Education is often described as one of the most important investments in human capital. Previous research has shown how greater education can be associated with positive outcomes like more attractive job opportunities, but also with negative outcomes like lower organizational commitment. The relationship between education and job satisfaction is one that requires further exploration.
EDUCATION, STRESS, AND JOB SATISFACTION
New research (Solomon et al., 2022) explores the relationship between education and job satisfaction with two studies. In the first study, the researchers conduct a meta-analysis (or statistical combination of many past studies) that included data from 74 different samples and over 100,000 individual participants. The results of the meta-analysis reveal that, overall, there is practically no relationship between education and job satisfaction.
However, in the second study, the researchers explore unique pathways in which education may actually have a positive or negative relationship with job satisfaction. In particular, they found that people with higher levels of education were more likely to have greater job resources (income, job autonomy, and job variety), which in turn were related to lower levels of job stress and higher levels of job satisfaction. However, people with higher levels of education were also more likely to have greater job demands like longer work hours, as well as increased pressure, intensity, and urgency – these in turn were associated with higher job stress and lower job satisfaction.
Additionally, the researchers found that the association between higher levels of education and lower job satisfaction was more pronounced for females than males. This same phenomenon was less pronounced for self-employed people compared to those who were not self-employed.
The results of this study show that having greater education is associated with trade-offs, such that the positive effects of incurring more job resources are largely offset by also incurring more job demands. As a practical application of these findings, the researchers suggest that leaders should try to better manage the greater job demands that their highly educated employees face. For example, organizations could stop incentivizing working excessive hours. This could help prevent inadvertently causing the extra job stress that hurts job satisfaction.
Solomon, B. C., Nikolaev, B. N., & Shepherd, D. A. (2022). Does educational attainment promote job satisfaction? The bittersweet trade-offs between job resources, demands, and stress. Journal of Applied Psychology, 107(7), 1227–1241.