Talent At Work: Recruitment and Career Blog

Is Your High-Profile Job Worth The Price?

Posted on April 24th, by Lougie in Leadership. 1 Comment

surgeon, doctor, medicine, ER

Flickr  / NDNG

Certain careers such as those in the medical and legal  professions are generally considered to be prestigious and lucrative.

But there are costs – both tangible and intangible – involved in pursuing careers in these and other well-paying professions.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Read on to find out.

Dream Jobs Vs. Lucrative Professions

Let’s first distinguish between an individual’s dream job and a lucrative  profession. A dream job is often a matter of personal preference, and is one  that is particularly well-suited to an individual’s personal situation.

Thus, a working mother’s dream job may be one that allows her flexibility and  permits her to work from home when required. But flexibility and telecommuting  options may hardly be desirable job attributes for a hard-charging executive who  is intent on climbing up the corporate ladder.

The focus of this article is on the best-paying professions. Rather than  using subjective criteria to define such professions, we rely on the annual data  from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey produced by the U.S.  Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces employment and wage estimates for  over 800 professions.

Highest-Paying Professions

The popular perception that jobs in the medical field are among the  best-paying ones is based on fact. Since 1999, when the OES survey began using a  new occupational classification system, the highest-paying jobs in the U.S. have  been dominated by the medical profession.

Surgeons top the survey from 1999, with an average annual income of $135,660,  which had risen by more than 50% to $206,770 in 2008. Other medical careers that  are among the best-paying are anesthesiologists and obstetricians /  gynecologists, which rank among the top five since 1999.

In addition, a number of other medical careers such as internists,  orthodontists and dentists, and family and general practitioners, have  consistently ranked among highest-paying professions since 1999.

Although pursuing a medical career is an almost certain way of attaining a  top tier income, other professions such as computer and information marketing  managers, financial managers, physicists marketing managers, petroleum engineers  and chief executives, air traffic controllers, airline pilots and lawyers are  also among the most paid.

The Costs

There are obvious costs involved in pursuing the best-paying professions.  These costs range from the tangible ones such as the monetary cost of education,  to intangible costs such as stress and long hours. Each of these costs is  discussed below.

Cost of education: Most of the best-paying professions  require many years of intensive study, which often leads to a massive debt load  by the time one commences work. For instance, consider the medical field, which,  as we have seen, has some of the best-paying careers.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), annual  tuition and fees at state medical schools in 2008-09 averaged about $23,500 for  state residents and about $43,500 for non-residents; the corresponding numbers  at private medical schools were $41,300 and $42,500 respectively. These figures  exclude housing and living expenses.

The AAMC also states that about 87% of medical students graduate with some  educational debt, with the median debt at graduation amounting to $155,000 in  2008.

Students who are pursuing careers in other well-paying fields that require  years of study also have a substantial debt load upon graduation. For example,  the average law school student is estimated to be about $100,000 in debt by the  time of graduation.

The only exception to this rule may be chief executives, although many obtain  expensive MBAs from top schools, others rise to that position after starting  successful businesses as entrepreneurs or obtain required designations. In the  field of entrepreneurship, a lengthy period of time in the pursuit of higher  education is not necessarily a pre-requisite.

Opportunity cost: Apart from the direct cost of education,  one also has to consider the forgone opportunity cost of not being a member of  the workforce. Students who are pursuing a degree in a high-paying profession  are often unable to work due to the rigorous academic schedule, and may lose  many years of income as a result.

For example, to become a doctor takes anywhere from 11 to 16 years to  complete the education requirements. This includes four years of undergraduate  school, four years of medical school, and three to eight years of residency  training in a specialty. Assuming one could earn say an annual average of  $50,000 during that period, the opportunity cost of not working exceeds  $500,000.

Cost of long hours: Long hours and the demands of the job  can exact a considerable toll on family life and personal relationships. Airline  pilots and other flight crew, for example, are typically away from home for five  days at a time during a normal work schedule. Exceedingly long hours are  generally the norm in the early stages of careers in the medical and legal  professions, with 80+ hour workweeks not uncommon for medical interns and junior  lawyers.

Stress: Some of the best-paying professions such as air  traffic controllers and surgeons often rank as being among the most stressful  jobs. Part of the stress for an air traffic controller may be attributed to the  huge responsibilities of the job, where lives depend on correct decisions being  made at all times and there is zero margin for error. Job-related stress can  take a huge toll on one’s physical and mental health, and can sometimes result  in premature burnout.

Cost of uncertainty: People in the best-paying jobs still  have to contend with some degree of uncertainty about their career like everyone  else. For example, commercial pilots in the U.S. face ongoing uncertainty about  their job prospects because of the state of the airline industry and the  competition from low-cost carriers. Physicians and other medical specialists  have to contend with malpractice lawsuits that can wreck their finances and  reputation, not to mention the challenges stemming from dealing with an  inefficient and overburdened healthcare system.

Costs Vs. Benefits

Dissatisfaction with one’s job or career is not restricted only to people  with mundane, low-paying jobs. Even well-paid professionals express  dissatisfaction with their jobs, although it may be logical to expect that the  prevalence is less than in low-paid workers.

A survey of primary care physicians (a group that includes general  practitioners and pediatricians) by the Physicians Foundation in 2008 found that  60% of the respondents would not recommend medicine as a career. Furthermore,  almost half said that over the next three years, they planned to reduce the  number of patients they see or stop practicing medicine entirely.

Nevertheless, there are some obvious benefits of high-paying professions,  including:

Greater job security – It is widely recognized that  education pays. Workers without a college education are generally among the most  vulnerable to job loss.

Money on education is well-spent – From a monetary  viewpoint, the extra years spent in college seem to be worth it. For example,  the average annual salary of the top 10 professions was $181,500 in 2008, or 10  times the average annual salary of the 10 lowest-paying professions. Granted  that many are even unable to find work without some sort of education.

Affordable luxuries – High-paying professions can enable one  to pursue a lifestyle that may not be possible for the average worker.  Indulgences such as luxury automobiles, frequent overseas vacations, and  cosmetic procedures that are commonplace for high-income earners may be  unaffordable for those with lower incomes.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, whether the benefits of a high-paying profession outweigh the  costs, or vice versa, is a matter of personal choice and preference. However,  for those who want to balance personal life with a decent income, consider  careers that require fewer years of college education and that are not as  stressful. Most importantly, choose a career where you like what you do. After  all, as Confucius said, choose a job you love and you will never have to work a  day in your life.

Source: Business Insider

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Marketing Consultant at Codemedia Inc
Information Technology and Marketing Consultant

One thought on “Is Your High-Profile Job Worth The Price?

  1. As a former high profile executive, it is a switch to become a mother for the second time. Now that I am pregnant again, I am starting to value flexibility and having a less predictable schedule – life circumstances definitely change your view of the ideal career situation.

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