Can money buy happiness?


Many college students ignore their financial responsibilities and dive into a jobless future in order to do something they love. While that may seem harsh, the amount of debt a student can acquire may lead some to believe finding a higher paying job is more crucial than finding a job that makes them happy.

For students at K-State, this decision is a daunting one. Looking at it from the standpoint of job security, the majors with the lowest unemployment rate are the ones involving engineering, health, finance, technology and education, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, which used statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. On the other hand, those associated with fine arts, liberal arts and social sciences tend to be the majors with the highest unemployment rate.

So what does this mean? Although the previous majors may result in job stability, they cannot ensure financial stability. For example, getting a degree in education is a career path that can typically guarantee you a job at graduation; however, the chances of you making enough money to live in Beverley Hills are slim to none.

Although the research shows elementary education has high job security, it also lists it as one of the lowest paying majors along with family studies, hospitality and arts. Additional statistics show that majors leading to the largest stack of cash in your pocket include those in engineering, mathematics and technology.

This was a concern for Whitney Wilkey, sophomore in public relations, which inevitably led her to change her major from elementary education to public relations. Wilkey said she knew changing her major would give her more opportunities to work her way up the corporate latter in public relations, ensuring an increase in pay over time. With education, though, she said she didn’t see that same future. Even though Wilkey chose to change her major because the money was better, public relations is still something she said she has a genuine interest in.

“I love kids and I know I would have really enjoyed it, but I also think I will enjoy public relations,” Wilkey said.

While Wilkey said she could see herself enjoying a career in both education and public relations, Carson Lilley, sophomore in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, had a different reason for switching majors.

Lilley said he felt he was wasting his time and future by dedicating himself to chemical engineering, a field he wasn’t enthusiastic about. His reasoning behind switching to industrial and manufacturing systems engineering was that he would get to work with people and fix complex problems, both of which he said he loves doing.

“I think that finding something you enjoy doing and have a passion for is worth more than any amount of money,” Lilley said.

This sparks the question: Is choosing money now worth the possibility of an unfulfilling future?

Lilley isn’t alone with this idea. Laura Tietjen, instructor in the College of Education, said most of the people she knows in money-driven career paths often dread going to work and feel trapped in their decisions because they have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. As an educator at the college level, she said she has seen this time and time again.

“For me personally, I have never seen an unhappy person doing the job they love,” Tietjen said. “They may at times be frustrated with financial worries or the expectation of others, but if you truly love what you do, you know you have a purpose to fulfill.”

There is no right decision when you are searching for success. Depending on who you are, success can be measured by both money and happiness. Whether that means working your butt off in engineering to have the money to travel the world, or putting in extra hours as a teacher because you love your students, the choice is yours. You just have to make it.