Career choices: Should you follow the money or your heart?

There is no straight, or correct, answer to this conundrum. Picture: Monstera Production/Pexels

There is no straight, or correct, answer to this conundrum. Picture: Monstera Production/Pexels

Published Jan 23, 2024


Thousands of matriculants are taking the first steps out into the real world and the career choices they make today – at the age of 17 or 18, may impact the rest of their lives.

Should they consider careers that offer the best chances of securing employment or perhaps lucrative salaries? Or should they put all reason aside and follow their hearts and their passions?

Unfortunately, there is no straight, or correct, answer to this conundrum; each person will have their own opinions and offer advice based on their circumstances, values, and experiences.

To cut out the biases though, here are some of the pros and cons of each path:

Choosing a career that pays well


– Knowing you have a good, steady income is good for both your mental and physical health

– You can afford good healthcare, housing, and education

– You can enjoy a good quality of life filled with all your creature comforts

– You can afford to travel and enjoy experiences or hobbies that may come at a high price

– Success attracts respect so you are likely to be held in high regard by others

– As high-paying jobs are often in demand – a factor that makes them pay well – you may not struggle to find new positions locally or internationally


– You may need to work long hours in return for your high salary. This could impact your relationships and work-life balance

– You may deal with overwhelming work pressures and stress that could negatively impact your health and personal relationships

– You could develop burnout

– You may not have opportunities to develop your skills as the hamster wheel that often comes with high-earning jobs keeps you constantly focused on the 'now’ – and making the next buck

– Because you may have to study for an extra year or two (or a few) to qualify to work in this career, you will enter the working world later which could cause financial stress. It could also make you doubt your decision, especially if your peers are more independent and already making it in the working world

– If you are only in it for the money and not passionate about what you do, it can negatively affect your long-term mental and physical health

Choosing a career you love


– Being passionate about what you are doing will give you a sense of contentment and fulfillment at the end of each day

– You will be motivated to go to work because you are following your desires

– Loving what you do can have a positive effect on your mental and physical health

– There is a good chance that your job will allow you to be creative

– If you work with like-minded people who are also driven by passion you may enjoy a good working environment

– Your passion will encourage you to keep looking for new ways to do things and continually developing your skills


– Because your passion is also your job – something you have to do to live, you may end up losing love for it

– Your passions may change over the years and, thus, you could end up no longer enjoying what you do

– Passion-driven careers do not always offer good salaries. If you struggle financially your health and quality of life could decline

– If you don’t earn well you may end up feeling inferior to those around you who do. You could also end up questioning your life choices and facing internal conflict

– Being driven by intense passion could force you to burn out

– Some passion-driven careers do not offer paths for career progression. This could lead you to feel unmotivated or even insecure about your future

Finding a happy middle-ground

Choosing a career based on either love or money can be risky as, although there are positives, there are just as many negatives. The best way to mitigate this is to find a healthy balance between doing something you enjoy that will also pay decently.

To find a well-paying career that you also love, the University of the Potomac in the USA shares this advice:

Count the money

Before diving into a field of interest, you should consider the earning potential it offers. There is a chance that your passion has great pay on the menu as well.

However, if you know that your passion-driven career will not pay you enough, let it go.

“The time when you should consider putting your passion aside – not forgetting it – is when you know you won’t be able to afford it. If it keeps you from life’s necessities, then you can always treat it as a hobby, giving it your free time while making money in another field.”

What you want from life

This is the most crucial element in your decision-making process. While you may want to turn your passion into a job you love, there is a chance that you want to keep it far away from your responsibilities and only enjoy it in your leisure time.

None of us is completely sure about what we want from our lives in every aspect of it, but having a slight idea might help you solve this dilemma.

Sometimes, you can do both

Doing both does not have one final meaning. It could be that your dream job just so happens to be a career that makes you more than enough money, or that you follow passion at the same time as following a different work pathway.

Maybe you get lucky and make money off of a passion that you thought would take you nowhere, or you happen to fall in love with a job that you did not feel strongly about at first; the possibilities are endless.

“Choosing between a beloved field or the one that will pay your bills can sometimes send you into a spiral of thoughts that is hard to get out of. However, it is a significant decision that will follow you for most of your life.

“When making this judgment, you should look into all the advantages and disadvantages that come with either one of the possibilities, from money and stability to happiness and fulfillment...But, most importantly, remember to listen to the logic and your heart simultaneously because they generally come up with the best verdict together.”

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