Philosophy Department

Three students sit on railing overlooking Kīlauea volcano crater while three students stand gazing

Philosophy is the study of the big questions in life, such as the nature of reality, what we owe each other, and why we are here. At UH Hilo, all philosophy students are exposed to Asian, European, and Indigenous philosophical traditions. We offer classes in every major area of philosophy, but we have particular strengths in environmental philosophy, cross-cultural philosophy, and social justice. Our classes emphasize dialogue and building critical thinking skills in a community of mutual respect.

Field Trips

While we try to make our classrooms as lively as possible, there are some truths that require experience to appreciate. Below are photographs of Celia Bardwell-Jones’s Philosophy of Nature class trip to Lake Waiau and Tim Freeman’s Environmental Ethics class trip to Volcanoes National Park. You can see photos of more excursions on the philosophy club’s Facebook page.

Sixteen students stand in circle on foggy mountain listening to professor
Dr. Bardwell-Jones's Philosophy of Nature class visits Maunakea
Seven students and professor stand in front of Kīlauea volcano crater
Dr. Freeman's Environmental Ethics class hikes the Kīlauea volcanic crater

Prospects for Philosophy Graduates

The Philosophy major prepares students well for further education toward such careers as teaching, law, and medicine. Moreover, in both government and business, positions for Philosophy majors are often jobs that involve the exercise of careful judgment, fairness, in-depth thinking, and sensitivity to the needs of other persons. These include jobs in administration, human resources, public information, community relations, advertising, manpower planning, manufacturer’s representation, technical writing, editing, benefits analysis, immigration, and many others. For much more on job prospects for philosophers, check out Philosophy is a Great Major

Recent UH Hilo graduates have found work in these jobs:

  • lawyer
  • manager
  • entrepreneur
  • chef
  • teacher
  • art buyer
  • doctor
  • graduate student
  • grant writer
  • Maunakea guide
  • horticulturalist
  • clean energy contest organizer
  • human rights advocate
  • (legal) marijuana grower
  • DJ
  • banker
  • IT consultant

According to a recent study by , philosophy majors have the highest mid-career median earnings ($84000/yr.) of any major outside of engineering, the natural sciences, and business. This is less surprising than it might seem when you consider that philosophy majors are better equipped to enter a world where few careers come with pre-set “tracks.” In an information economy, any job that relies on a specific set of knowledge can now be performed much more cheaply by computers, so any job for which you can be taught everything you need to know in school is already on the way to becoming obsolete. High-paying jobs usually require employees who already have a wide range of skills and can rapidly learn more as the landscape changes.

In other studies that account for the fact that philosophy majors tend to attend graduate school in larger numbers than most other majors, philosophers do even better. For the past several years, philosophy majors nationwide have had the highest cumulative GRE scores of any major. But philosophy is also a great choice for those who do not plan to attend graduate school. The average person today will have three distinct careers and many jobs over the course of her life. In the same payscale study cited above, philosophy majors only ranked a little above average for median beginning salary ($40700/yr.). Though there are a few billionaire exceptions, very rarely do students graduate with philosophy majors already knowing what their path to success will be. Philosophy majors know that they don’t have to be interchangeable cogs in a machine and have the insight to know their strengths and embrace new opportunities as they come along.


Department Chair
Christopher Lauer