In the world of Careers Guidance, we are used to the idea that to help a young person prepare to make decisions about what career they want to pursue, you would explore their interests and strengths. Such considerations are essential; people tend to have more rewarding careers if they do something they enjoy and can do well. However, interests and strengths can only ever be part of the thinking. The individual’s feeling of job satisfaction is missing from such an approach. We may find ourselves working in a job that links to our interests and strengths but fails to provide the internal glow of a job well done. So I was very interested in coming across a paper written by leading academics from the London and Paris schools of economics which seeks to account for well-being, alongside cash income, to determine careers where the reality of the day-to-day grind undermines the financial benefits and those that offer the most significant rewards.
For their research, the academics considered the subjective well-being of 90 different careers in the UK alongside their cash earnings to devise a measure of ‘full earnings.’
Those careers that top the full earnings chart are typified by having high levels of autonomy and job satisfaction through completing tasks, while those at the bottom tend to be filled by careers where other people’s problems beset workers.
Top and bottom ‘full earners’
Chief executives and elected representatives occupy the highest levels of full earnings. Construction and building trade occupations are also well placed in the results obtained by the study due to high levels of satisfaction even though they earn less in wages. Other careers that come out strongly are pilots, marine officers, and sports and fitness instructors. The survey supports the idea that working in areas such as education, health, and public service has a non-pecuniary reward because they are seen to be doing well.
Jobs towards the bottom of this list include customer service workers, sales staff, IT technicians, personal carers, and careers categorized in the paper as elementary occupations, including bar staff, kitchen assistants, and hospital porters. Some of these careers have the worst well-being aspects, which result in a full earnings quota that is below their actual hourly earnings. In contrast, some elementary works, particularly construction and agricultural workers, have higher total wages once the well-being value is factored in.
The survey highlights the value of educational attainment as a factor in full earnings. People who are educated to a degree level and above tend to have higher total earnings than those who don’t take their education beyond school.
Although the survey specifically looks at occupations in the UK, the authors have compared their results with the available data in the US. While there are differences in the importance of educational attainment between the two countries, the results are consistent overall.
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