From Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Want to do what you love and get paid for it? Choose one of these majors, a post based on data from Payscale.com.
Although I don’t have the raw data, there’s a nice scatterplot showing for each major the mid-career salary and the percentage of people saying their work is meaningful, and there’s a negative correlation between the percentage saying work is meaningful and the pay. This would seem to imply that people take some proportion of their compensation in meaningfulness. If I had to eyeball the regression line, I’d say it has a slope of about negative 500 dollars per percent meaningfulness – that is, for every extra 1% that your job is meaningful, you take a $500 hit in annual pay. Note the ecological fallacy here, though.
I’d be interested to see, within each major, how people saying their work is meaningful is correlated with pay. That would shed some more light.
A fun fact: statistics majors make more than mathematics majors ($103K vs $93K) but think their work is less meaningful (34% vs 46%). Given that this is based on undergraduate majors, I wonder if this has to do with the choice of jobs that they take – in particular, math majors may be more likely to teach high school than statistics majors. This is based on small samples of my students, though – and the math majors I taught were at a different university than the statistics students – so take it with a grain of salt.