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Philosophy majors actually earn a lot more than welders

Early in the Fox Business Network debate, Marco Rubio took a strong stand in favor of vocational education. "For the life of me I don't know why we stigmatize vocational education," he said. "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders than philosophers."

As a former philosophy major, I thought I would look into this a little bit. We don't have good data on the earnings of philosophers, per se, but we can look at the life cycle earnings of people who major in philosophy or religious studies:

Hamilton Project

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of a welder is just over $37,420 a year. As you can see, philosophy majors do considerably better than that. This isn't to say there's no strong case for vocational education. But it makes perfect sense for people who are interested in philosophy and can do the work to study it.

Obviously there are not a huge number of people employed as full-time professional philosophers, but the basic skills you learn studying philosophy — reading, writing, and arguing clearly — are broadly useful in a wide range of fields.

We can also look at the earnings of welders versus the earnings of actual teachers of philosophy and we see the same result — philosophy comes out ahead: