T Nation

Which Career Path?


I'm 21, just finished university. I've got close to full marks in every academic test I've ever taken and I'm now faced with the decision to either have a starting salary of £63,500 doing a job that, at the core, leaves me indifferent (law), or pursue a career doing something that matters to me (teaching) for much, much less money.

My family and friends have all said go work in the City for 10-15 years, get financially secure, pay off your mortgage completely, get some solid investments etc., THEN go off and be creative. What do you guys think?

Most of you have much more experience of the real world than me. The many people I've seen stressed out by financial matters to the point of illness are making me think my family/friends are right. But one of my friends recently went into investment banking just for the money and is working 12-15 hour days, 6-7 days a week. That isn't a life.

EDIT: I forgot to mention I've got a 17 month old daughter and live in London. Extortionate childcare + ridiculous housing market = big factor in my decision.


You can always go into teaching. It would be very hard to go from teaching to law.

How sure are you the job will leave you indifferent? Most jobs turn out to be something very different than they seem in interviews or even in the first few weeks.


Money doesn't buy happiness....but being poor sucks. I work in a job that's not very rewarding as far as the actual work I do, but I've found the people I work with make the job rewarding. Set a time limit for yourself with the law gig. Talk it over with your wife and decide on 2 years or so...TC wrote an article back in 1999 about this (I think) where his wife and he agreed on 3 years for him to try and get his dream editor gig..if he didn't make it by then he'd try something else...

Oh yeah...remember...it's not how much you earn...it's how much you keep. Figure out your monthly expenses now. I'm guessing your living on a lot less than you'll be making at the law job. Save every penny you make over and above what you actually need to spend. That way in 2 years if you decide to quit and pursue your creative side, you'll have a nice nest egg. It's OK to occasionally spend a big chunk of change on something to keep you sane...but keep these binges few and far between.

You can also teach while you're doing the law thing. What is it you want to teach? Find a part time gig teaching...that way you'll have experience in teaching, 2 years worth of savings and a reputation as a cut-throat lawyer when and if you jump to teaching full time. With your heavy work schedule you might not be able to teach 5 days a week, but maybe you could find something a couple of hours every Tuesday helping people that speak English as a second language learn how to speak better, or maybe teach kids how to play a sport...

Good luck. It's a tough decision, but you could have to be deciding between a lot worse things.


Personally, I would choose I high paying job, as long as I didn't completely HATE it.

Having a good financial start early in life and it will be a less rocky journey further down the road.

You could secure yourself a house, car, money in the bank, etc and then do what you want later in life. There is nothing like living debt free, not owing anyone a cent.

Hell, even a couple years would be enough to get some financial stability or help you decide on what to do.


Thanks for the comments. I agree, I could definitely be deciding between a lot worse things. And it would be much harder, probably impossible, to go from teaching to law. (Although I do know a doctor who used to be a teacher, but couldn't take the stress.)

Most of the doctors/lawyers I've met seem to be fairly fulfilled (if overworked) people, whose income affords them a comfortable standard of living and allows them to pursue their personal interests. I could always teach (my subject is English Literature) in my spare time. In fact the law firm that's interested in me does A LOT of pro bono and voluntary work. I could easily get involved that way.


Save up, move to the US turning that 63,000 Pounds into 127,890USD and start teaching =)

God I hate that exhange rate, stupid undervalued USD! Last time I went over there it cost me 30USD for lunch!

You could always do the law work and then teach on the weekends to children in need.


I give credit to people who do things they love despite the lower salary. For me, as someone else said, as long as you don't hate the job...I would go for the money.


I was pointed to this link 2 weeks ago and I'm still kind of looking through the various links.


It is if nothing else food for thought.


You have a child now, it is time to stop thinking about yourself and think of your family. Is being poor, but liking your job worth the stress in life of being without money. Can you not work your hours a day at a job you would rather not do and go home and enjoy the family you have. The happiness of those that depend on you should be something that weighes heavy on the choice you make.


Be a lawyer for a couple of years, get experience. Then further your education - PhD in law? Then teach law at a university - best of both worlds. I'm sure you get paid way more to be a prof. at law school compared to a high school teacher.


I always liked and admired the teachers who came in with a huge "life experience resume" before teaching - they were always more interesting and better teachers.

As someone mentioned earlier, you can always teach later. And coming into a classroom as a teacher that has broad experience in other areas - a different job, living various places, travel, raising a family, writing, whatever - will make you a better teacher when the time comes, in my opinion.

I'd say law first, then teach. Congratulations and best of luck.