More of this doesn’t necessarily lead to greater job satisfaction

People with more formal education under their belts usually have more job opportunities to choose from. So, many would assume that highly educated individuals generally experience more job satisfaction than others. After all, why stay in an unfulfilling job if you’re highly qualified for several similar positions?

Surprisingly, a new study just released by Notre Dame University reports more formal education doesn’t necessarily lead to greater job satisfaction. In fact, as far as researchers can tell, there’s no notable relationship between the two factors. 

These findings personify the double-edged sword analogy. According to this study, more education absolutely leads to a higher income and more career choices/resources in general. But, at the same time, highly educated employees are also usually placed in demanding positions requiring longer hours, greater attention to detail, and loftier expectations.

“Our study shows people who have invested in formal education do not tend to be more satisfied in their jobs,” says study co-author Brittany Solomon (Hall), an assistant professor of management at NDU. “We found that better-educated individuals do enjoy greater job-related resources including income, job autonomy and variety. But they also endure longer work hours and increased job pressure, intensity and urgency. On average, these demands are associated with increased stress and decreased job satisfaction, largely offsetting the positive gains associated with greater resources.”

It’s also worth noting that highly-educated women tend to deal with higher rates of job dissatisfaction than highly educated men.

“Women still face workplace adversity that can undermine the positive returns on their educational investment,” Solomon explains. “This dynamic is particularly important given the reversal of the gender gap in education, with more women completing higher education than men. We explored the notion that the education-job satisfaction link is negative and stronger for women and discovered that, compared to their highly educated male counterparts, highly educated women experience more stress at work and lower job satisfaction.”

Highly educated individuals may want to explore self-employment options. Most of the negatives that come along with lots of formal education are due to extra stress and pressure created by employers. Become your own boss, and many of these issues disappear.

“We found that, compared to their wage-employed counterparts, those in self-employment seem to be more insulated from the adverse effects of education on job stress and satisfaction,” Solomon comments. “We believe illuminating this boundary condition is notable for the educated and organizations that value and want to retain their educated employees.”

So, what does all this mean? Should you encourage your kid to forget about grad school? Of course not, but study authors do hope that people use their work to form more realistic expectations when it comes to educational choices and subsequent employment. 

Don’t assume just because you’re highly educated that you’ll only be greeted by lucrative working conditions upon employment. Like so much else in life and business, there are pros and cons. On a related note, study authors say there’s much for employers and companies to learn from this study as well. 

“For example, by removing incentives for employees to take on excessive work hours, organizations can avoid inadvertently pressuring employees to incur stress that undermines job satisfaction,” Solomon suggests.

“Many people pursue higher education to get a better job on paper, not realizing that this ‘better job’ isn’t actually better due to the unanticipated effects of demands and stress over time,” Solomon concludes. “It’s good for people to be realistic about the career paths they pursue and what they ultimately value.”

The full study can be found here and is set to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.