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The path someone takes to become a philosopher can vary depending on the individual and how he or she intends to apply philosophy. Most philosophers work as professors or teachers, and so must have university training at the graduate level. Though finding well-paid positions is competitive, those who have degrees from outstanding universities or who branch into several areas may find more potential avenues of employment.
Going to School
One way to become a philosopher is to go to college to study this field. Those who want to enter this field should think about which type of philosophy they want to study, and take courses that will prepare them for this. For instance, if you want to study analytic philosophy, you should take math courses; if you are interested in the philosophy of mind, you may want to study neuroscience. Most people who pursue this career through schooling get at least a master's degree, though most get a doctoral degree. Along the way, you'll likely read large numbers of philosophical texts to get an understanding of the history of the field, different schools of philosophy, and current lines of thought. One advantage to going to school is that it allows students to work directly with notable academics.
With a graduate degree in philosophy, most people begin working as professors. People who work in this field sometimes consider themselves eternal students, and even in a tenured position, a philosopher is often constantly looking for new things to learn and experience. Someone who has chosen to become a philosopher in academia should also be prepared to publish regularly, as this is usually required to maintain an academic career. Philosophers typically also attend academic conferences to present their work and to review others' work.
Others choose to engage in philosophical thought without becoming working philosophers. They often do this by studying the topic independently. Some caution is advised here, as this field requires the development of critical thinking skills and the ability to engage with highly varied arguments. People who study on their own should make sure that they have opportunities to connect with other people for discussions and debates. One might join a debate club, a bulletin board dedicated to philosophy topics, or use other avenues to communicate with others.
Others who engage in philosophical thought simply start thinking and writing and develop into lay philosophers over time. These people often bring new insights to questions and ideas, and you do not necessarily need to have a formal or even self-guided education to do this. However, people who develop naturally without reading a great deal of theory often find that they are judged by other people in the field who believe that extensive study is required to be viewed as an authority.