An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Philadelphia

by Doug Schmitt
An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in the United States and the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, having a population of 1,470,151. Philadelphia's original inhabitants were Algonquian Indian tribes. They remained in the area until the mid-1600's when Europeans signed several treaties with them, purchasing their land. In 1681, a Quaker named William Penn was given the title to Pennsylvania by King Charles II of England. In October of 1682, Penn established Philadelphia, or the "city of brotherly love". Incorporated as a city in 1701, Philadelphia is historically relevant as the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were drafted there, and the city was an epicenter during the American Revolutionary War.

Philadelphia has a temperate climate, characterized by four seasons. Mild autumns and springs balance hot summers and frigid winters. The city is situated near two rivers, the Schuylkill and the Delaware, with several parks to display the variance of the seasons. One particular park, Fairmount Park, covers 8,000 acres along the shores of the Schuylkill River. The parks in Philadelphia support various outdoor activities throughout the year including hiking, bicycling, sled riding, ice-skating, picnicking, and fishing.

Philadelphia is a city packed with fun and excitement for people of all ages. One of the largest attractions in the city is the South Street area. Known for having a bohemian atmosphere, it has a wide variety of shops, clubs, bars, and restaurants to suit almost everyone's tastes. For those who seek the thrill of nightlife, the music and ambience of the 218 South Club and the Abiline Club can be enjoyed. For connoisseurs of casual and fine dining, Philadelphia offers quite a variety. Philadelphia-invented foods such as the cheese steak can be enjoyed at sandwich shops like Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks. Philadelphia also offers popular attractions such as the Philadelphia Zoo and the Philadelphia Museum of Natural History, and the actual house where famous writer Edgar Allen Poe lived. As well, the city has pro-sports teams for all genres of fans including the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, the NBA's 76ers, MLB's Philadelphia Phillies, and NHL's Philadelphia Flyers.

Philadelphia's early economy was primarily based on manufacturing. From the colonial period, its surrounding forests and farmlands were extremely valuable natural resources that contributed to the industrialization of the city. By 1850, it was the world's largest manufacturer of pharmaceutical chemicals as well as a center for industries including textiles, furniture, iron machinery, tools, glass, printing, ships, and publishing. Today, Philadelphia's economy is very diverse, based on a system of commercial, manufacturing, and technological activities, as well as tourism. Several national and international corporations have their headquarters in downtown Philadelphia. In addition, numerous computer, pharmaceutical, and high technology companies have operations in the city. Examples of companies in Philadelphia include Comcast, CIGNA, Lincoln Financial Group Sunoco, Aramark, Crown Holdings Incorporated, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pep Boys.

Going to School in Philadelphia

The city of Philadelphia has several institutions of higher education. These include private, public, and technical/professional schools. The following are examples of some of these institutions:

Private Universities/Colleges

  • The University of Pennsylvania
  • Philadelphia University
  • Drexel University
  • LaSalle University

Public Universities/Colleges

  • Temple University
  • Community College of Philadelphia

Technical/Professional Schools

  • The Art Institute of Philadelphia
  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Moore College of Art

Selecting a school and program can be perplexing at times, but students will find an array of programs from which to choose when pursuing an education in Philadelphia. The following are examples of programs offered:

Mechanical Engineering, Systems Science, Biomedical Science, Cognitive Science, Computational biology, Digital Media Design, Computer Science, Philosophy, Physics, Chemistry, Cinema Studies, Classical Studies, Communication, Comparative Literature, Earth and Environmental Science, Economics, Elementary Education, English, Fine Arts, French, Geology, Governmental Administration, Health and Societies, Hispanic Studies, History, International Relations, International Studies and Business, Linguistics, Mathematics, Music, Political Science, Finance, Healthcare Management and Policy, Psychology, Religious Studies, Romance Languages, Sociology, Theater Arts, Urban Studies, Visual Studies, Women's Studies, Electrical Engineering, Afro-American Studies, Anthropology, Astronomy, Architecture, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Biochemistry, Biology, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering Systems, Materials Science, Environmental Systems, Accounting, Actuarial Science, Insurance and Risk Management, Management, Marketing, Operations and Information Management, Real Estate, and Statistics.

Given so many options, how can a student pick an area of study? Students should begin by a self-assessment. Identify interests, skills, abilities, and talents. A student should also consider their values, perhaps asking questions such as "what is more important, enjoying what I do or having prestige?" and "is my creativity more important to me than job security?"

Many schools provide career development centers as a resource for students, for everything from how to build a great resume to counseling for students that are not sure of themselves.

Jan Harris, the Director of Career Services at the Community College of Philadelphia suggests that students use these resources. "If you are unsure of what you want to major in, seek counseling for additional assistance," she comments.

A student should look into the economic demands of the region if an interest of residing in the area after graduation develops.


When reviewing a job candidate's resume, employers look at more than one's educational background. Relevant experience to the field of expertise is a valuable asset. An excellent way to gain experience is through internships. An internship is more than a job. It is a chance to learn, contribute, and develop skills and behaviors that can be used in the future. As well, it assists in determining if the student is on the right career path.

Many internships are unpaid, offering only the experience that a student must have. However, some internships are paid and more so, offer college credits. Several companies in Philadelphia offer internships to students in a variety of fields. A good resource for students is The Philadelphia Center. Having a database of more than 800 internships, the center works with students on a case-by-case basis to fit them with the most advantageous internship. Visit The Philadelphia Center for additional information.

Employment in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, industry and schools work together to develop opportunities for students in regard to job placement through career fairs, on campus recruiting, and advisory boards. Often times, career fairs and on campus recruiting are combined to allow employers the chance for on-the-spot hiring.

An excellent example of this takes place at the Community College of Philadelphia, where job 'placement' is actually considered to be career development. "We do career fairs throughout the year, with one large fair in April," says Jan Harris. "We assist students with resume development and we assist with finding internships. We don't do "placement' per se".

"We teach students how to efficiently job search, and we custom-tailor that for different careers as well," Harris states. As well, they provide resources for students to locate opportunities. "We have an online system where students and employers can go. Students can post resumes and employers can look at those resumes and recruit them."


A high quality of living and historic heritage in the development of the United States combined with a diverse culture and numerous educational opportunities make Philadelphia a great place to pursue a higher education.

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