Career Goals Change with Age

Rasumussen Job Goal surveyA new poll suggests “salary” remains the most important consideration for many career professionals but, following that, factors change considerably according to age.  The survey, conducted this past July on behalf of Rasmussen College, asked more than 2,000 workers from all age groups and geographic regions to rank the top five factors they consider “most important” in their careers. It grouped respondents into four categories according to age. Ranges included 18-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55-plus.

Ability to do what you love” ranked second among millennials (defined here as 18-34-year-olds) and those 55 and older. Whether it’s the increased idealism and fewer responsibilities of youth or the measured nostalgia of folks approaching retirement, experts appear to agree with the findings.  A 2014 Pew Research study found millennials tend to be optimistic about their futures, despite a collective distrust of people and burdensome student loan debt. Baby-boomers, on the other hand, tend to look for “more meaningful” work after retiring from years of service in traditional corporate jobs.

Respondents 35-44 years old ranked family-friendly factors as the most important considerations in their careers. This group is more likely to have pre-teens and teenagers in the home so it’s not surprising they ranked “work-life balance” and “flexible working hours” second and fifth, respectively.

Respondents who had already reached their peak earning years (45-54 years old) understandably ranked “job security” ahead of doing what they love, work-life balance and location. The ranking is consistent with a U.S. Census Bureau study that illustrates net worth across age groups. The 2011 data from that study shows aggregate net worth among 45-54-year-olds far outpaces any other age group.  In fact, this group recorded the smallest percentage of wealth in interest-earning accounts but the largest percentage in retirement accounts. This distribution of wealth highlights the importance of financial planning among those preparing for retirement.

These survey results show that salary is king when it comes to what professionals consider “most important” in their careers. But a look at the factors they ranked #2 thru #5 offer keen insight into how age affects their outlook on other life decisions.

Curious how your state stacks up when it comes to salaries?  Crunching numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Rasmussen College created a salary-comparison tool which factors in cost of living, adjusting a particular profession’s wage to reflect the state where the job is done.  At first glance, it may appear that New York and California have the highest average salaries careers – but once you factor in the cost of living, the picture quickly changes. Try out the comparison tool here – choose your occupation to see which states really offer the best salaries.