Philosophy departments tend to rely on double-majors for enrollments. As Eric Schwitzgebel (Riverside) wrote in 2018:
Inside Higher Ed reports that one “point of contention between administration and faculty is the actual number of philosophy majors. UNK administration counts three; Rozema counts eight, including double majors. ‘My understanding is that there is a true distinction between a double major and an individual major,’ Bicak [UNK’s senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs] said.”
[photo and arrangement by Sakir Gökçebag]
At your university or college, how are philosophy majors who are also majoring in another discipline counted for the purposes of determining how many philosophy majors there are? Does it matter which major was declared first?
In all, 24,542 students earned a Philosophy major, of which 5,015 (20.4%) earned it as a second major. At a minimum, then, 20% of Philosophy majors are double majors. If half of those double majors choose to list Philosophy as their first major, then 40% of Philosophy majors in the U.S. are double majors. Unfortunately, the NCES database doesn’t allow us to see how many of the people with first majors in Philosophy also had second majors in something else. Forty percent might be too high an estimate, if double majors who have Philosophy as one of their majors disproportionately list Philosophy as their second major. But even if 30%, rather than 40%, of Philosophy majors carry Philosophy along with some other major, that is still a substantial proportion.
The philosophy major program at the University of Nebraska, Kearney (UNK) is facing elimination, mainly over issues of low enrollments and numbers of majors, and one issue of contention between UNK’s Department of Philosophy and administration is how students double-majoring in philosophy and another field should be counted.
Here’s another way of looking at the data: 0.3% of students choose Philosophy as a first major, while among those who decide to take a second major, 1.7% choose Philosophy.