Extrinsic and Intrinsic Rewards

Intrinsic and extrinsic rewards should both be considered when choosing a career or deciding to accept a job offer, but special importance should be placed on intrinsic rewards.  Intrinsic rewards appeal to one’s values, interests and personality.  An intrinsically rewarding job will be satisfying in its own right.  Career tests can help identify those careers that will provide the best inherent rewards.

Some intrinsic rewards:

  • Creativity expression– Creativity isn’t just for artists. Many professions require creativity, whether it’s coming up with new marketing campaign or developing an interesting lesson plan.
  • Autonomy – A sense of autonomy or independence is important for most employees, but certain careers allow for more freedom than others.
  • Social interaction – For a certain percentage of the population, social interaction is an essential part of daily life. For those individuals, being around other people may be energizing and boost performance.


While initial career planning usually involves identification of a career that offers intrinsic rewards,  the job search involves looking for companies and positions that offer the right combination of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  Extrinsic rewards include salary, awards, job title, benefits, perks, and verbal praise.  Although these factors are important, relying only on extrinsic rewards will eventually lead to dissatisfaction because (beyond a certain level) the effects of these rewards only last for a short time.

How do you find a career that offers the right combination of rewards?  First, take career assessments to determine where to focus your job search.  Then, be realistic about what you really need in terms of income and benefits.  A large salary and fancy title probably won’t make a high stress, unfulfilling job worth it.  Research companies on sites like Glassdoor.com to learn about work environment, company culture, pay and other factors.  If you find a job that offers plenty of intrinsic rewards, you’ll need less rewards from external sources.