Want to be happy? This is the salary you need

More money usually means greater happiness - but only up to a certain point. One study shows that earning a certain magic number each year is the key to satisfaction. However, happiness-wise, once you go beyond that level, any extra cash coming your way really doesn’t make that much difference.

Here’s a closer look at the study findings, and at how a career in cyber security can be a great option for helping you find your salary sweet spot.

The research: background

It has long been known that money is strongly associated with subjective well-being: i.e. if you have lots of it, you’re generally more likely to be happy.

So does this mean theoretically that Jeff Bezos (net wealth $212.4b) should be four times happier than Michael Bloomberg (net worth $59b)? What’s much less clear is whether there is an eventual ceiling to the positive effects of money. In other words, is there a level where increases in income no longer bring about meaningful benefits in happiness (i.e. income satiation)?

This is what researchers from Purdue University and the University of Virginia wanted to examine. The team carried out its research using the Gallup World Poll, a survey sample based on data from more than 1.7m people in 164 countries.


The researchers looked at two key elements of happiness. These were emotional well being (i.e. the quality of emotions experienced in everyday life), as well as life evaluation ( a person's thoughts towards their life when they reflect upon it).

To examine these, the team analysed the answers Gallup respondents had provided to questions relating to life satisfaction, alongside information relating to their purchasing power.

To gauge their overall happiness, these findings were compared to the individuals’ yearly incomes.


  • There is a "satiation point" when it comes to happiness. ​This is the point at which greater household income is not associated with greater happiness. Once you reach the satiation point, any extra income tends to stop having an effect on both subjective well-being (SWB) and life evaluation (LE).
  • Once you’ve tipped over the satiation point, extra income may even reduce your happiness levels. This could be down to the fact that the additional time and effort needed to accumulate extra cash outweighs the reward.
  • Globally, the ideal annual income for well-being is $70,000. For life evaluation, the ideal income is $95,000. These figures are for individuals.
  • The salary satiation point varies from region to region. Australia and New Zealand had the highest income satiation ($125,000). Latin America and the Caribbean had the lowest ($35,000). For northern America, it was $105,000 and for Southeast Asia it was $70,000. You can view the full regional differences here.

Cyber security careers: for happiness, follow the money…

We might be slightly biased, but if you want to follow a career path that unlocks happiness-inducing levels of income, the evidence in favor of cyber security is actually very strong.


Futurelearn gives the following average cyber security salaries for a range of different countries: US: $US75,000-120,000, UK: £50,000-80,000, Canada: $C80,000-150,000, Australia: $A75,000-135,000. Data from Indeed suggests that US penetration testers make around $122,000 per year, $117,000 for network security engineers, and $89,000 for information security analysts.

We’re also big fans of Andrew Luke’s Infosec Income Questionnaire on Twitter, an anonymous survey where participants are invited to share details of their salary. This suggests an average infosec salary across the globe of $158,213. You can read more about it on our blog, here.

Whichever studies you look at however, it’s pretty clear that cyber security offers plenty of scope to achieve your happiness target.


Let’s say you’re a salesperson. Your salary and bonus for this month puts you well within the theoretical happiness zone. But what happens next quarter? In some roles, there’s plenty of earnings potential, but real-life income can fluctuate widely, depending on factors which are outside your control.

From a well-being perspective, job security is one of the best things about cyber security. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, this is one of the most in-demand sectors out there, and it’s pretty much immune to the threat of automation. If your cyber security skills are strong and you’re good at your job, employers will want you month after month, year after year.

A paycheck with a purpose

Even with a great salary, the same-old grind day after day can quickly sap your happiness. Thankfully, cyber security isn’t like that. New threats are emerging all the time. There are countless ways to develop your skills, career sub-routes to explore, and ways to add value to the organizations you work for. If you’re drawn to new challenges, opportunities and a healthy salary to boot, this is definitely the right place to be. Join the VIP membership to the StationX Cyber Security school. 

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  • Nathan House

    Nathan House is the founder and CEO of StationX. He has over 25 years of experience in cyber security, where he has advised some of the largest companies in the world. Nathan is the author of the popular "The Complete Cyber Security Course", which has been taken by over half a million students in 195 countries. He is the winner of the AI "Cyber Security Educator of the Year 2020" award and finalist for Influencer of the year 2022.

  • Mark Anthony says:

    Thank you for the productive information.

  • Avinash says:

    Hi Nathan, Thanks for sharing such a great and informative post here.

  • Thomas Kelly says:

    Awesome tip

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