Updated (May 22, 2014) -- DailyNous has a page devoted to philosophers who have found employment outside academe. Huffington Post has a profile of some entrepreneurial philosophy majors.
Updated (Sept. 6, 2013) -- I've added names to the categories Novelists, Journalists, Business, Law, Arts, and Human Rights. The new entries include Stacy London, Elizabeth Anne Reid, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and Karen Lerohl Wilson. Thanks to this thread at Feminist Philosophers for most of these names.
Updated (Aug. 30, 2013) -- Here are four new items. First, Shannon Rupp's 2013 piece about philosophy grads: 'Be Employable, Study Philosophy' at Salon (first published in The Tyee).
Second, John Horgan's article in Scientific American on the importance of teaching humanities courses to students who are pursuing other majors: 'Why Study the Humanities: What I Tell Engineering Freshmen'.
Third, Tomás Bogardus' new site with links to relevant items: Why Study Philosophy?
Finally, 'Best Majors for GRE Scores in 2013: Philosophy Dominates'.; from 2012, Katrina Sifford on data from the Educational Testing Service re. the performance of philosophy majors.
(End of Aug., 2013 update.)
Here are some articles that describe how an undergraduate philosophy degree can prepare one for good careers other than teaching philosophy:
1. These three articles from the New York Times (and a 4th one),
2. This article from the Guardian,
3. Brendan Lalor has a good post, which includes excerpts from several articles, including a 2006 article in the Atlantic Monthly,
4. From the Canadian journal, University Affairs,
5. A blog post by financial adviser, Vincent Skordo
6. This article in US News & World Report
7. "Philosophy is Back in Business," Bloomsberg Business Week (Jan. 12, 2010)
8. Based on GRE scores, physics majors are the top natural science students, economics majors are the top social science students, and philosophy majors are the top humanities students. The philosophy majors scored higher than any other majors on the verbal and writing portions of the GRE. For more about philosophy majors and the GRE, see this page at the College of William & Mary. There are also encouraging figures concerning philosophers and the LSAT (more here). A physics blog has the GRE rankings for 2011-12. The blog author summarizes the results this way: 'Although the GRE made significant revisions to the test this academic year, one fact remains: Physics and philosophy students still rocked the test.'
9. A discussion with Gary Hart, Barry Gardiner and Oliver Letwin on the relevance of philosophy to careers in politics
10. "Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?" in the Atlantic
11. "What Can I Do With A Humanities Degree?" by Bruce B. Janz
12. In terms of earnings, philosophy majors are in the top third in a US study of how various majors fare after completing an undergraduate degree and getting no higher, post-graduate degree.
13. Here's a nice story about a relatively new and thriving philosophy major program at a community college in NY.
14.Here are some recent defences of the humanities more generally. Here's a BBC piece about the prevalence of PPE ('Politics, Philosophy, Economics') graduates in the UK's corridors of power: 'Why does PPE rule Britain?'
15. A good statement from the Philosophy Dept. at Wilfrid Laurier University.
16. "Bernanke to Economists: More Philosophy, Please"
17. Rachel Maddow on the value of studying the liberal arts.
I should note here the very helpful (and regularly updated) site maintained at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette by Keith Korcz. Also helpful is the site for the American Assoc. of Philosophy Teachers.
Testimonials on the importance of studying philosophy:
"As I look back on it now, it's obvious that studying history and philosophy was much better preparation for the stock market than, say, studying statistics. ... Logic is the subject that's helped me the most in picking stocks, if only because it taught me to identify the peculiar illogic of Wall Street." (Peter Lynch, one of the most successful mutual fund managers. During his time as head of Fidelity's Magellan Fund [1977-1990]), the fund grew from a value of $18 million to $14 billion)
"I would also advise people to be conscious of the whole area of ethics in business In my days at Oxford, we did a lot of moral philosophy. At [Harvard Business School], we did none. Now HBS's emphasis on ethics and personal accountability is very strong -- the LCA [Leadership and Corporate Accountability] course is to be applauded." (Ronald Cohen, Harvard MBA & Oxford PPE grad. The quotation is from The Harbus Online, [April 22, 2008].)
Here are two testimonials by Jordan Kotick (financial analyst at J. P. Morgan and then at Barclay's).
"Science, Gervais says, was his first love, then philosophy, which he studied as an undergraduate. The rigours of both disciplines, he says, inform his material: logical investigation and rational inquiry." (Quoted in the New Statesman, Dec. 29, 2010)
People who became prominent outside of academic philosophy after completing a major in philosophy or doing graduate work in it:* (See also the list at Brian Leiter's post on this topic)
Novelists & Poets (for Nobel Laureates, see below): Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Robert Musil, Stefan Zweig, Osip Mandelstam, Ayn Rand, Iris Murdoch, Susan Sontag, David Foster Wallace, Chaim Potok, Peter Hoeg,
Journalists: Spencer Ackerman (senior correspondent at the American Prospect), Robert Pollock (senior editorial page writer, Wall Street Journal), Juan Williams (US journalist), Mark Schoofs (Pulitzer Prize, 2000), Matthew Yglesias, Lowell Bergman (Pulitzer Prize, 2004), Stephen Ward (Director of the Centre for Journalism Ethics at UBC, Vancouver), Jon Entine (Emmy-winning TV producer & author), Robert Menard (Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders), Jim Bellows (newspaper editor, executive editor of ABC News), Tony Snow (Fox News host & White House Press Secretary [2006-07]), Stone Phillips (host of Dateline), Chris Hayes, Amy Ellis Nutt (Pulitzer Prize, 2011), Philip Kennicott (Pulitzer Prize, 2013), Jeffrey Gettleman (Pulitzer Prize, 2012), Narciso Contreras (Pulitzer Prize, 2013), Kathryn Jean Lopez, David V. Johnson (opinion editor at Al Jazeera America), Tamara Keith (NPR White House correspondent).
Other Writers: Studs Terkel (Pulitzer Prize, 1985), Sam Harris, Martin Gardner (math writer), Alain Locke (educator & editor), C. Vann Woodward (historian, Pultizer Prize, 1982), Gershom Scholem (historian, President of the Israel Academy of Sciences & Humanities, 1968), Meyer Schapiro (art historian), Angela Davis (activist/academic), Richard Miniter (best-selling author), Claude Levi-Strauss (anthropologist), Wendy Shalit (columnist), Jonathan Dimbleby (UK author & journalist), L. D. Anderson (author & former Idaho state senator), Melinda Delahoyde (President of Care Net), Adam Tschorn (humour & quiz show writer), Elizabeth Farrelly (architect), Karl Polanyi (political economist), William Gass (winner of the PEN/Nabokov Lifetime Achievement award), Bethany Brookshire (science blogger), Joseph J. Ellis (historian), Eduardo Salcedo Albarán (criminologist), Liam Heneghan (Professor & Dept. Chair, Environmental Science and Studies, DePaul University).
Business: George Soros, Carl Icahn, Mark Hulbert (Forbes columnist),
Law: Learned Hand (US jurist), David Souter (US Supreme Court Justice), Stephen Breyer (US Supreme Court Justice [Associate]), Beverly McLachlin (Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Canada), Pamela Tate (Solicitor-General, Victoria, Australia), James Crawford Biggs (US Solicitor General under President F. Roosevelt), Lawrence Lessig (Professor at Stanford Law School & founder of Creative Commons), Scott Brewer (Professor at Harvard Law School), John Mikhail (Professor of Law, Georgetown University), Solomon Oliver, Jr. (federal judge, Ohio), George Kingsley Acquah (Chief Justice of Ghana), Sir Neil MacCormick (MEP & Dean of Law at Edinburgh University), William Van Alstyne (Professor at Duke Law School [1974-2004]), Anthony P. Capozzi (79th President, State Bar of California), Gregory A. Castanias, E. Kevin Lollar (Executive Director, Big Brothers, Frederick County, MD), Karen Lerohl Wilson (President of the National Contract Management Association). State Supreme Court Judges (US): Oscar Adams, Jr. (Alabama), Jean Toal (South Carolina), James McGuire (New York), Louis Ceci (Wisconsin), E. Harold Hallows (Wisconsin), Robin Hudson (North Carolina), Zel Fischer (Missouri).
Politics: Tomas Masaryk (1st President of Czeckoslovakia), Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (President of India [1962-67]), Zoran Djindjic (Prime Minister of Serbia [2001-03, assassinated]), Mohammad Khatami (President of Iran [1997-2005]), Daniel Oduber Quiros (President of Costa Rica, 1974-78), Richard Riordan (Mayor of Los Angeles [1993-2001]), Sidney J. Barthelemy (Mayor of New Orleans [1986-1994]), Ross Anderson (Mayor of Salt Lake City [2000-2008]), Thomas J. Dodd (US Senator[1959-1971]), William J. Bennett (US Secretary of Education under President Reagan), Raymond Donovan (US Secretary of Labor under President Reagan), E. Benjamin Nelson (Governor of Nebraska [1991-99] & US Senator [2000-...]), Adolfo Carrion (White House Director of Urban Affairs), Aseel al-Awadi (elected to the Kuwaiti Parliament), Antanas Mockus (Mayor of Bogota, Colombia), David Skaggs (US Representative for Colorado [1987-99]), Oliver Letwin (UK Conservative MP for West Dorset, Minister of State in PM David Cameron's cabinet, formerly a bank director at N. M. Rothschild and Sons, Ltd.), Jon Cruddas (UK Labour MP for Dagenham), Jesse Norman (UK author and Conservative MP for Herefordshire South, formerly worked for Barclay's), John Pugh (UK Liberal Democrat MP for Southport), Barry Gardiner (UK Labour MP for Brent North, formerly senior partner in Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Ltd.), Penny Mordaunt (UK Conservative MP for Portsmouth North). Canadians: Ed Broadbent (leader of the NDP [1975-89]), Prime Minister Paul Martin, Jr. (Prime Minister [2003-06], Minister of Finance [1993-2002]), Stanley Knowles (co-founder of the NDP), Harvey Rosen (Mayor of Kingston, ON), Pierre Pettigrew (Cabinet Minister in PM Chretien's cabinet), Bill Blaikie (NDP Winnipeg MP[1979-2008]), Ed Holder (Conservative MP for London West), Rashad Hussain (U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation).
Politicians who studied philosophy extensively in university (without majoring): Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Bob Rae (Ontario Premier [1990-95] & Liberal MP for Toronto Centre [2008-...], he studied with Isaiah Berlin), Michael Ignatieff (leader of the Liberal Party of Canada [2009-...], he, too, studied with Isaiah Berlin), US Vice-President Albert Gore, Jr. (VP from 1993-2001, US Senator [1985-93], he studied 'philosophy & phenomenology' with an interest in Merleau-Ponty at Vanderbilt Divinity School), Jason Kenney (Cabinet Minister for PM Harper, studied philosophy as an undergrad but didn't complete degree), Arthur Balfour, British Prime Minister (1902-05) (among whose tutors at Cambridge was Henry Sidgwick; Balfour published A Defense of Philosophic Doubt in 1879 and issued the famous 1917 Balfour Declaration promoting the establishment of the modern state of Israel), Gary Hart (studied philosophy at Yale Divinity School).
Arts: Kim Thayil (of Soundgarden), Elliott Smith (singer/songwriter), Vladimir Angelov (choreographer), Claude Lanzmann (filmmaker), Charles Boyer (actor), Steve Allen (comedian), Ricky Gervais (comedian), Terrence Malick (filmmaker), Ethan Coen (of 'the Coen Bros.', filmmaker), Bill Condon (Academy Award winning film director), Wes Anderson (Academy Award winning filmmaker), Mark Boal (filmmaker), Buffy Sainte-Marie (folk singer), Steve Reich (Pulitzer Prize winning composer), Duncan Jones (film director, son of David Bowie), Jennifer Baichwal (Genie Award winning documentary filmmaker), Jesus Lopez (conductor, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra), Robert Motherwell (painter), Robert Simonds (movie producer), Raymond J. Barry (actor, appeared in X-Files, Lost, etc.), Philip Johnson (architect), Gene Siskel (film critic), Philip Glass (composer), Judd Nelson (actor), David Kohan (Emmy Award winning TV producer), Sarah Slean (musician), Robert Shaw (conductor, Atlanta Symphony), David 'Phoenix' Farrell (bassist in Linkin Park), Michael Haneke (filmmaker), Dessa (aka Margret Wander, hip hop artist), Sixto Diaz Rodriguez (musician & poet), John Fahey (blues musician), Tien Ho (chef), Theo James (actor), Alex McMurray (musician), Najwa Karam (singer), Mark di Suvero (sculptor), Stacy London (co-host of What Not to Wear), Elizabeth W. Grant (aka Lana Del Rey, musician), Zola Jesus (I can't see that she majored in philosophy but she did "take a lot of philosophy courses").
Human Rights (see also Nobel Peace Prize Winners [below]): Zhang Pengjun (aka P. C. Chang, Chinese diplomat who helped draft the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights), Charles Habib Malik (Lebanese diplomat who helped draft the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights), Bob Moses, Mary Lawlor (Director of Front Line, Director of Amnesty International [Irish Section]), William Schulz (Executive Director, Amnesty International [USA]), Sophie Scholl (member of the White Rose, executed by the Nazis, included in the Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel), Grace Lee Boggs (author, US National Women's Hall of Fame), Janet E. Courtney (early feminist), Stéphane Hessel (French resistance fighter in WWII, diplomat), Elizabeth Anne Reid (worked for the UN's Development Program and for HIV/AIDS policy development), Jerome G. Miller (social worker, head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services among other government departments).
Nobel Peace Prize Winners: Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), John R. Mott (1946), Albert Schweitzer (1952), Georges Pire (1958), Elie Wiesel (1986), the 14th Dalai Lama
Nobel Prize for Literature: Rudolf Eucken (1908), Henri Bergson (1927), Pearl Buck (1938), T. S. Eliot (1948), Bertrand Russell (1950), Albert Camus (1957), Ivo Andric (1961), Jean-Paul Sartre (1964), Naguib Mahfouz (1988).
Nobel Prizes in the Physical Sciences: Jean-Marie Lehn (Chemistry, 1987), Anthony J. Leggett (Physics, 2003 -- Leggett was in the 'Greats' program at Oxford and says that he focused then on analytic philosophy)
Sveriges Riksbank Prizes in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel:
Herbert Simon (1978), Maurice Allais (1988), John C. Harsanyi (1994), A. Michael Spence (2001) --Amartya Sen studied philosophy at Cambridge University (but I cannot find any evidence that his degree was in philosophy).
Other Prominent Non-Canadians: Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Subcomandante Marcos, Jane S. Richardson (biochemist), Dorothy Wrinch (biochemist, completed Part 2 of the Moral Sciences Tripos in philosophy at Cambridge), A. W. Burks (helped develop the ENIAC computer), Norbert Wiener (mathematician), Alan Garfinkel (Professor of Medicine, UCLA), Larry Sanger (co-founded Wikipedia), Ted Nelson (programmer, internet pioneer), Karl Taylor Compton (physicist, President of MIT [1930-48]), Carl Cohn (Superintendent of Long Beach & San Diego School Districts), Gregory B. Jaczko (Chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission), Philip Gordon (Asst. Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs), David Sandalow (US Dept of Energy Asst. Secretary for Policy), Christy Haubegger (executive at Creative Artists Agency, founder of Latina magazine), George 'Birdie' Tebbetts (Major League Baseball player & manager), Robert A. Kurland (winner of 2 Olympic Gold Medals, member of Basketball Hall of Fame), Joseph P. Kerwin (astronaut), Jack Keane (4-star General, US Army), A. J. Hammer (CNN host), John Wilbanks (entrepreneur, scientist & Vice President of Creative Commons), John E. Warnock (co-founder of Adobe), Andrew Solberg (Commander, DC Metropolitan Police Dept.), Lieutenant Joseph M. Hatfield (US Navy, PhD candidate at Cambridge Univ), Arnold Relman (Professor, Harvard Medical School; Editor, New England Journal of Medicine).
Prominent Canadians (many of these names appear elsewhere on the list & are gathered here for convenience): Ed Broadbent, Prime Minister Paul Martin, Jr. (federal Minister of Finance, businessman), Stanley Knowles (co-founder of the NDP), Beverly McLachlin (former Supreme Court Chief Justice), David Barrett (Premier of British Columbia [1972-75]), Rick Salutin (Globe and Mail columnist), Moses Znaimer (media entrepreneur, founded
*Here building upon lists posted by the Philosophy Departments at Eastern Kentucky University, University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Reading, James B. Sauer's list (it's a pdf) as well as the list at NationMaster Encyclopedia
**I'd appreciate corrections and additions to this list