Factors Affecting Career Choices

The same factors that shape personality help map career paths.
i Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Researchers have found that many of the factors affecting career choices quickly become apparent through honest self-reflection. Truthful answers to questions about your interests, which careers you’re suited for, where you want to live, how much the job pays and how you want to work can be the keys to making a good career choice.

Individual Factors

    Many factors shape learning and development. These factors continue to play a role in the choices young adults make about education and careers. According to the book "Development Through Life" by Barbara M. Newman and Phillip R. Newman, these individual factors include "abilities, achievement needs, attitudes, and self-expectancies." The authors contend that individual factors are the most influential in career choice. Often a student who is better with language than art arrives at a career choice emphasizing this natural talent for communication.

Socioeconomic Background

    Scholars view the factor of socioeconomic background in our career decisions as pulling in two directions. On one hand, your financial background might make certain education and career choices more difficult to reach. On the other hand, those very same financial circumstances and expectations can make other choices seem more possible. Particular careers or levels of income are among the most common expectations factoring into our career choices.


    Many careers are affected by geography, which can play a factor in career choices in a number of ways. For example, a young professional choosing a management career in retail packaged food will find most career paths leading to Chicago, which is the center of the consumer packaged goods industry. An aspiring magazine writer will find most career paths leading to New York and Los Angeles, where the majority of U.S. magazines are headquartered. For some, location is the first factor in career choice, as they first choose where to live and then look for available career options there.

Work-Life Balance

    Unlike factors of ability and salary expectations, work-life balance and job satisfaction don’t become apparent to many until one gains experience in the workforce. Other factors tend to be more recognizable in career choices from the earliest stages of the decision process. Job satisfaction and work-life balance become a factor as the drive for career achievement is eventually tempered by the rise of priorities away from the workplace, such as travel or raising a family.

the nest