53% of college students plan to leave their current job after graduation

Employers will need to contend with valued workers moving on, with many current employees planning to find new jobs after they receive a degree.

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There's certainly plenty for employers and employees to worry about during the current worldwide pandemic. Bosses' concern can center around the economy, the market, and the specific impact on their business. They may wonder how long they can keep their employees working, while those employees are anxious about how long they'll have a job. 

Now, a survey from the job search and expert network The Ladders conducted earlier this year reveals another source of worry: 53% of university students plan to leave their current jobs after they graduate. Respondents were both part- (34.7%) and full-time (65%) employees who were pursuing a degree. 

While there were some polled who were students because their job required it (4.6%), the majority of professionals were pursuing the most popular education program—a bachelor's degree (47.5%). 

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Whether they plan to return to their home state, or look for a position better suited to their resume, or find a job that's degree-related, it will mean leaving their current situation. 

And the issue becomes twofold: The employer is saddled with finding a replacement who might need to be trained, and the recent grad will enter the competitive job market and all of the inherent challenges.

But, according to The Ladders survey, those completing a bachelor's degree program want to make $85,000 after graduation, which, in fact, places them well above the median household income. In reality, the national average for a four-year degree-holder is $65,000 (just above the country's median household income).

Many recent graduates decide to go for an advanced degree. Economic mobility inspires professional pursuits, and it begins with earning a bachelor's degree, and for some, it's not enough—yet. And the big motivator is, unsurprisingly, money (62.8%). 

The second biggest motivator to continue education is for career advancement (50.1%).

Other factors that send employees back to school include:

  • To finish a degree previously started, 26.6%

  • Unsatisfied with current job, 25.6%

  • To leave current field for another, 22.9%

  • To keep up-to-date on trends/advances in current field, 17.2%

  • Required for current position, 13.5%

  • Fun/leisure, 10.7%

  • Unable to find job in desired field, 10.5%

  • Other, 2.6%

  • Unsure, 1.6%

Those who decide to pursue a master's degree make about $53,000, but armed with a master's, they expect to make $97,000. Even so, the national average for those with master's degrees is $15,000 less than that anticipated salary. 

Here's the percentage breakdown of those planning to leave their current employer upon degree completion by degree sought (and this reflects those who start with a high school degree, and are employed while pursuing a degree):

  • Associate degree, 57%

  • Bachelor's degree 59.4%

  • Master's degree 39.8%

Nearly a third of employees receiving financial assistance from their employer for educational costs still said they'd leave the company when they finish their degree.

Professionals who complete an associate degree program can expect to make $45,000, the current national average for those with an AA, but those in the pursuit of the two-year AA while working were earning $29,000 (but expected to make $57,000, despite the aforementioned actual $45,000 national average). 

With money as a motivator, employees who plan to leave their current position for "something better/different," should review what's realistic before they leave their current position—and might also consider the financial contribution that employer has made (39%) to their education. 

Think, too, of the employer who had to deal with their student-worker, who skipped work, or left early to finish school assignments (54.4%), or looked the other way when 73% worked on school assignments while on the clock, or the 77.2% who changed their work schedule to accommodate coursework.  

"Turnover is inevitable at any company, but for employers to retain top talent, they need to understand why employees are leaving," said Marc Cenedella, The Ladders founder & CEO. "The No. 1 reason people were seeking advanced degrees was for more money, and more than 50% wanted to advance in their industry, while less than a quarter wanted to change industries."

Cenedella added: "That tells us employers and employees should be communicating more about what degree-seeking employees are really looking forward to, and what opportunities could exist for them at their current employers. There may be creative opportunities for degree-seeking employees to make more money while getting to use their new degrees with their current employers, but these conversations might not be happening. If employers and employees are more communicative about an employees underlying desire to find new opportunities, it might save everyone the headache." 

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By N.F. Mendoza

N.F. Mendoza is a writer at TechRepublic and based in Los Angeles. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Cinema Critical Studies and a Master's of Professional Writing, both from USC. Nadine has more than 20 years experience as a journalist coveri...