I am in the fortunate position of being able to do something I enjoy, while being paid enough to live in comfort. However, there are plenty of people who have to make a choice between a profession they love, and a profession that pays more. This thought was brought home to me by an article I read on Yaho0! Finance about the worst-paying college degrees. The top 10 included the following:

  1. Child and Family Studies
  2. Elementary Education
  3. Social Work
  4. Athletic Training
  5. Culinary Arts
  6. Horticulture
  7. Paralegal Studies
  8. Theology
  9. Recreation & Leisure
  10. Special Education

Since this is back to school time for many, and since many are embarking on the adventure of college, it struck me as how many of these degrees, and jobs in related professions, are often considered fulfilling in a number of ways, but they don’t pay particularly well. (The discussion about our priorities as a society in paying teachers so little is one for another day.) This led me to wonder about how many people are doing things they don’t enjoy in order to earn a little more money.

A Job is Your Life

Many people consider their jobs their lives. The job defines them, and they want to enjoy the job. After all, depending on the job, you might spend anywhere between six and 12 hours a day at it. Shouldn’t it be something you enjoy? Others look at the type of jobs they do in terms of something that goes beyond mere compensation. They want to feel as though they are doing good in the world, and want to do something they consider fulfilling.

However, this view can mean that you might have a job that doesn’t pay well. While money doesn’t buy happiness, it can contribute to comfort. If you are willing to live a frugal lifestyle, or if you have a life partner who can help out with a second job, low pay may be no obstacle. The feeling you get from doing something you love can outweigh other considerations.

A Job is a Job

On the other hand, some feel that a job is just a job. They want to go home and not think about the job at all. In many cases, a job takes up no more than 1/3 of one’s life. A better paying job may require regular hours, leaving some time for leisure. Some folks don’t mind doing a job they dislike, so long as they have adequate pay to enjoy the time they are not working. As long as you can separate your job from your life, you might find that it doesn’t matter, much what job you have — as long as you are paid more.

Deciding on a Career Path

When choosing a college major, or looking for non-degreed skills training, it is important to determine how you are most likely to view your job. If you are more interested in doing something fulfilling and interesting to you, then it may not matter how much you are paid (although it’s always nice when high pay coincides with what you like to do). On the other hand, without the necessities of life, even a job you enjoy may not be able to help you overcome the privations that can come with always being necessitous.

Before determining on a career path, carefully consider whether you could live a frugal lifestyle in order to have a job you love, or whether you might be better off with a better paying job that you may not enjoy, but provides you with the resources to live in comfort — and maybe volunteer to find the fulfillment you seek.



Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.