Does Being Single Give Your Career A Leg Up?


“Who needs marriage?” asks a recent cover of Time.

The reporter is examining the results of a joint Time magazine/Pew Research Center poll “exploring the contours of modern marriage and the new American family, posing questions about what people want and expect out of marriage and family life, why they enter into committed relationships and what they gain from them.”

In one part of the poll, respondents were asked about six objectives and whether marriage makes them easier or harder. They said marriage made each one easier (raising a family, having a fulfilling sex life, being financially secure, finding happiness and having social status) except one, getting ahead in a career.

Is this perception accurate?

Does marriage make it easier or harder to get ahead in your career?

Thinking about my own life, I can see how being single has made my work both easier and more challenging.

Since graduating from college, I have made choices to take jobs based mostly on where I felt called to go and what I felt called to do. I would take the advice of friends or considerations about my family into account, but ultimately the decision was up to me.

I prayed a lot about my decisions, but I did not have to ask a partner what he wanted for his life or what he might need from me. Nor did together we have to ask what was best for our family. I have met some amazing people and done some important things that I might not have been able to do as a married person

On the other hand, I have come to admire – and in some of my weaker moments, envy – the vow of stability. This promise has long been acknowledged as part of the monastic life, but I believe it is paralleled in the vocation to marriage. While you do not have as much freedom in one sense to make choice on one’s own, there is a freedom that comes from being grounded in a particular place and with a particular person or community that can allow for greater imagination by curtailing the paralysis of too many choices.

My life may be atypical, considering that I describe my work not as much as a career than it is a vocation to lay ministry. So I would be curious to hear what other people think about this question:

Does single life make pursuing a career easier than if you were married? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

No offense to Time magazine, but I think the more interesting question to ask is: What career, vocation or way of life will make it easier for me to be less selfish?



  1. Joan-461057 June 2, 2013 Reply

    Having had a career while single and while married, I came to this conclusion: Career-wise being single is better for women and worse for men. Women are far more burdened by the “work: of marriage than men are, and men are less able to handle the social “work” of careers without a wife. So if your career is the priority and you are a woman, stay single until you get where you want to be, but if you are a man, find a wife at once! Now I’m waiting for someone to do a study to see if my theory is fact.

    • Brendan-974366 June 3, 2013 Reply

      That sounds pretty accurate to me Joan! I’m a 25 year old male, and while I am definitely social, I feel that there are certain times when it would have been easier to “get ahead” in my job, whether on a project or asking for advice on how to handle certain conflicts.

      As a matter of fact, there is either a book or an article written about 2 decades ago that presented a study done on some of the top CEOs of the country. Of all of the males, about 95% of them stated that having a strong, compassionate and helping wife was a huge help to their success.

      So it looks like I need to get on the ball! Haha

  2. Gail-119023 December 4, 2010 Reply

    Thank you for this article. It makes a lot of really great points. When I think about the dynamic between my career (which really is a vocation for me) and my single status, I often wonder this very same question. I cannot wait to be married and there is no doubt that a Catholic marriage will impact my work in positive ways. I whole heartedly agree with the notion of freedom in stability and commitment to one’s family. But, in ministry in particular, I see my single state as a blessing in many ways. It allows me to commit more fully to the people I serve through my job. As a single person, I have way fewer commitments and expectations put upon me then my co-worker who is a newlywed. I am able to be much more present to my students and more available. I really try to take advantage of the extra time and energy that I am able to commit to my students now. In many ways, being single has challenged me to be more selfless and have more of a servants heart!

  3. Ikedi-611218 December 4, 2010 Reply

    I see my career as me just doing something I’m naturally good at and getting paid for it along the way. I live my life in complete service to our Eucharistic Lord. The greatest ways to serve our Eucharistic Lord is through the Sacrament of Matrimony or the Sacrament of Holy Orders. There’s no Sacrament of Career. The sole point of my career will be to provide financial means to sustain an excellent marriage and an excellent family and just simply doing what I enjoy doing in an attitude of service. I would do what I do for free, but I obviously need money to continue doing what our Lord wills from me.

    To me, the single life is an intermediary point so I can discover myself. Remaining single for too long will have terrible effects. Who am I truly working for? What is it I’m truly doing? If I’m not doing what I’m doing for the betterment of other people then I am thoroughly wasting my time and being a resource hog.

  4. Anna-635092 December 4, 2010 Reply

    Excellent insights on subject by author, Elizabeth Moriarity (sp.?). I found this article to be interesting, and thought provocative. Married earily this is a dilemna I’ve not only not experienced, but never pondered nor even considered the problem & it’s previlancy. Thank you.

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