Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Passion vs Career: The Great Debate

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

As college students, we are constantly pressured by the looming careers and futures ahead of us. We repeatedly find ourselves in existential crises, asking questions like, “What am I meant to do?” and “What is my calling?” This dilemma is extremely common among young adults, and it becomes more difficult to decide our life paths as we grow older. Whether we hear it from our family, friends, or educators, there is often a debate between pursuing a more practical, functional career or pursuing one we desire and are extremely passionate about. There are pros and cons to both, but we should use this time, as we’re figuring things out, to examine our own lives and find out what fits best for us.

So which path is the best? First, let’s define the two:

Definitions: Career vs Passion

Google defines the word career as: “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” The word differs from other similar words like job, occupation, and employment because it signifies notable growth within a profession over time. A career requires years or decades of training to develop and symbolizes one’s permanent role in life, rather than simply a paid form of work.

A passion can be defined as, “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.” Passions are emotional, compelling, and usually things people devote their time and effort to, out of pure enjoyment. Passions encompass a variety of activities, objects, or concepts that people feel very strongly towards. Whether it involves the arts, athletics, an academic subject, nature, or food, passion can be found anywhere.

There are ways to incorporate elements of both passion and career in our futures. In fact, the two likely go hand-in-hand for many, however, we must be aware of our skills and priorities in life. Some people may have a passion that they are not very skilled at, therefore it might not make the best career. Others may get lucky and have their passion be the perfect career for them. Some careers may not provide as much flexibility as others, so people have to prioritize what things are most valuable to them in their future lives. Although the two may be complementary, as college students, we have to think about these decisions soon. So, it is important to figure out what seems right for you.

Pursuing Your Passion

There is a common phrase that if you pursue your passion, you will never have to work a day in your life, because you will be truly enjoying it. If your passion happens to be your career, it’s barely “working” if you love what you do. Developing a career in something you’re passionate about increases your confidence, allowing you to feel happier and more satisfied in your day-to-day life.

For instance, if I pursued drumming, one of my strongest passions, as a career goal, I would be incredibly confident in myself because my hard work and dedication would have paid off. Being able to make a living off of something you absolutely love definitely increases a sense of pride and overall life satisfaction.

By choosing a profession that aligns with your passions, you will also be more self-motivated for improvement. If you decided to be in a career in which you did not have the same excitement and devotion, you might be much less inclined to keep pushing yourself to grow. Having a career where you’re truly doing what you want on a daily basis is surely a self-motivating force and, in the long run, you can improve your skills in the field along the way. Not only could this lead to a higher salary, but it could also contribute to your reputation in the field. A great reputation is crucial for any workplace, and if you stay in a profession for a long period of time, your contacts expand and your reputation only grows. It may take longer to reach a profitable level, especially if your chosen passions revolve around traditionally “impractical” careers, but if you work hard enough, success and earnings will follow and you’ll live a more fulfilling life.

Keeping Passion and Career Separate

One may find many benefits in keeping their passions and career separate. The phrase of “not having to work a day in your life” may have its drawbacks; any job or career is going to have its major stressors, setbacks, and issues that may impact a person’s enjoyment. By going to work on a daily basis, for years on end, this career that evolved from a passion can become mundane, not making it something you truly relish. If you keep your passions separate, time spent on these purely joyful and relaxing activities becomes more valuable. For some, it may be wise to create a boundary between what you do for work on a daily basis and what you love doing in your free time for entertainment.

This is not to say, however, that you should pursue a boring career that just brings in money. When people decide to set passions aside as hobbies, they should still pursue a career that they like, especially one that involves their strongest skills. I, for example, have a strong passion for music and the arts, but enjoy studying communication and professional writing in my academics. I could choose a career that plays to my academic strengths and provides the flexibility to have time for my creative passions on the side. 

Keeping passion and career separate, forces you to think about what to prioritize most in life. Some jobs may have more or less resources, ability for time management, and surely have varying salaries. It’s up to us and what we value the most when deciding these next steps in our lives.

My Advice

There are benefits and tradeoffs for pursuing your passions as a career vs. keeping them separate. Since this existential crisis is incredibly nuanced, there is no one right answer for how you should go about your future path in life. Some passions may be more practical and flexible than others. Everyone’s path is different.

I encourage you to examine yourself and how you see your life in the future, and figure out what you prioritize most. What kind of family goals, relationship goals, and financial goals do you desire? Where would you ideally like to live and how much free time would you like to have? There are numerous questions to consider, and they are not meant to stress you out, but to make you feel more comfortable with handling this difficult time in our lives. Of course, things may change later on, but that’s for us to decide at that time. 

If your career path just so happens to be your life passion, then lucky you! But if you’re like me, and you’re unsure, or you feel that it may be wise to pursue something else, take the time to reflect on your life’s goals and needs. Everything will work out just as it’s supposed to. 

Nina Breister is the Co-Campus Coordinator and Head of PR for UCSB's chapter of Her Campus. She is a fourth-year Communication major pursuing the Professional Writing minor & TMP certificate. Originally from San Diego, Nina adores the warm weather and has grown to love Santa Barbara as her second home. In her free time, she enjoys journaling, going to the beach, playing the drums, and dancing.