Money problems overtake mental health concerns among students – survey

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The cost-of-living crisis is having an even bigger impact on graduates’ career plans than the pandemic, research suggests, with young people now more concerned about money problems than their mental health.

For the last two years, early careers surveys by Prospects at education technology organisation Jisc have revealed that students and graduates ranked their mental health and motivation levels as their biggest worries.

This year’s survey of around 5,000 young people found that money is now the biggest concern, followed by “balancing commitments”.

Mental health was the third biggest concern reported, with “keeping motivated” coming fourth.

When the survey was done in 2021, just over a quarter (27%) of respondents said they had changed their career plans due to the pandemic.

Some respondents have already moved into a completely different industry or profession, while others are reconsidering their options in order to prioritise their salaries, with the financial crisis making some students realise that they need to apply for jobs that pay more.

A third of 2022 graduates said they were already planning to quit their jobs, as compared with 40% of graduates in the year before. Nearly a fifth gave their salary as the reason for their decision.

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, particularly 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.”

Of those asked, 41% said they expected to earn more than £30,000 a year in their first job after graduating, despite the average starting salary being around £24,000.

More than one in 10 said that they expected to earn at least £40,000.

One in five young people also claimed to be working “side hustles” in order to support themselves or follow their preferred career paths.

Students and graduates reported selling arts and crafts or old clothes, or providing tutoring and photography services as ways of making more money.

The cost-of-living crisis has also deterred many from taking on further study, with postgraduate degrees becoming increasingly unaffordable and cost being the biggest concern among respondents hoping to stay at or return to university.

A total of 4,483 people were surveyed in February and March. The majority of respondents were in employment or studying at university, but the survey also included school and sixth form pupils as well as apprentices and jobseekers.

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