Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Money and Career Choice: 5 Questions You Must Ask

A career you enjoy and a career that meets your financial goals are not mutually exclusive if you look before you leap. When making a career change or choosing your first career, consider your personal finance goals. After narrowing your career choices to those likely to lead to job satisfaction based on your interests and personality, ask these 5 money questions about each career option:
  1. Is this career in demand? Get the geeky answers and the real world answers. Find out how many job openings are forecast by the economists, and talk to people working in the career where you live. Also do the exercises recommended in our article Learn More About Occupations.
  2. What flexibility does this career path offer? How transferable will your education and skills be to a variety of jobs? If you don't like being a corporate lawyer, what else can you do with a law degree that would cover your bills? Think skills, not job titles.
  3. Is the starting salary sufficient to meet my current financial needs? To answer this, you need to know what your current household budget is – add student loan debt repayments, if any (see below). Notice I said “starting” salary not hoped for/dreamed of salary. Again, information you learn from people working in your target career may be much more reliable than estimates on websites.
  4. What education or training is necessary for this career and how much would it cost? Don't assume certain degrees are required; do your research and talk to people doing the jobs that interest you. Maybe a $100,000 MBA is unnecessary – choosing jobs strategically to gain specific experience might substitute for it – and you'll be making money instead of spending/borrowing it.
  5. How would I pay for it? Look at your financial aid options. Don't forget to consider how you'll pay for living expenses along with tuition.
Many people go with their gut feelings, hoping that “do what you love and the money will follow” will hold true. That phrase should say, “...and the money may follow.” By narrowing your choices based on the best science of career counseling and asking hard financial questions before making a career choice, you'll evaluate money concerns in a mindful, knowledgeable way – not hoping money will follow you.

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