Are Higher Paying Jobs More Satisfying?

Topic(s): job satisfaction
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior 
Article: The relationship between pay and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis of the literature
Authors: T.A. Judge, R.F. Piccolo, N.P. Podsakoff, J.C. Shaw, B.L. Rich
Reviewed by: Benjamin Granger

In an extensive meta-analysis, or statistical combination of many past studies, researchers (Judge et al., 2010) investigated whether employees find higher paying jobs more satisfying. While their results suggest that within organizations, higher pay is associated with higher job satisfaction, the relationship was not very strong.

Unsurprisingly, the results also suggest that pay level is more strongly related to employees’ satisfaction with the pay component of the job, compared to satisfaction with the job overall. Moreover, the fairly weak relationships between pay level and job satisfaction were consistent across several countries (i.e. U.S., Great Britain, India, Australia, and Taiwan).


This study suggests that while increased pay is associated with increased satisfaction with one’s pay and job, these relationships are not as strong as we might assume. If employees truly want satisfying work, then searching for the best paying job is probably not the way to go. The authors note that attractive leadership characteristics and the actual job are likely better predictors of job satisfaction than pay level.

While these results also suggest that increasing pay alone is probably not the best way to improve employees’ attitudes, the researchers warn that this does not mean that pay is without motivational power. Nevertheless, being a pay leader in the industry is unlikely to boost organization-wide satisfaction, as employees are known to compare themselves to others and there is evidence that pay is satisfying only to the extent that it is higher than comparable others, such as coworkers.


Judge, T.A., Piccolo, R.F., Podsakoff, N.P., Shaw, J.C., & Rich, B.L. (2010). The relationship between pay and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis of the literature. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77, 157-167.