelinwy, thanks for the information. I really enjoy teaching, so the option you suggest is very intriguing. Is it possible to teach casually at Universities after graduation, or does your status as a PhD student give you uncommon access?

  3. I know of one woman with a PhD in ethics who took a job as an ethicist for a chain of hospitals in Oregon. She trained hospital staff and managed compliance issues. She loved the job and the pay was more than twice what she would get as an entry level assistant prof. I don’t know how common these jobs are, but believe it or not she found it on Monster. I think that health care ethics is one area where we can be pretty marketable. good luck.

  4. Bakka,

    I’m actually ABD at UC Riverside, but don’t live in CA anymore. I moved to Laramie and got hired on as a full time benefited adjunct at UW immediately. Unfortunately, after 2 years they lost the funding for the position, hence the part-time teaching plus another job on campus to retain benefits. But I do teach online courses through a couple of the UCs, so those connections were useful for sure.

  5. I walked out of a tenure-track job, when I was on the vege of getting tenure, and would have gotten it, according to my HoD. NB: in the Australasian system, not the much more competitive and intensive and highly structured US tenure system. Nevertheless, I walked away from a career in philosophy, to a much higher paid and much less stressful job writing policy in the public service. The incredible skills in thinking and analysis that we develop as philosophers are in high demand in the public service.

    These days I’m at home with my children, supporting my husband’s career, doing a bit of lecturing and tutoring, and a bit of policy work on a contract basis from time to time. It’s working out well for us as a family, and I’m fairly confident that I will be able to get more work as my daughters get older.

  6. I hope this is relevant: It is an unpaid position but the site might have other (paid) postings — creative alternatives?

    “Want your voice to be heard? We are looking for people who want to write for a new feminist blog, Gender Across Borders ( You must have interest in gender and sexuality issues at the local, national, and/or international levels. Please note that this position is unpaid; however you will get credit for all of your work and gain lots of experience from this project.

    The focus of GAB is to create a community and conversation of global feminism and to allow feminists to analyze news, history, and culture related to women/LGBTQ issues all over the world.”

    I found it on I have always found that to be a good source of alternative, non-profit employment opportunities.

  7. I know a few philosophers (in the UK) who have gone on to work for think tanks (NB – often in unpaid internships :( for the first couple of months).

    They (like yourself, Deborah, it sounds) found their critical skills were a great resource in scrutinising public policy and writing reports. It seems like it’s a good pathway into interesting, worthwhile, and decently renumerated employment.

  8. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this. I’m about to graduate in May with my BA, and have been contemplating pursuing my PhD in Philosophy – but I have no desire to do get/apply for a job at a university. I want to get my doctorate because, well, I WANT to. So, my biggest trouble will be trying to figure out how to get a job with a PhD that isn’t academic oriented (I just don’t want to teach). I’ve been browsing around to find possible solutions or alternatives, but so far little has turned up. I’m relieved that people have responded about alternatives.

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