When considering a career path, one can feel overwhelmed by the various choices. In order to help you narrow down your choices, some well-meaning friend will tell you, “do what you love”, while another will say, “choose a career that will pay a lot of money”. Who is right in this case? How can you determine what path to take?
I was reading an article titled, “Doing What You Love Versus Doing What Pays” that looks at common advice on the subject. In reading the comments to that article, it seemed as though most of the readers would advise someone to choose a career path based on the potential income. Others still stuck with the “do what you love” advice that many hold to.
But is it really that simple? Let’s take a look at a few of the pros and cons to both of these views, and also see if there isn’t some other choice that we can make.
A Career Path that you don’t love but pays well:
- You will make a good amount of money
- You will more than likely avoid the stress that comes from having a lower income (of course this ultimately depends on your financial discipline)
- The added income may give you the financial freedom that you need to pursue what you love, as a hobby – or at least to not focus on the income it generates
- You may be able to retire faster and then do what you love full-time
- If you dislike a particular field, it may be harder to gain enough of an expertise in order to be highly compensated (for instance, those who hate math will not make top notch engineers)
- You may be required to give up quality time with family and friends in order to accomplish your salary goal
- Some people with higher incomes find it harder to exercise financial discipline than those with lower ones
- Many high paying careers paths are also considered to be the most stressful
- This stress will impact your relationship with family and friends over the long run
A Career Path that you love, regardless of the pay:
- Your love of that field will make you a great student, and so you may excel to the point where you are a top earner in that sector
- You will have a sense of fulfillment and happiness from your work
- The lower salary may force you to develop financial discipline
- You may have lower levels of work-related stress
- Lower salary – you may have to live a much simpler life
- May take you longer to retire – this may not be a big issue for you if you absolutely love your job
- If you lose your job, it may be harder to find a new one – although there are a few low paying jobs that are in demand
A couple of things to note. First, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Actually, I am counting on your comments below to help fill in the missing pieces. Second, you will notice that many of these points use uncertain terms like “may”, or “many”; this is due to the fact that many of these will not be true in EVERY case.
My take on choosing a Career Path is this:
I think that the answer to this question is different for everyone and is a matter of prospective. My initial reaction to this question was, “If you can get paid a ‘decent’ living wage for doing what you love, go for it! We wouldn’t have teachers, social workers, or pastors if people didn’t follow this line of thinking.” I also said to myself, “Money isn’t everything, and if you have to be miserable for 10 hours/day just to make a few extra dollars, it probably isn’t worth it.”
Do what you love, and if the pay isn’t great, lower your standard of living to match your pay. You can’t determine your standard of living apart from your income. In other words, LIVE WITHIN (or actually below) YOUR MEANS! This is true no matter what your income turns out to be.
However, for many there is little to no career opportunity in what they “love“. In that case, find a balance. Do something you like, and if it doesn’t pay enough to maintain your desired standard of living, try to make a few bucks from what you love. Like others have said, don’t choke the life out of what you love by focusing on money, but maybe you can be a consultant in that area or start a blog giving advice about it.
Ultimately, we should be content with whatever financial/work situation in which we find ourselves. In the words of the Apostle Paul:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:11-13
We see from this passage that our situation should not be able to determine our satisfaction or contentment in this life – especially if we are slaves to Christ!
Personally, I happened to “like” a field that is in good demand (Economics & Finance). However, my true love is Theology, and that may be something that is in my future.
What about you? What choice did you make? Any regrets? How would you advise someone in choosing a career path? Would you tell them to look for money, happiness, or both?
To help you in your choice, Payscale.com has released it’s list of “Best Undergrad College Degrees By Salary”:
Annual pay for Bachelors graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting graduates have 2 years of experience; mid-career have 15 years. See full methodology for more.
Not an engineer or an economist? Here is the full list: http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges/degrees.asp
Be sure to leave your comments below.