For some people, money buys happiness. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way. I mean truly, for some people, the accumulation of wealth is the key to their satisfaction in life. These particular individuals will try to attain the highest-paying jobs in business, law, or medicine to pay down their student loans (if they have any) as quickly as possible so that they can buy that nice house, get that nice car, and live the dream. If that’s you, and that model works for you, that’s great. Go for it.
For many others, however, life is a little more complicated. We all want to be financially secure, but many of us want to be doing work that not only brings us some level of challenge and excitement and happiness, but also makes some sort of positive difference in the world. Unfortunately, this occupational idealism can be at odds with the realities of market forces and the American higher education system. In other words, a good education here is astronomically expensive, and many jobs that serve the public interest just don’t pay well.
The traditional ways of dealing with this reality was either sacrificing your ideals and “selling out” in order to get that high-paying job that you hate so you can pay down those loans and switch careers later, or alternatively, being the idealistic martyr by obtaining your dream job in government or at a non-profit, but living in a cardboard box with Ramen for dinner every night so you can pay your monthly student loan bills. Well, it really doesn’t have to be that way.