June 19, 2018

The Factor That Drives Job Hopping More Than Any Other: Education


Few can hope to succeed over the long haul with just a high school education. And while college isn’t necessarily the best choice for everyone, many students have internalized the message that it’s the only option, passing up valuable vocational training opportunities as a result.

But no matter what educational path your pursue, you’ll launch your career at some point. Once you’re there, you’ll be constantly thinking about your next move. And according to LiveCareer’s “2018 Job Hopping Report,” the choices you make during your career journey may be impacted strongly by your initial educational decisions.

Setting the Stage for Employees to Leave Before They Even Get Hired

For the report, LiveCareer used natural language processing to analyze several thousand resumes and job ads across 12 separate occupations accounting for a quarter of all US occupational categories.

By understanding the actual language job seekers and employers use to engage one another in the job market, LiveCareer hoped to determine what these parties say and mean when they discuss suitability for a job and whether this language is generally characterized more by agreement or disagreement. The greater the disagreement between job seekers and employers, the greater the likelihood of job hopping. This data was cross-referenced against the entire workforce to determine whether forces aside from education also contributed to a higher likelihood of job hopping.

The report found that education plays a much bigger role in job hopping than age or generation. In particular, the results showed that millennial workers tend to have higher levels of education than other age groups, and this more than any other factor drives their inclination to job hop.

The report also uncovered an alarmingly high number of workers whose educational qualifications are poorly matched to the occupations in which they currently work. These occupations are variously categorized as “professional” (e.g., software developer) and “nonprofessional” (e.g., food server), but what they all have in common are core job skills that transfer easily between employers. Consequently, workers hired for roles in these areas are likely to join the staff already overqualified or underpaid. The conditions for leaving are set on day one, and it is only a matter of time until the employee decides to go.

How Education Influences Job Hopping

Job hopping is more likely to occur in situations where workers are overqualified, underemployed, or underpaid at the time of hire. Let’s take a closer look at how education plays into all that and who is most affected:

More Highly Educated Workers Tend to Job Hop

The study found that employees whose highest level of education was high school stayed with their employers the longest, an average of 4.4 years. Workers with associate’s degrees held their jobs for an average of 4.1 years, while those with bachelor’s degrees stayed for the least amount of time, only 3.3 years.

Beyond that, the trend starts to reverse, as employees with master’s degrees stayed an average of 3.7 years per job.

Education Is Overemphasized in Nonprofessional Occupations

In all the occupations studied, there was at least some asymmetry between the importance job seekers placed on degrees/certifications and the amount of emphasis employers placed on these things in their job ads. The gap was the greatest in nonprofessional occupations where core skills are often gained on the job, including caregivers, cashiers, bartenders, and servers. In these occupations, job seekers listed higher education degrees on their resumes 36 percent more often than employers did in their job ads.

Blue-Collar Roles Are Especially Susceptible to Job Hopping

Twenty-four percent of job seekers applying for blue-collar jobs included associate’s degrees on their resumes, and 17.5 percent listed bachelor’s degrees. However, no blue-collar employers listed an associate’s degree as a requirement for employment in their job ads, while only 5 percent listed bachelor’s degrees. Overall, blue-collar job seekers were eight times more likely to include a higher education degree on their resumes than employers were to list it as a requirement in their job ads.

3 Tips for Job Seekers

Based on the results of the report, we can offer the following pieces of advice to job seekers:

  1. Downplay higher education achievements and professional credentials when applying for jobs where the required skills listed in the job ad could easily transfer to other employers — especially for nonprofessional roles. Doing so will lessen the perception that you are overqualified and therefore more likely to job hop.
  2. For job seekers in high-skilled professional roles (particularly registered nurses, accountants, teachers, and software developers), pay extra attention to any professional certifications and licenses included in the job ad. Recruiters and hiring managers often use them as criteria to make a first cut, so be sure to highlight exact matches in your resume.
  3. Carefully review job ads for any role that would interest you enough to apply. Keep an updated list of the skills and credentials employers absolutely require, and consider what steps you could take to include them on your resume. A degree may not be necessary to certify that you have the skills your next employer values most.

LiveCareer develops tools to help job seekers draft cover letters, prepare for interviews, and build targeted resumes via its resume builder and an extensive collection of resume templates.

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