Undergraduate Studies

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Undergraduate Study of Philosophy at SFSU

Traditionally, philosophy is defined as the love of wisdom. Its chief aim is to enable us to think well about the foundations of human action, the nature of reality, and the purposes and priorities of life. Here at SFSU, we have several ways of pursuing the study of philosophy, each of which is tailored to the different interests and aspirations of our students.

B.A. in Philosophy

Course requirements for a B.A. in Philosophy cover the core philosophical disciplines, such as Metaphysics (the study of reality), Epistemology (the study of knowledge), Ethics (the study of the good life), and Logic (the study of good reasoning). These core areas are not only interesting in themselves, they are also useful in reflecting on other things that we do; as a result, we regularly offer courses on topics in other fields of inquiry and practices, such as, Philosophy of the Natural Sciences, Mind, Language, Law, Art, Applied Ethics (e.g., Bioethics, Ethics at Work, Environmental Ethics, etc.), etc.

Philosophy is at least two and a half millennia old, so we have a number of courses that address its history (e.g., Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, and Modern Philosophy).  We also offer courses on various individual philosophers (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, etc.) and non-Western traditions (e.g., Islamic Philosophy, Buddhism, Chinese Philosophy). SFSU is unique in also addressing the cross-cultural dimensions of philosophy, regularly offering courses on philosophy in the middle-east and the far-east (e.g., Islamic Philosophy, Islamic Mysticism, Chinese philosophy, Buddhism, etc.).

B.A. in Philosophy and Religion

The B.A. in Philosophy and Religion, covers most of the core subjects for the B.A. in Philosophy, including ethics, epistemology, metaphysics and the history of philosophy. However, unlike the B.A. in Philosophy, the B.A. in Philosophy and Religion centers on courses that address the religious experience and those areas of philosophy that overlap with religion. Central areas include Philosophy of Religion, World Religions and The Nature of the Religious Experience. This degree also gives students more opportunities to take elective courses in religion and religious studies.

B.A. in Philosophy, with emphasis in Philosophy and Law

We offer a specialized B.A. in philosophy that emphasizes the skills and coursework typically required by law schools. Like the B.A. in Philosophy, it covers core subjects like ethics, epistemology, mind and the history of philosophy, but it offers an even greater focus on issues at the heart of law and politics, including the philosophy of law, political philosophy and a wide array of courses in applied ethics.

Minor in Philosophy

Students who cannot complete an entire B.A. on philosophical subjects are invited to take a minor in philosophy. The first of these, the Minor in Philosophy, requires 21 units in philosophy, at least fifteen (15) of these being upper division units.

Minor in Philosophy and Religion

The Minor in Philosophy and Religion also requires 21 units in the Philosophy Department, at least twelve (12) of these being courses that focus specifically on religion, which are designated by a course number in the 500's. Of the remaining nine (9) units, six (6) units must be upper division philosophy courses and three (3) units must be from a lower division philosophy course.

Minor in Religious Studies

The religious studies minor offers students the opportunity to study the full spectrum of humankind’s religious heritage from an interdisciplinary perspective. It requires 21 units distributed across several general areas and fields of study, as specified in the Religious Studies Minor page.

Career Outlook

As you may have guessed, the major in philosophy has relevance to almost anything we can do; as a result, our students pursue many different career paths.  Some continue to advanced degrees in philosophy (MA and Ph.D) and become philosophy professors.  Many others go to law school and become Lawyers, Judges and Government Officials (we have a special major to prepare for legal and public policy careers  – the B.A. in Philosophy with an emphasis in Philosophy and Law).  Others pursue advanced degrees and careers in Religion or Classical Studies.  We also have Pre-Meds amongst our students.  They often opt to double major in Philosophy and Biology. Anthropology, Business, Creative Writing, Journalism, and Psychology are also often doubled up with Philosophy.  These students find philosophical training to be very useful for clear thinking, deep analysis, and good writing. Out B.A. programs also well prepare students for entry into SFSU's nationally ranked M.A. program in philosophy.

Here is some interesting information about Philosophy majors from studies undertaken by the US Department of Education:

  • On the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), philosophy majors nationwide consistently achieve among the highest scores of all majors. Philosophy majors have as good a record as Political Science majors for admission to top law schools.
  • Philosophy majors outperform all other disciplines on the verbal portion of the GRE exam, and outside the natural sciences, only philosophy and economics majors significantly beat the national average on the quantitative portion of the GRE.
  • As groups, philosophy and biology majors perform significantly better than others on the national average on the LSAT and GRE exams, and the highest performers on the GMAT exam (for business school) are philosophy, mathematics, and engineering majors.


(Only Economics, Computer Science/Information Systems, Engineering, Finance, Math, and Physics top Philosophy Degrees in Salaries)

Comparative Salaries
Major Starting Median Salary Midcareer Median Salary
Philosophy $39,900 $81,200
Communications $38,100 $70,000
History $39,200 $71,000
English $38,000 $64,700
Political Science $40,800 $78,200
Marketing $40,800 $79,600
Management $43,000 $72,100
Biology $38,800 $64,800
Psychology $35,900 $60,400
Sociology $36,500 $58,200

Data from PAYSCALE: Best College Degrees By Salary, 2009 College Salary Report