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How Worthy is Your Career?

By Marty Nemko

How worthy is your career or that career you’re considering? Of course, that’s subjective but you might find it useful to consider the rating system I’ve created. For various points along a ten-point scale (10 is most worthy, 0 least) I’ve listed a small number of careers, just enough so you’ll get a sense of where your career would fall.


Among the most worthy careers is the medical researcher trying to find a cure for cancer or heart disease. He or she has completed many years of difficult schooling, usually makes just a middle-class living, works long hours in anonymity, typically in a sterile, isolated environment, and knows that the odds are small he’ll ever find a cure. But even if his life’s work is eliminating blind alleys, he would have taken steps toward eliminating billions of people’s suffering.


Inventors are almost as high on my list. Think of how much better the lives of literally billions of people are because of refrigeration, eyeglasses, the engine, the television, the computer, a GPS system that prevents your getting lost, even less dramatic inventions such as the can opener or a hybrid rose plant bred so it needn’t be sprayed with fungicides.


Professional helpers: teachers, social workers, doctors, and personal coaches.

Ethical business owners. For example, I just had lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant. For an amount of money that most people can afford ($6.95), I had a meal consisting of delicious hot and sour soup, a handmade egg roll, prawns with fresh vegetables, an orange wedge, and a fortune cookie. A great deal of highly efficient work went into making that possible. The owner of that business is most worthy.


Anyone who ethically does work that provides for our basic needs. This category would include workers in the restaurant above, electricians, computer customer service people, auto mechanics, social security eligibility workers, etc.


People who entertain us, for example, athletes and artists. Yes, they add to the richness of our lives, but unless life’s more crucial needs are met, people don’t have much room in their lives for entertainment.


People involved in making or distributing low-quality things that cost about the same as widely available better quality things, for example, GM vs. Toyota cars.


People who make the world a worse place: the lawyers who take cases they don’t really believe in and then drag them out to pad their bills, causing great stress and cost to clients; salespeople and marketers who deceive us into buying what we otherwise wouldn’t buy; and of course, drug dealers and other criminals, who destroy people’s lives.

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