Every philosophy student has probably asked themselves at one time or another what the career prospects are like for a philosophy graduate. Finding an answer to this question is likely easier for students planning an academic career than it is for those who simply plan to leave the university when they complete their degree. No one will deny the fact that there are few jobs outside of the university environment that are designed explicitly and exclusively for philosophy graduates.
Nevertheless, studying philosophy is not only fun; it's also an extremely educating experience – students simply learn a lot. Moreover, most of what students learn can be used in their later professional life. For example, the methodological skills and expertise students acquire are more pronounced than the philosophical knowledge they obtain. Methodological knowledge must be learned and repeatedly trained if the student is to master certain methodologies, which is why the entire program of study in Bern also focuses strongly on qualified feedback and support from lecturers.
The philosophers who graduate from the University of Bern are experts in methodological techniques such as analytic thinking, argumentation, and writing and presentation. These methodological qualifications are in turn essential for success in many areas, especially journalism, politics, business and industry, publishing, public administration and cultural work. Philosophy students can also have successful careers in teaching and adult education and, of course, as researchers and lecturers at universities. Graduates from the Institute of Philosophy in Bern hold high positions today in the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems, for example, as well as in knowledge management organizations and associations and commissions that evaluate new technologies. Former students at the Institute of Philosophy also work for the UN, in non-governmental organizations in Switzerland and abroad, as newspaper and magazine editors, in think tanks and for the Swiss federal government. One famous example of a successful career for a philosophy graduate is offered by Norbert Blüm, the former Minister of Labor of the Federal Republic of Germany. What's more, nearly all former Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom were graduates of the "PPE" program in Oxford, which the PEP program in Bern was modelled on.
The important thing when looking for a job is most certainly to highlight to the potential employer the skills one has attained, since, as the career question cited above makes clear, many companies and organizations are not equally familiar with the various aspects that make up the study of philosophy. One should also remain patient when searching for a job and remember to point out any other pertinent experience gained outside the course of study.
It is also possible to remain active in the field of philosophy outside the university environment after the completion of one's studies. Knowledge of ethics is clearly more in demand as of late, as legal debates regarding research involving human beings also contain a strong ethical component: For example, although cantonal ethics commissions only have a few ethics experts as members, the commissions do have to approve relevant studies, and this "has been the standard for a very long time," according to Jean-Daniel Strub. Outside the realm of humanitarian issues, ethical questions have only recently become more important, whereby the "demand" here continually fluctuates. For example, many companies have recently begun setting up separate departments for Social Responsibility. In addition, a market has been created for philosophical methods that support the desire of individuals to attain greater knowledge and a better moral standing. There are also consulting firms that are now offering an ever-greater range of services that help companies and government agencies evaluate their activities on the basis of ethical criteria, such as those related to good governance, for example.
Source: Ein offenes Ohr für Zweitmeinungen haben ("An open ear for a second opinion," NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, April 22, 2012.