“Financial gain should be the most important factor in choosing a career.”
Financial gain is certainly one factor to consider when selecting a career. But many people do not, and should not, focus on this factor as the main one. The role that money plays in career choice should depend on the priorities, goals and values of the particular person making the choice.
The main problem with selecting a career primarily on the basis of money is that for many people to do so would be to ignore one’s personal values, needs, and larger life goals. Indeed, many people appreciate this notion when they choose their career. For example, some people join one of the helping professions, such as nursing, teaching or social work, well aware that their career will not be financially lucrative. Their choice properly stems from an overriding altruistic desire, not from an interest in financial gain. Others choose to pursue intellectual or creative fulfillment—as writers, artists, or musicians—knowing that they are trading off dollars for non-tangible rewards. Still others forego economic gain to work as full-time parents; for these people, family and children are of paramount importance in life. Finally, many people subordinate economic prospects to their desire to live in a particular location; these people may place a high value on recreation, their physical health, or being near a circle of friends.
Another problem with focusing primarily on money when selecting a career is that it ignores the notion that making money is not an end in the end of itself, but rather a means of obtaining material goods and services and of attaining important goals—such as providing security for oneself and one’s family, lifelong learning, or freedom to travel or to pursue hobbies. Acknowledging the distinction, one may nevertheless select a career on the basis of money—since more money can buy more goods and services as well as the security, freedom, and time to enjoy them. Even so, one must strike a balance, for if these things that money is supposed to provide are sacrificed in the pursuit of money itself, the point of having money—and of one’s career selection—has been lost.
In conclusion, economic gain should not be the overriding factor in selecting a career. While for a few people the single-minded pursuit of wealth may be fulfillment enough, most people should, and indeed do, temper the pursuit of wealth against other values, goals, and priorities. Moreover, they recognize that money is merely a means to more important objectives, and that the pursuit itself may undermine the achievement of these objectives.