Why choosing a career based on its ‘average salaries’ is a bad idea

And what you should instead.

The majority of students who enter college go into it knowing what career path they want to work towards. However, a study estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as “undecided”. If you’re one of them, you’ll soon discover the decision of choosing a career path will be one of the most thought-provoking and gut-wrenching they will ever make.

There are many useful factors to consider when making this decision such as;

  • Availability of Jobs
  • The Skills you possess
  • Your Interests and hobbies
  • The cost of Training and Education
  • Preferred lifestyle (Work / life balance).

Many blogs and articles include salary or earning potential to this list. Often citing websites like Payscale and Glassdoor that show salary data for various jobs. No doubt this can be useful to get a cursory gauge of how in demand a particular profession is. But the method with which these sites collect their data is deeply flawed and should be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless choosing a career based off of salary data is a bad idea.

What’s wrong with average salary data

Sourcing the data

There is an important disclaimer that most of these sites don’t tell you. That is; just how inaccurate they can be. All average salary data is collected in one of two ways (and sometimes both). Some pull their data from existing databases like government records and Non-profit organisations while others rely on users to contribute their own info.

The problem with the first method is that there aren’t many of these databases and often times the sample size is too small be representative of the industry as a whole. As for the second, well, people lie.

Unrealistic expectations

Another flaw with salary average tools is that they can create unrealistic expectations of what can be expected as a reasonable salary in a person’s mind. These tools will often present the relationship between pay and experience linearly. When in reality the relationship between them is a lot more complex and sometimes there can be a mismatch.

You see, What really determines the market value of labour is supply and demand and this varies between different regions. Making it tricky to determine how much you’re worth.

What you should do instead

If you’re not sure what sector within an industry or even what industry you want to specialise in, you should definitely explore and research about possible career paths but don’t stress about how high the average salary of that career path is. If you want a successful career that pays well:

  • Choose something that interests you or you enjoy. That way when you work, it won’t feel like work, it’ll be fun.
  • Strive to be great at that thing.
“When you’re striving to be great at what you do, the ‘averages’ don’t matter.” — Raghav Haran.
“When it comes to any field, the people who strive to be great have more than enough money and success. And everyone else fights over scraps…Do what you enjoy doing, and be great at it. Everything else will come.” — Raghav Haran.

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