Half of young people are changing careers as ‘money’ overtakes mental health as their biggest concern, according to an annual survey by Prospects at Jisc, home of the largest graduate careers website. 

For the last two years, respondents to Prospects’ annual Early Careers Survey of around 5,000 students and graduates said mental health and motivation were their biggest challenges as they recovered from the impact of the pandemic.  

Cost of living driving career choices

While these issues haven’t gone away, the cost-of-living crisis means money worries have overtaken everything else to become the top concern, followed by balancing commitments. 

The crisis is having more impact on job, study and future career plans than Covid-19. Prospects’ 2021 survey found that 27% of young people had changed their career plans due to the pandemic. This year half of those surveyed said they have switched plans, with two fifths putting this down to the cost-of-living crisis.  

Some respondents have already moved industry or profession while others are reconsidering their options to prioritise salary, “The issues with the cost-of-living crisis made me realise that I needed to apply for jobs that paid more”.  

Among job hunters, the survey found that salary has jumped up the priority list to second place after work/life balance.  

10% of graduates expect starting salary of £40,000+

41% of university finalists expect a salary of more than £30,000 on graduation despite HESA data reporting just over £24,000 as the average starting salary. More than one in ten finalists said they anticipate earning more than £40,000.  

Targetjobs.co.uk looked for the highest paid graduate tech job for 2022 graduates and found both TPP’s software development and technical engineering roles paid £50,000 per year. However, that was the exception rather than the rule. The advertised salary for an NHS Digital graduate was half that at £24,907. Here’s their list of graduate and more experienced IT salaries.

Working side hustles to boost income continues to be a trend among a fifth of young people, particularly remote or hybrid workers. Common side hustles are selling handmade art and crafts or old clothes, tutoring, creating content, renting out rooms and photography.  

Some respondents said they are relying on side hustles to support themselves during the cost-of-living crisis, “My primary occupation gives me a relatively low salary, and I know the workplace cannot afford to increase my pay at the moment. This [side hustle] allows me to meet my bills while still keeping my dream job.”  

Unsurprisingly, fewer young people are quitting their jobs this year. The survey found a third of 2022 graduates are already planning on leaving their employer compared to 40% the previous year. Nearly a fifth (17%) gave salary as their main reason for leaving.  

Money worries are changing university plans

Money worries are also impacting study plans with some respondents who were previously planning on going to university now deciding against it for financial reasons or they had changed courses. Cost is the biggest concern among respondents planning to study a degree. 

One respondent said, “I was going to quit my job and study a Masters but can no longer afford it, so I am looking to find a work and study opportunity, or take evening classes while working a less demanding job to pay for it.” 

Analysing more than 50,000 searches for postgraduate courses on Prospects.ac.uk, the UK’s biggest graduate careers website, more people are looking at subjects commonly associated with higher-paying, private sector jobs. For example, accounting, IT, cyber security and property studies are all up around 15%, while courses associated with lower-paying, public sector jobs such as PCGE, nursing and social work are all down around 20%.

Money worries affecting individuals and their futures

Chris Rea, a careers expert for Prospects at Jisc said: “The cost-of-living crisis means that money is now the number one concern for students and graduates. It is driving important decisions that will affect future career paths. It’s vital young people seek advice from careers experts before making hasty decisions that they may regret further down the line. 

As a result of the cost-of-living crisis we may see more shortages in lower paid sectors and fewer entrances to university, particular postgraduate courses. The labour market is relentlessly tight and employers will need to be competitive with their salaries to win and retain the best talent.”

Career advice as well as the Job Match online career planning tool can be found at prospects.ac.uk