All the Places You’ll Go… with a Philosophy Degree


When you are an undergraduate stressing out about the future, one way to relieve your stress is to hear about all the different career paths that alumni in your major have taken. Fortunately for Berkeley Connect Philosophy students, a panel of UC Berkeley Philosophy alumni were willing to share their experiences of life after graduation.

“I didn’t think about my future career as an undergrad,” confessed Scott Lucas, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 2008 with degrees in Philosophy and Political Science. He regretted not thinking into the future: due to the economic conditions and his lack of preparation, he found himself jobless for his first six months out of college. After extensive job-hunting, he finally landed his first job as a constituent service representative. He enjoyed the work for a while, but one day, a realization hit him.

“I was reading on BART to and from work every day, and I discovered I liked the reading better than my job,” Lucas recalled. He decided to go to graduate school. While he ultimately decided not to pursue a PhD, Lucas got his Masters in Political Science before going into journalism. These days, he is the Politics Editor for the Las Vegas Sun. “I finally found something that stuck – and that was journalism,” he said.

While his job may not be directly related to philosophy, Lucas insists that he draws on his philosophical training every day. “The main value of doing philosophy here was picking up an intellectual tool kit,” he emphasized, adding that he is often able to incorporate philosophical ideas into his writing.

Mike Diaz is currently a Philosophy PhD student at UC Berkeley. After completing his undergraduate degree in philosophy at Claremont-Mckenna College, he secured his first job through a summer internship he had taken earlier in his college career. Diaz went into finance – a very different world. Eventually, however, he said, “I found finance to not be that intellectually stimulating, so I went back to academia.” Despite how he ended up feeling about finance in the end, he found his philosophy skills surprisingly useful in his career. “Philosophy helped me write a good cover letter,” he noted.

Diaz found himself having to sell what philosophy is all about when he was applying for jobs in finance. “You have to explain the critical thinking and the analytical approach to problem-solving that goes into philosophy,” he shared. By demonstrating the skills he had learned, Diaz managed to land finances jobs without ever taking a single course in finance. He advised, “Most people are qualified for jobs they don’t think they’re qualified for! So don’t let that discourage you.”

Molly Liu graduated in 2002, and now works for a start-up in San Francisco called the Minerva Project. This program offers a unique approach to undergraduate education that focuses on building practical life skills for the future. Liu claims she discovered her love for academia by studying philosophy at Cal. This passion led her to pursue a career in education.

“There aren’t a lot of jobs where you just think philosophically,” she mused. “But you can apply your philosophical training to almost any job. It helps you to navigate very ambiguous things.”

John Rieger graduated from from Cal in 1976. “I think everyone should have to take a few philosophy classes,” he said. Rieger has led a very colorful life, from being a freelance writer to a public radio host to doing performance art in Russia. He found philosophy useful all along his winding career path. “It gives you analytic ability, and the ability to listen to and understand other people, as well as the ability to reason,” he explained. He urged Philosophy undergraduates to not be too worried about the future. “Just start doing anything, and it goes on from there,” he advised. “Your skills will help you in anything you do.”

Posted by Madeline Wells, Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant