The recommended career path is stay somewhat flexible. Employment need change over time, in the 80's early 90's there was very little work for engineers in Australia. Your qualifications are only a portion of you as an employee. All qualifications end up out of date and outclassed. But hopefully by then you have the sort of work experience that goes beyond your qualification. Everyone has a degree these days, you will need more than that to score a top class job. Research is something you do for the love or for your reputation. You don't do it for the $'s (unless you can bring it to market/patent yourself). Even nobel prize winners don't rake in big cash, but they do get to research (or do) pretty much what ever they want. As soon as the mining boom finishes (and it will happen), what is going to happen to all the mining engineers and geophysicists? They will have to go find jobs doing other stuff.