Career vs. Job: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published November 5, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published November 5, 2020

When planning your professional goals, it's important to know the difference between a career and a job. Although you work both to earn money and support your lifestyle, both concepts aren't quite the same. With a career, you focus much more on your professional journey and achieving your goals. In this article, we discuss the key differences between a career vs. a job and share ways to advance your career.

Related: What Is Career Advancement? Definition and Examples

What is a career vs. a job?

A career is a lifelong professional journey. The purpose of a career is to support your lifestyle while also reaching your goals and ambitions. In order to reach such goals, you may need a certain level of training, education or experience. Your career path tends to build upon itself. When first starting out in your profession, you typically have an entry-level position. As time goes on, you progress in your career, getting more advanced opportunities.

A job is something you do to earn money. It is less focused on your future achievements and more on the present moment of supporting yourself. Most jobs are short-term experiences, where you work for an hourly wage. Rather than focusing on your professional development, you're more focused on getting a specific task done.

Related: How to Get an Entry-Level Job (Plus Top Entry-Level Jobs and Their Salaries)

12 differences between jobs and careers

Here are a dozen differences between jobs and careers:

  • Benefits: With a career, you often see full-time benefits. These may include paid-time-off, sick days, health insurance, dental coverage, retirement contributions and stock options. Jobs typically do not come with such benefits.

  • Hours: Those in careers tend to work a set of regular hours. Rather than clocking in and out of work, they are paid a set salary. With a job, your work tends to be more time-oriented. Your employer tends to pay you on an hourly basis. You may not have as predictable of a schedule, potentially working part-time hours.

  • Education: Careers tend to require more education and training than jobs do. With a career, you typically need some kind of degree or specialized skill set.

  • Intentions: The purpose of working a job is to earn money. Although your career is still how you support yourself, you also work toward reaching your goals and ambitions. When choosing a career, people tend to base this decision on their talents and passions.

  • Goals: Jobs focus on short-term goals while careers are centered around your long-term goals.

  • Turning one into the other: What starts off as a job can actually turn into a career. Think of your career as your long-term professional experience. Your jobs can make up a part of this experience.

  • Where you learn skills: While your main intent of a job is to make money, you can learn valuable skills that could translate into a career. For instance, when working as a barista, you learn how to follow directions and provide customer service. These skills are helpful for a wide variety of long-term careers.

  • Hierarchy: Those deeper into their careers tend to oversee people with jobs. For instance, a restaurant manager typically has a career in food and hospitality. They oversee waiters and waitresses who may not intend to turn foodservice into a career.

  • Types of work: Over the course of your career, you're likely to try a wide variety of responsibilities and tasks. With each individual job you have, you're likely to have fewer responsibilities compared to your entire career.

  • Work environments: Those with jobs vs. careers work in a variety of environments. Those with careers tend to get to know their teams better since they are in this role long-term.

  • Advancement: With a job, you may see a raise or promotion. This then can build into a career. As you get more experienced, you'll see even more job advancement opportunities.

  • Continued education: In order to progress in many careers, you need to continue your education. For example, many healthcare professionals must complete a certain amount of credits to keep their licenses.

Related: 11 Ways to Achieve Career Advancement

How to advance in your career

Follow these steps to progress in your career:

1. Find a mentor

A mentor is someone who can offer your support and guidance throughout your career. Pick someone with a job title you aspire to have one day. Ask them how they got to where they are today. Use this relationship to learn what you need to do to progress in a specific field or industry. While mentors can offer great advice, they can also lead you to exciting connections and career opportunities.

2. Ask for more responsibilities

When you feel like you need more of a challenge at work, ask your employer for additional tasks. This can show that you are ambitious and ready for the next level in your career. With more responsibilities often comes higher pay as well. When your employer sees that you can handle more challenging work, they may offer you a raise or a promotion. By taking these opportunities, you can continue to move up the company hierarchy and grow in your career.

Related: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

3. Continue your education

With a higher level of education comes many more job opportunities. Employers looking to fill senior-level positions often want people with an advanced degree or years of experience. If your employer ever offers to reimburse your education, definitely take advantage of this. Otherwise, there are plenty of online or night courses that you could do while working a full-time job.

4. Build your network

Make an effort to create connections everywhere you go. Sign up for networking events to meet other professionals in your field. After getting to know someone at one of these events, ask for their contact information. Following up with them to grab a cup of coffee or have a virtual meetup is a great way to build your relationship. The more people you get to know, the more you are increasing your chances of finding new career opportunities. You never know if someone can refer you to a role or even offer you a job.

Related: 10 Tips to Help You Network Like a Pro

Career vs. jobs tips

Follow these tips to excel in your jobs and progress in your career:

  • Use every job as an opportunity to learn. Even if you are only working to pay the bills, try to think of this job as a way to develop your skills. Many jobs teach valuable skills, such as hard work, communication, customer service and time management.

  • Figure out how your jobs can translate into a career. What started out as a job can grow into a career. You may find that you genuinely enjoy your job and want to find ways to make it into your full-time profession. For instance, if you start out as a restaurant host, you could progress to a waiter. Then, you can work your way up to a restaurant manager. Soon enough, you may find that you want to open your own restaurant.

  • Know when to move forward. If you find that your job isn't fulfilling your passions and ambitions, it may be time to make a change. This could include looking for a new job or going back to school to earn a degree. You're allowed to change your mind when you realize you have new professional goals.

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