What is a meaningful job?

If your job feels meaningful to you only because it has a big paycheck attached, you may be in for a big disappointment. On the other hand, if you can explain why your job makes the world a better place, you might be on to something.

PayScale Survey 2014Recently ‘The Atlantic‘ posted an article about which jobs are considered the most meaningful in the USA. The article based its conclusions on a recent survey by PayScale Human Capital.

Of course the article links the paycheck following the job to the likelihood of meaningfulness. I say ‘of course’ because that is how I experience many people in the industrialized world rate their job – good or bad <=> well paid or not.

This is not my intention here – in fact I totally disagree with this assumption and rating. And PayScale’s survey (374,000 respondents in 454 different types of jobs) also shows much more than just that. I’ll get back to that right away.

Just to make my own point of origin clear. I personally like my job to pay my bills, yes! But I certainly don’t like or need my paycheck to be solely responsible for me fulfilling my dreams. Money alone simply does not make me happy AND I have had very happy periods in my life where I hardly had any money or income at all.

The article in ‘The Atlantic’ mainly focuses on the highest paying jobs with the most meaningful content and the highest paying jobs where employees have the hardest time finding meaning to it all. Surgeons are at the top while some types of lawyers/solicitors scrape the bottom. So what? Why do I need to know that?

There is, however, also a clause in the article about people – in this case therapists, clergy and directors of religious programs – highlighted as examples of people who feel their job is meaningful, but where the pay is not necessarily good. But the article does not try to establish why this is.

This is, however, exactly where I find it most important to dive in. This is where such a survey creates value for money (so to speak). Perspective of ‘Job Satisfaction’. How pleased or happy people are to go to work every day – and why are music and arts teachers, therapists, fire fighters and police managers the most happy and satisfied employees? None of them have huge paychecks!

To me that is where it gets interesting. My belief is that ‘meaning eats money for breakfast’. ‘Meaning‘ in a job is a far stronger prerequisite for success than money will ever be. Thus the issue of money is fairly obsolete here. So why are all these low or mid-income people so happy? I could try answering the question by pointing at: Stress levels are managable, employees see/feel they make a difference in the world, they feel in control of their job and the assignments that follow. But we really don’t know!

I sincerely urge anyone with an interest in this to go check the info-graphic at and perhaps derive some more qualitative answers from it. I’m sure they are there.

Additional qualitative data will be most welcome. That would surely make my meaningful day!


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