Follow your heart or pad your wallet? Choosing a career based on earning potential

"You should follow your dreams."

"You should pursue a career that pays well."

"You should do what you love."

"You should be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer so you never have to worry about money."

Which should you choose? If you're like a lot of high school and college students, you're still trying to decide what you want to do with your life — or at least what you want to do for a career. For many, the money factor plays a big part in their choice of career. Should you major in something (like social work or education), which may not pay well, but which you love? Or should you pursue a career that can allow you to be more financially comfortable, even if you're not as happy doing it?

Only you can decide the answer to this question. Keep in mind, however, that working in a field you don't enjoy just because it pays better may not be financially rewarding after all, as it can lead to job dissatisfaction, burnout, stagnant career growth, and even unemployment. So while you should pay attention to information on the "Worst-Paying College Degrees," that doesn't mean you should avoid those careers if that's where your heart lies. Just go into them with open eyes while striving to make smart financial choices.

If you want to be a music teacher, for example, you should consider less-expensive public schools over private colleges. Such schools may leave you with more debt than you can repay on a teacher's salary. A good rule of thumb is to borrow no more for your college education than you expect to make in the first year of working in your chosen career.

For more information on making smart borrowing decisions, visit the "Borrowing Money for College" [] page on AIE.