As with most things, things are not as they appear. Your philosopher actually lives a very difficult and stressful life; one that few would actually ever want to do if they actually knew what it entailed. It is worth it for you to understand this aspect of being a philosopher, as it will save you from lots of potential resentment.
I think that the best way to layout this information is as a timeline for your academic philosopher.
Phase One: The Undergrad Days
The undergrad days are exciting and vibrant times in your philosopher’s life. They have discovered philosophy and are clumsily wielding it like a child with a broadsword. This is the time when they may actually alienate quite a few of their friends and family members, as they have not learned how to control themselves very well yet. But they are so excited about philosophy. The undergrad life is pretty easy.
Phase Two: Applying to Graduate School
So, your philosopher decides that they like philosophy enough to apply to graduate schools. Be prepared because your graduate student is about to enter the first, fiery ring of hell.
Those graduate students who have been following philosophy blogs and/or have professors in tune with current grad school application practices know that (1) they must apply to as many schools as they can afford to apply to, (2) hundreds of students are applying to these schools, too, and the likelihood of them getting in anywhere decent is very slim, (3) they are going to have to be on top of their letter of recommendation writers to get things in on time, (4) they have to study for the most pointless test of all time (that is, the GRE) and try to learn all kinds of fancy testing methods just to get a high enough score to be considered at most schools, (5) on top of this, philosophy majors score second highest out of all other majors, on average, on the GRE, (6)they will have to wait for months to hear back from schools, during which time they be obsessively checking websites like whogotin and grad cafe.
If your potential grad student does not get into any schools with funding, then they have wasted hundreds of dollars and hours and have lost any faith in themselves. Your philosopher may end her/his career in philosophy here.
Phase Three: The Graduate Student Years
Congratulations; your philosopher is now a grad student and has entered the second level of hell. For the next few years, she/he will be stressing out over hours of work and trying to write papers for journals and conferences during most of their spare time. This is why many philosophers pick up drinking as an evening group activity.
Your philosopher may look like they have all of this extra time, but I can almost guarantee you that your philosopher is highly stressed about their future, a future that will require them to have several papers published in decent journals, teach several types of undergraduate courses (probably), and present at several conferences. These activities are, of course, on top of all of their regular course work and dissertation/thesis. Many philosophers find that, in addition to drinking, anti-depressants are also very helpful at this time in their lives.
Keep in mind that they will be constantly dealing with non-philosophers (not you, of course!) thinking that they are worrying about either trivial problems or very dangerous and destructive problems (especially in social/political philosophy). Non-philosophers will also ask them “witty” questions like, “Or you’re in philosophy. What are you going to do with that?”
Phase Four: The Job Hunt
I don’t know how many people have said to my philosopher (who is a mid-term grad student), “Why are you worrying about finding a job NOW? Can’t you just find a university that you like and get a job there?”
Ha. That’s funny.
Welcome to the fourth level of hell (you just skipped the third level). Your philosopher will have to undergo some serious, ego-killing, demoralizing job interviews wherever they can get them, and knows that the likelihood of them landing that sweet, tenure-track research job is one-in-one-thousand.
Every year, there are only a few tenure track jobs of the type that academics lust after. Not only is every newly-minted Ph.D. student applying for one of these jobs, but every Ph.D. who graduated in previous years and did not get a job is also applying for these jobs.
If your philosopher does not land a tenure-track job, they will probably do one of several things: (1) apply for a post-doc position somewhere, (2) grudgingly agree to a non-tenured lecturer position somewhere (which will appear as a blight on their record and may keep them from ever landing a tenure track job), (3) leave philosophy, or (4) go back to school for another degree in another subject.
If your philosopher does land a job, she/he will probably have no choice about where it is located. You may even end up in Texas, which is the worst place of all.
Phase Five: Attaining Tenure
Don’t relax now! If you philosopher is in a tenure-track job, they will most likely be spending the next six years frantically trying to publish articles, attend conferences, and write at least one book. On top of this, they will likely be teaching two or more classes.
Teaching is not as easy as most people think it is, especially in philosophy. My philosopher spends about 20 hours per week on his class, which includes preparing to engage apathetic students in discussion, grading, teaching, and hosting office hours (and most students do not abide by the “office hours only” rule and come whenever they want to).
Your philosopher will also likely have annual and third year reviews with the department head, Dean of the college, and some university council. They will have to prepare large packets of material they demonstrate that they are on track for tenure. They will feel objectified and, likely, be chastised for not publishing enough.
On top of this, your philosopher will have to attend meetings, be on committees, and maybe even do some undergraduate advising.
If your philosopher does not attain tenure, they are usually fired at the end of their contract. Until their contract ends, though, they will be living in humiliation as the object of pity and awkwardness in their department. Then, when this term is up, they will have to find another job elsewhere, which will be a step down from their current placement (or they will not be able to find a job at all and leave philosophy).
Phase Six: Tenure
Your philosopher has made it, right? Now they can just relax and ride the easy boat of tenure.
Your philosopher will be trying to publish and present papers and win grants, on top of teaching, for the rest of their philosopher-lives. They will have to move up in the ranks until they obtain the title of “Professor.” This will take 6-ish more years. After they reach this rank, your philosopher will be under pressure to keep publishing and attending conferences, as their performance influences the prestige of their program. They will still have to attend meetings and be on committees and will also have to work with grad students on their dissertation and thesis committees.
Phase Seven: Death
Now, it is true that your philosopher likely enjoys their work, but the life of a philosopher is anything but easy. Spread the word.