Money overtakes mental health as top concern among young people

June, 2023

Job and study choices change as cost of living crisis bites

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.

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.

Forty-one per cent 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.

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 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, 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%.

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

Media enquiries

Clare Tregaskis, Prospects and Jisc Student Services,, 07792 429227.

About Prospects Early Careers Survey

Prospects Early Careers Survey is an annual poll of students and graduates to find out about their career plans and their experiences over the previous 12 months. For the 2023 edition, students and graduates were surveyed during February and March 2023. The analysis is based on 4,483 responses.

About Prospects

Prospects has worked at the heart of higher education for nearly 50 years. Part of Jisc Student Services, the directorate collaborates with government, universities and employers to improve student and graduate career outcomes through information, guidance and opportunities. It includes, which is visited by 2.1 million students and graduates each month, Prospects Luminate and the UK's official postgraduate course database. Jisc Student Services also manages Prospects Hedd degree verification and fraud services.

About Jisc 

Jisc's vision is for the UK to be a world leader in technology for education and research. It owns and operates the super-fast national research and education network, Janet, with built-in cyber security protection.  Jisc also provides technology solutions for members (colleges, universities and research centres) and customers (public sector bodies), helps members save time and money by negotiating sector-wide deals and provides advice and practical assistance on digital technology. Jisc is funded by the UK higher and further education and research funding bodies and member institutions. 

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