You’ve probably heard a version of this advice before: Do what you love and success will follow. While that’s certainly true for some, everyone’s passions don’t always translate into a lucrative career. But there are issues with the opposite mindset, too. If you only prioritize a high salary when choosing your career, you could end up working a job you hate every day all for the sake of a paycheck.
The most reasonable approach is probably somewhere in the middle: Find a job that interests and challenges you, but also offers a reasonable salary that can help you accomplish your personal goals.
That’s where your career’s financial fit comes into play. When considering financial fit, you can determine how much you’ll need to invest to begin your career, how much you’re likely to earn, and how that could match up with your desired lifestyle. Read on to learn more about this concept and how to determine the financial fit of your ideal career.
What is your career’s financial fit?
Before you make any major purchase, you’d make sure that the money you spend is worth what you’re getting in return. Why not do the same for your career? By estimating your career’s financial fit, you can get a sense of how much you’ll need to invest to start working and weigh that against how much you’re likely to earn over your lifetime. Plus, you can get an idea of the type of lifestyle you’ll be able to afford based on salary averages.
You may not have considered it yet, but you may need to invest a considerable amount of money before you can start working and earning a salary on your own. For example, a college degree, special certification program, or advanced training such as medical school or a graduate degree may be required for your ideal career. But these things can cost tens of thousands of dollars (or more), which you’ll need to repay through student loans if you can’t afford them out-of-pocket. It’s wise to get a sense of how these major investments could eat into your future earnings later.
You should also consider what kind of lifestyle you’ll be able to afford once you’re established in your career. Even if you’re following your passions in your dream job, struggling to pay the bills every month could lead to unhappiness at work if you don’t feel fairly compensated. By getting a sense of how your earnings will compare with the average cost of living, you can get a clearer picture of how your salary will stack up against the type of life you envision for yourself.
How to determine your financial fit
The first step to estimate your career’s financial fit is to find your career. If you need some help deciding this, check out O*NET’s Interest Profile, which is run by the U.S. Department of Labor. You’ll answer a series of questions to determine your professional interests, before seeing what types of careers incorporate your answers.
Once you have your career narrowed down, you can use Edmit’s Career tool to estimate your potential earnings. If you don’t already have access to Edmit Career but would like to, please have your high school guidance counselor request free access for your school at email@example.com.
When you enter your current ZIP code into Edmit Career, the tool will estimate the total costs of training required for your chosen career. That should give you a sense of how much you’ll need to invest before you start earning a salary.
Lastly, you’ll enter the ZIP code of where you hope to live and work after you’ve completed your education and training. With this, Edmit can more accurately estimate your cost of living in that area, as well as how much the average worker in your desired field can earn there. Using salary data from the Department of Labor, you’ll be able to see how much you might earn in your first job and how your income might grow in the following decade.
By comparing these three factors (the cost of your education/training, your potential salary, and the average cost of living), you can get a sense of what your financial outlook will be during the first decade of your career. Then, compare these findings with your other personal goals. Whether you hope to travel abroad, live in an uber-expensive city like New York, or buy a house in the suburbs, you should end this exercise with a clearer idea of how feasible those dreams are based on your estimated earnings.
Of course, it’s important that you enjoy your work and find fulfillment in your career, but that should be balanced with earning a livable wage that can afford the type of life you imagine for yourself. Before you sink thousands into your education and training, make sure the career you’ve chosen can realistically lead to the type of life you want.