When you were at school, did salary influence your job ambitions?

Talking to my friends, it seems none of them really thought about how much they’d be earning when they were thinking about what they wanted to do for a living. I certainly didn’t, and I don’t remember any careers advisers talking about the (let’s face it, pretty important) issue of MONEY.

I was top (or pretty close to top) of my classes at school, got straight As at GCSE and A level, and probably should have applied to Oxford or Cambridge. (I didn’t partly I think due to teenage cussedness because the teachers expected me too :rolleyes: ).

I could, let’s face it, have had a good chance of going into one of those high-flying careers that pays stacks of money. I didn’t, and in fact it never really occurred to me that I could have done. Instead, I went to a decent “red-brick” university to study chemistry, a course that interested me (at the time), with vague ambitions to go into the pharmaceutical industry, which, let’s face it, isn’t going to make anyone rich unless they own the company.

Instead, I somehow ended up as a newspaper copy editor and occasional journalist - again, jobs that are hardly renowned for paying well.

Could I have hacked it as a lawyer or a City trader? Maybe, maybe not, but the point is, I never even thought “If I do X job, I’d make loads of money” at the age of 16, when it mattered.

So was salary a big factor on *your *teenage “When I grow up I want to be…” list?

I studied what was interesting to me: Russian language, history and culture; and international relations. Then I got a job that was interesting to me. I didn’t think of salary, although my parents certainly wanted me to. Since I paid for my education on my own, it wasn’t really any of their business, thank Og. I really enjoyed my studies.

With my older sister, my dad made her study business, so she could get a good job and she was miserable all the way through school.

In undergrad, maybe in a vague sense that engineering or business tended to pay more than liberal arts degrees and that lawyers and doctors tended to be viewed as “successful” by people your parents hang out with.

But no. No one ever said "oh if you want to make a lot of money you should study finance and become a Wall Street investment banker.

Business school was a different story, obviously. People aren’t there to save the manatee or anything like that. I mean those stupid MBA Jungle books have actual articles like “How Many Millions are Enough?”
There are probably a couple of reasons for this:

One is that I grew up in a typical suburban middle class town. It’s not like there are tons of people whose parents are partners in Manhattan law firms, hedge fund managers, CEOs and entertainment moguls. Mostly average people of average ambition and ability working average jobs - teacher, cop, nurse, accountant, middle management in some large company. And judging by their Facebook updates, that’s how most of my classmates turned out. Most of them can’t really advise you on making a lot of money because they don’t really make that much themselves.

Two, there aren’t a lot of “golden ticket” careers where you can earn substantially more than the rest of the world right away, simply by virtue of going to the right schools and getting top grades. Typically medicine, law, banking, technology and consulting. And even in these careers, only certain very specific highly competetive jobs at certain firms pay out. The rest have to work their way up through the ranks to upper management.

Three, it’s difficult to project what will be a high salary career 5 years down the road. When I was 16, there was no such thing as a “dot com millionare”.

Finally, it’s a pretty miserable existance working in a job you hate just for the salary. Everyone I know works in finance, management or technology consulting, or law, and they all seem to hate their jobs. But they can’t really leave them for any length of time because they’re used to earning six figure incomes. Plus I think I would hate a $50,000 a year job just as much. I’d just be poor. I think you are better off finding something you love doing and making a career of that. If you’re smart and hardworking, you can earn a lot of money doing pretty much anything IMHO.

With an extremely low threshold for boredom most of my choices were made around things that held my interest, money had little to do with it.

Since I majored in English both times, I’d have to say no. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, just that I wanted to go to college and learn about writing and literature, and I was raised in the 60s and adopted the ideals of the time–anti-materialism and so on. Now I teach in a university, and it seems the majority of my students do consider potential salary when choosing a major.

No, I didn’t. If I had, I probably would have done some sort of engineering. In retrospect, I should have gone into computing, but who knew in the mid 50s how big that would get. But mathematics caught my interest and has held it for over 50 years.

Though I received a BS and MS in electrical engineering, salary potential never entered my mind. I’m a geek, and was (and still am) very interested in the subject.

During my undergrad years, I roomed with some engineering majors who ***hated ***engineering. The only reason they entered the field was because “it paid well.” I suspect today they’re employed as managers. That’s what happens to engineers who hate engineering - they are quickly promoted to management positions.

No, but it should have.

No. Frankly, I would be absolutely terrible at all of the stuff that makes people a lot of money. I am dreadful at math, which you need to be good at to be an engineer or doctor or even an economist. (I had to take economics in grad school and it was a real struggle for me.) Probably the only high-flying profession out there that I could do reasonably well at is law, but that was never an option for me. My dad is a lawyer and hates it, so ever since I was a little kid, being a lawyer just seemed like the worst job EVER.

No, at that point, the income of any job would have seemed sufficient. I didn’t grasp the difference between $25,000 a year and $100,000 a year. Both would have seemed fine. Never really thought about it, just wanted a job I would enjoy. Went into law and started at $17,500 per year. I did, however, pick a profession that allows larger incomes, and 25 years later, I’m making more than I could have ever imagined when I was in school.

A lot of engineering majors go into management consulting or banking because it pays a lot more and the firms like the quantitative background.

Yes. I wanted one.

Interesting responses. It looks like my experience was pretty typical.

I wonder if the people who ended up as hedge-fund managers or whatever did have the pound signs (or currency symbol of choice) in their eyes right from childhood…

I was interested in having a career which paid enough that I could support myself and any potential kids I had, in the case that I ended up without a husband. My mother was very keen on us girls recieving an education so that we would neither be stuck in a bad marriage or left poverty-stricken due to becoming a widow. She hammered it in our heads “college first, marriage second”.

Of course I did that backwards. :stuck_out_tongue:

Or lawyering. I know several lawyers who have an undergrad degree in engineering. Apparently the analytical thinking you learn is helpful.

It was a factor for me: I knew I wanted to teach, but went into secondary education instead of academia because of the increased job security–I wanted a consistent income right from the start instead of years of poverty with the chance of a somewhat higher income at the end.

Absolutely not. I was an English major, my main interest was journalism. I got into photography. Photography has worked out well for me, but if I were getting into it based on what an average photojournalist makes, I sure as hell wouldn’t have done it. I am very happy I went down the path I did, though.

I didn’t think about salary or job prospects for the entire time I was in school.

From the time I was maybe eight years old, I wanted to be a scientist. What kind of scientist changed over the years. Astronomer, physicist, geologist. But always a scientist. So all my schooling progressed with that in mind. I did in the end finish with a Ph.D. in physics.

It wasn’t until I was almost done with my Ph.D. that I started to seriously start looking for a job, and that’s when I saw that I could get a better job as a computer programmer than as a physicist. So that’s what I am today: a software engineer whose degrees are all in physics.

I started college in 1980 and it was just before that big recession hit. Everything was so grim, all the counselors at the university were predicting nothing but gloom for everything but doctors, nurses, accountants and lawyers.

It was a time when we were switching from manufacturing jobs to service, and Reagan was in and was successfully altering thing like unions.

For such a great university, they gave me such dire predictions. I wish I hadn’t listened to them, as the world turned out SO differently than they said. They had no vision of computers (too expensive for anything so you’d only need a few of them), of psychology (everyone had a degree in that, so there was no need for anymore)

The recession was the worst since the Great Depression (that was before this former recession in the 00s) so I was defintely influenced as I didn’t want to get stuck in a field with a useless degree and no money.

Yes, because like half the kids at school I graduated with massive student loans (with early-Reagan-era interest rates), due to start being paid six months after I graduated and then every month for ten years. I was an English major, and struggled to pay them off sometimes, and was gently chided by family for not being more practical. Do kids also graduate with tons of debt in the UK?

Absolutely. It was certainly one of the factors that led to my becoming an actuary.