30% of college grads will change career path due to COVID-19

A new study examined the pandemic's effect on higher learning, and also revealed that 30% of university students will take a gap year, and choose other alternatives, such as online courses, or travel.

30% of college grads will change career path due to COVID-19

Students throughout the US met the challenge of the quick switch to e-learning in March, when orders to reduce the spread of the coronavirus closed schools (an estimated 90% of schools worldwide shuttered as countries aimed to "flatten the curve"). For high school seniors, this meant a literal unceremonious final year, as graduations for high schools and universities switched to remote. It also meant no in-person proms or baccalaureates, and other traditional rites-of-passage. 

"A lot of statistics have shown pure doom-and-gloom for college graduates, but our recent study showed that many are finding the silver lining," said Caleb Kauffman, CEO and founder of RemoteInternships.com, which conducted the study. RemoteInternships.com is powered by CareerUp, a global internship platform. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the company pivoted to focus on RemoteInternships.com to meet the surging demand of both candidates and companies.

Of the 2,000 respondents to the study, 72.9% were enrolled in a college or university this (spring) semester, and 27.1% were not.

When asked if COVID-19 impacted plans to obtain a college degree, 61.6% cited no impact, and 34.6% said they weren't sure. The remaining 3.8% of students decided to no longer complete their degrees because of the coronavirus' impact. 

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Mind the gap?

The result of this unprecedented change: Students are rethinking their futures, both in the short term and the long haul. According to the study, 72% said they haven't considered changing their career path or major because of COVID-19, but 28% of students, even those who were initially solid regarding their choice of major, are seriously considering a career change/path.

"We are happy to see that many students are taking their career development into their own hands by leveraging new forms of education and professional development," Kauffman said. "For example, alternative forms of online learning are twice as popular as university classes this summer."

Forty-one-percent of students who planned a career in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are changing their career path. Remoteinternships.com asserts, "Perhaps they want to go into more lucrative industries?"

For the short-term, 22.6% of students are opting for a gap year or sabbatical, either deferring  school (their current university or one they're entering as freshman), or forgoing school for the time being. Of those looking to take a year off traditional college, 54.5% said they'll get a job, 26.1% say they'll take online courses, 23.2% plan to travel, 20.1% aren't sure yet, 10.9% replied "other," 9% said they'll improve skills in programming, 8.3% want to find an internship, and 5.4% will work for their family's business. 

How students really feel about telecommuting

But 73% of students said they would not take a gap year, and continue with their studies as expected, even if it means the classes will be remote.

Students were almost equally divided in their response to the query, "how would you feel if your first job was remote?" And 38.4% said they'd feel neutral about it, 38.1% said they "would like I am missing out," and 23.4% said they would prefer it.

The office intern

Summer internships are often standard for university students, but the study showed 38.4% of students did not plan on a summer internship, and 37.9% said their internship had been canceled, and haven't found a replacement, and another 14.4% said their summer internship was still on, but would be remote.

"We have also seen a renewed interest in remote internships and work experience with these being the two most popular plans for the 22.6% of students considering a gap year," Kauffman said.

Gears and Internship Mechanism

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Internship alternatives

Students who don't plan on completing an internship relayed their plans to:

  • Find a job (54.5%)

  • Complete other types of online learning (39.7%)

  • Take summer courses at my university (22.5%)

  • Do something else (16.2%)

  • Travel or do a road trip (13%)

  • Work for my family's business (6.9%)

Students will be taking online classes this summer (64%), but 41% of them are not choosing to do so at their own university. 

As for COVID-19's impact on the value of an internship, 46.21% affirmed that internships have become more valuable, 32.8% cite no change, and 21.1% consider internships devalued because of the pandemic.


For those taking a gap year or for the recent grads, getting a job remains critical: 48.1% said  the majority of workers will return to the office later this year, 18% said this summer, 15.7% said when a vaccine becomes available, 17.2% cite next year, and the remaining responded with "never." 

As for when universities will return to normal on-campus teaching, 39% of respondents said later this year, 33.6% said next year, 20.1% said when there's a vaccine, with the remaining options, "this summer" and "never" garnering the least amount of responses.

This recent "rolling survey" asked 2,000 students (85% in the US) about COVID-19's impact on their future.

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto