Helen De Cruz of New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science interviewed seven philosophy Ph.D.s who have left academia for the private sector. There was a software engineer, a television comedy writer, a statistical researcher, a consultant, a network-security engineer, and a search-engine developer. You wouldn’t think of any of these professions as requiring “philosophy” on a resume.

Yet it’s the skills that philosophers are trained in—critical thinking, clear writing, quick learning—that translate well to life outside of academia, especially anything that requires precision. As Zachary Ernst, a software engineer at Narrative Science, puts it, “As a professional philosopher, if you haven’t gotten over-specialized and narrow, then you’ve got really good analytic and communication skills. So you’ve got the ability to learn quickly and efficiently. You’re also in the habit of being very critical of all sorts of ideas and approaches to a variety of problems.”

Case in point: Nigel Calder, the venerable author of Marine Diesel Engines: Maintenance, Troubleshooting, and Repair, now in its third edition.He studied philosophy in college and left school to eventually write the definitive reference on diesel engines. It’s so thorough that, as he pointed out in a recent boat show seminar, “I refer to it all the time because even I can’t remember everything.” If you ever have a chance to take a Nigel Calder seminar at a boat show, we strongly encourage it.

Nigel Calder is also the author of the definitive reference on boat mechanical and electrical systems, which is in its fourth edition. Both volumes are incredibly handy references to have on your boat if your boat has a diesel engine and some level of electrical circuitry.

Everyone will approach boat maintenance a little differently, but if you want to have even a small amount of self sufficiency, we highly recommend these two books. Self sufficiency gives you the self-confidence to enjoy your boat more knowing you know how to deal with the most common issues. You don’t need to have a desire to rebuild an engine or rewire a boat to have these books. They can just be what you grab when you are stumped the next time your engine won’t start or there’s a strange burning smell coming from behind the electical panel.

Nigel Calder thinks his degree in philosophy was good training for tackling mechanical and electrical problems. Philosophy is the application of logic to language, and he says, “Machines are entirely logical.”