Friday, September 6, 2013

[PHI 1000] What's the difference between a job and a career?

When I ask students why they go to college, I sometimes get the following answer: "Because I want a career, not just a job." But what is the difference between a job and a career?

According to the dictionary (via Google), a job is "a paid position of regular employment," whereas a career is "an occupation undertaken for a significant portion of a person's life and with opportunities for progress."

According to these definitions, then, a position as a cashier at McDonald's could qualify as a career if it is held long enough and has opportunities for progress (e.g., a promotion to manager). Most of my students, however, do not think that a position as a cashier at McDonald's counts as a career.

So what is the difference between a job and a career? Or, in philosophical lingo, what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for career as opposed to job?


  1. Many a time you may have heard a career man or woman say,” I am going over to my job!”, it is unlikely that you have heard someone ever say that they are “going to their career”, especially immediately after making it clear that they really only have a “job”. WE see here a disconnect as a reciprocal relationship cannot follow despite the fact that in certain contexts “career” and “job” can be used interchangeably, but not bi-directionally :can have a career, and see it as their job; but one cannot have a job, and currently see it as their career.
    The differentiation in a technical sense is the fact that a career is an undertaking of great temporal commitment, in the promise of opportunity and progression. A job on the other hand is simply a paid position. Thus, it follows that every Career, entails a “job” of greater permanence and personal importance. But is it possible that what we see as the difference between the two is adultered by our cultures norms, our individualistic drive heavy culture, and our own human predisposition to be biased, even by something seemingly benign such as language. It is also important to note the two distinct connotations of the two words have a marked difference in the value that each brings over to the individual who bears it. Job workers are today’s “serfs” while the career men and women are seen as the “nobles”. While such metaphor may seem a bit extreme, it does bring to light a stark distinction as to effect that language can have on our conception of something seemingly simple. In a sense, our very knowledge of the words meaning, as they have been socially determined over time have programmed the devaluation of a “job” as something menial, unimportant, and a punishment for the weak, dumb, and unmotivated; relegating spoils to the career oriented. But what is wrong with someone who actually would prefer to have a “job”, or a few “jobs” and scoffs at the permanent nature of a career. As an advanced society, we clearly favor intelligence, but we paradoxically and rather ironically are being rather ignorant in thinking that a career is inherently better than job under most if not all circumstances, especially since our labor force, and our general prosperity truly does depend on all workers contributing effectively to society. The fact of the matter is, some people are satisfied by a simple, honest, blue-collar jobs, while others enjoy jobs that one day may blossom into a career that they may or not prefer to its initial “job”. As such, I would personally make the argument that one could surely have a career as a cashier at McDonalds. While by means of the definition provided, it seems unlikely that much opportunity for monetary progress may exist, opportunity nevertheless exists. An employee may decide truly feel a connection to the billion dollar business, or he may simply love the smell of the fries, but for whatever reason his employment opportunity may be one that is seen as long-term. Additionally, such employees may have opportunities for progress that are not quantifiable by dollars per hour, or by titles that sit upon their desk
    I believe the distinction between a career and a job is more complex than the breakdown between how their definitions line up within the pages of a dictionary or a thesaurus. What I mean by this is that a career may have more to do with, a willful commitment to a particular activity in which one brings utility to others, in exchange for the means (dollars) to exchange for utility in other realms. What we see here in my eyes is a dichotomy that has broken apart the idea of a job and that of a career, and stereotyped each, favored one over the other, all while effectively forgetting that in a sense both refer to an assignment (behind a cloak of class-level division) that we each adopt that allowed us to no longer have to barter goods and services, and eventually find structure, wisdom, and innovation in the creation of the modern and breathtakingly advanced society we live in.

  2. Having a job is a necessary condition for having a career, however having a job is not a sufficient condition for having a career. It is possible to have a job and not have a career. A job has been defined as “a paid position of regular employment”, such as the position of cashier at McDonald’s. A career is defined as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” Just because a person works as a cashier in McDonald’s for a “significant period of a person’s life” and there are “opportunities for progress” does not guarantee that a management position will be available to them based on promotion. A career is an area of work that one concentrates on and does not matter how long you work at it, it could be a manager at McDonald’s or it could be a lawyer in a lawfirm. The career is a manager or lawyer and the job is where you perform the career. As a college student we have all chosen a field of study, I for example have chosen criminal justice, which enables many career opportunities, such as police officer, lawyer, forensic crime scene technician, etc. Upon graduation my goal is to obtain a job in an effort to pursue a career. At this point I am undecided what career I would want to pursue in the criminal justice field, as my after graduation plans involve playing professional baseball, which is not a career I have studied for, it is something I have trained my whole life for, and is not something I learned in any book, it has been achieved through hard work, training and concentration on a particular skill. It is not something someone can just do, as one can with a job, it involves time, dedication and a “calling” to achieve. That being said, that is my opinion of what a career and job actually are, however, career vs. job argument is subjective and one makes a determination based on their own values, wants and needs. College students who are spending thousands of dollars to get an education in the hopes they will have a career where they will make a lot of money, will not think that a job as a cashier in McDonald’s is a career, however a person who has worked many years as a cashier and is on the road to becoming manager and has been able to support their family and pay their bills may consider being a cashier as a career.

  3. I believe the difference between a job and career is not based solely on the time that either is held. A career is something a person strives for. For example, someone may go to college in order to get the necessary education to pursue a career. There is a thought process involved in pursuing a career. A career is based on the preferences and choices of each individual. A career is a goal that is meant to be achieved. A job may further the goal of a career, but the opposite situation doesn’t hold. A job is merely a means to have employment and sustain life. If a person has a job for a long period of time and is promoted it is not considered a career. This is true because the job was never a goal to achieve.

    Mehrun Uddin

  4. The difference between a job and a career is apparent in the above definitions: a job is a bit more of a general term, in which any sort of paid work could fall under, while a career is more specific in that it focuses on goals, progress, and the future. Yes, a person could consider McDonald's a career, but a career also implies the person is dedicating a large part of their life to it. If a student is attending college, they will not consider McDonald's a career because it is not a path they want to dedicate themselves to. When the student says, "I want a career, not a job," they are saying they want to pursue a line of work that motivates them, not just something that pays the bills. I think for many, college may be a person's first steps on their career path.

    If we're using the necessary and sufficient conditions to compare a "career" and a "job," the barrier between the two words becomes even more clear. I'm going to start with "job," because it's a bit easier. A necessary condition for having a job is making money for some form of work. If you're working and not making money (or getting paid in some form), you don't have a job. A necessary condition for a career, according to the Google definition, is a "significant period of a person's life" and "opportunities for progress" exist. For me, it's the latter part of the definition that is the real necessary condition: if a person is not searching for opportunities to progress, then they do not have a career. The opportunities for progress show dedication towards a specific goal. If a person wants to become manager at McDonald's and that is their specific goal, then yes, why shouldn't McDonald's be a career? For me, at least, the necessary condition for having a career is moving towards a goal and dedicating oneself to that goal. If those goals don't exist, and that search for opportunities to progress doesn't exist, than the person doesn't really have a career--they just have a job.

  5. A job can be something that you do not need to be passionate about. A job can be a temporary task as described above, and can be a simple means to a simple end. It can be something that you hate doing, but need to get cash for a new computer or pay the bills for instance. A career involves passion. A career is not a simple means to a simple end, and instead is there to better yourself over the long run. Getting a job at mcdonalds may be a long career for someone, but that is not bettering themselves, and is certainly not a vocation. The main necessity for a career is that you have to be passionate about what you are working for. That is the only way to better yourself, and the field you are in.

  6. Cleopatra Acquaye-ReynoldsFebruary 11, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    The differences between a job and a career can be better described through colloquial usages. More and more recently, a job is constantly associated with the idea that it is part-time or a sort of “dead end” position. A career is thought to be a full-time affair that dolls out benefits like vacation and promotions. That is probably why students say they would like a career opposed to a job but only because of their incorrect, slightly glorified definition. I see a career as follows: If one is pursuing a job that takes up a significant portion of one’s life, this job, once being taken in to account the length of time invested in the endeavor, would eventually propel perks such as promotion and benefits. When combining the two original descriptive definitions, you have more of an insight as to what it is students are looking for when they graduate college.


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