Managing future income risk-- this is something I have been seriously mulling over for the last few months with graduation just around the corner in December.
I am currently considering two job offers. One is in my field of study (engineering) and comes with a higher salary in Chicago. The second is for a data scientist position in Indianapolis and while the salary offer is lower absolutely, the cost of living is much lower in Indie and Chicago, so it should allow for a relatively higher standard of living. My major concern is that the science of "big data" is an emerging field with potential for growth across many industries, while engineering is comparatively stable. Would I be better off pursuing a career in this new area, or sticking closer to what I have studied? I am tentatively leaning toward the second offer because I prefer Indie and the relocation package and signing bonus are generous. Since my experience with data science is limited to one internship, the risk in going with the second offer is that I may find I dislike that line of work later on or may underperform because of lack of formal training (hopefully not!).
Another factor I've been considering is the impact of taking the lower salary to start with right out of school. Should I decide to seek out other opportunities a few years down the road in California for example, will companies offer me less without taking cost of living into account?
Prior to all this consideration of job offers, I suppose that in many of the decisions I made with respect to my education, future income was the primary motivation. All throughout middle and high school I wanted nothing more than to be a musician. I played trumpet, trombone, euphonium, and tuba in various ensembles from orchestras and drum corps to jazz bands. Not to toot my own horn (pun intended), but I had a natural talent and worked hard at it. I was lucky to have loving parents who schlepped me around to rehearsals and performances across the country. They were always supportive of my passions growing up, until college admissions that is. Music will always be there to enjoy, but will not necessarily put food on the table.
After a few long discussions with my parents, I decided to pursue an education in engineering. There's much better earning potential in engineering and I love math and problem solving, so it has been a good fit so far. Fortunately, I've received scholarships, grants, and fellowships throughout my education and have not needed to take on a ton of debt.
As I reflect back on my decisions and look forward to the next few months, I wonder if always prioritizing income over personal fulfillment and happiness is a good strategy. I recently read an article demonstrating that, in general, happiness increases with increased income up to about $85,000 and after that point there is diminishing returns. I should hear back about the salary negotiations from both offers soon. The deadline for making a decision is in two weeks. *Gulp* Time to become an adult.