Despite posting strong numbers this past month, ongoing tech layoffs, implications posed by the AI bot ChatGPT, and threats of a recession are causing many to rethink their professional goals.

To find out how these factors are affecting Generation Z’s plans for their education and careers, in February, surveyed 1,000 respondents between the ages of 16 and 26.

Key findings:

  • 82% of tech majors are concerned about layoffs; many are shifting career goals
  • One-third of Gen Z’ers plan to pursue a blue collar career
  • 1 in 6 may switch from a white collar career to a blue collar career, citing fears of AI’s effect on office jobs
  • Half believe AI will replace at least 1 in 5 white collar jobs over the next 5 years
  • 28% of those planning to go to college will pursue online education, with 43% going to community college or trade school

Due to AI, 1 in 6 Gen Z’ers May Switch to Blue Collar Careers

In addition to its effect on education, concerns have been raised about implications the AI chatbot ChatGPT may have on the white collar job market, potentially leading to mass job losses in the near future as the tasks of many office workers may be able to be automated.

“As a professional in the higher education industry for more than 10 years, I’ve witnessed technological advances shift the landscape of education with both costs and benefits,” says education advisor Blanca Villagomez. “I can’t say with full certainty that there will be renewed interest in blue collar careers as a result of the recent advances in AI. I continue to educate myself so that I can be better prepared to support my Gen Z students,” she explains.

“This correlation requires nuance and a deeper exploration of artificial intelligence. I do believe many career centers on college campuses are taking note of these advances and are being proactive in creating workshops and hosting advising sessions to unpack concerns with students,” she continues.

“Career exploration can be tedious and overwhelming, especially at a young age. I do recommend students seek guidance if they feel stuck and are negotiating their career options.”

Of the 48% of respondents who say they plan to ultimately pursue white collar careers, 62% say they are ‘somewhat’ (46%) or ‘highly’ (17%) concerned about ChatGPT’s potential impact on the white collar job market.

Of this group, 53% (16% of the total sample) even say that they are ‘somewhat’ (41%) or ‘highly’ (12%) likely to switch to a blue collar career due to ChatGPT’s potential effects on white collar workers, which is much less likely to affect skilled trades.

Additionally, nearly half of the total sample (45%) say they believe AI will replace 20% or more of white collar jobs within the next five years.

“What I can say is that the workforce has been adapting to technological advancements and will continue to do so,” continues Villagomez. “Earning a bachelor’s degree can contribute to a higher earning potential but not all careers require a bachelor’s degree,” she explains.

“Pursuing any type of education is ultimately a unique and personal decision. Every student must determine if it’s a worthwhile investment for them after considering their career goals, aspirations, and the job market they wish to enter,” she finishes.

Gen Z Tech Majors Worried About Layoffs; Many Changing Career Plans

Of the group of respondents who are either currently enrolled in college or plan to go within the next two years, technology was reported as the third most popular major with 14% of respondents, behind business with 24% and health and medicine at 19%.

The spate of high-profile layoffs within the tech industry seem to be causing many tech majors to rethink their ultimate career goals. Overall, 76% of intended tech majors say their career goals have ‘somewhat’ (56%) or ‘majorly’ (21%) changed within the past six months, and an overwhelming 82% say they are ‘somewhat’ (49%) or ‘highly’ (33%) concerned about the recent layoffs.

When asked what their ideal career would now consist of, write-in responses included:

  • “To be a successful welder”
  • “Firefighter”
  • “Construction”
  • “Business owner”
  • “Healthcare”
  • “CEO of a startup”
  • “The highest paying possible career choice”

“Tech majors are now facing much uncertainty about their job prospects post-graduation given the high-profile layoffs in the tech industry,” comments Villagomez. “This poses serious implications for their career development and well-being. I do believe it will be challenging for some new graduates to break into the tech industry this year.”

“Even experienced tech professionals are struggling to attain jobs now. However, I don’t believe that students need to necessarily pivot their career goals and avoid tech altogether. The current market reminds me of the 2008 financial crisis and how challenging it was back then. It will shift eventually–we just don’t know the exact time frame,” she explains.

Many Gen Z’ers Want to Start Their Own Business

Gen Z also appears to be possessed with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, as 24% of those currently enrolled in college or planning to go within the next two years reported business as their intended major and many said their ultimate career goal was to be their own boss.

When business majors were asked to describe their ideal career, respondents wrote in answers such as:

  • “To be my own boss”
  • “Making my own business and growing it”
  • “To have a business and make my kids and wife happy”
  • “CEO of an independently owned company”
  • “To be an entrepreneur”
  • “To own my own cookie business”

Blue Collar Careers Can Give Gen Z an Advantage in the Job Market

Despite the narrative that Gen Z is averse to working blue collar jobs, our survey found that 32% intend to ultimately work in a blue collar field. This may prove to be a wise decision, as experts advise that refocusing on high-value trades can be what gives Gen Z a competitive advantage in the current job market.

“It is important to stay aware of the changing market and tailor your job search accordingly,” says Villagomez. “This process will require strategy, creativity, and persistence. To stay proactive, I recommend students and recent grads diversify their resumes with projects, internships, and any other hands-on opportunities that can enhance their skills.”

“Optimizing professional networks and support groups can also be beneficial. There are many online blogs and online communities that students can subscribe to now to help them gain insight into the best practices for gaining experience if their resumes need more work,” she notes.

1 in 5 Say a College Degree Isn’t Worth It

It’s no secret that many people these days are questioning the value of a traditional college education as tuition becomes more and more unaffordable, and many Gen Z respondents seem to agree.

Of the 32% who say they are ‘somewhat’ (15%) or ‘highly’ (18%) unlikely to go to college within the next two years, 40% say it is because college is too expensive, and 21% say a college degree isn’t worth it.

“While there are many benefits, every job market determines the value of degrees differently,” says Villagomez. “Some degrees carry more weight than others. Therefore, I recommend students conduct thorough research on their job prospects, gain insider knowledge through networking, and understand how to make a decision through the support of a career counselor.”

More Than 1 in 4 Turning to Online Education vs. Traditional College

Of the respondents we surveyed who are not currently in college, two-thirds say they are ‘somewhat’ (26%) or ‘highly’ (31%) likely to go to college within the next two years.

Of this group, 28% plan to pursue online education and 17% a hybrid model as opposed to traditional college. Additionally, 31% of this group plans to go to community college and 12% say they will attend a trade school.

“It’s always a great idea for students to stay proactive and explore  various options,” says Villagomez.

“Alternative education methods, such as online degrees or trade schools, can be beneficial for students looking to advance their education and career with increased flexibility and in a more cost-effective way. These forms of education can be great stepping stones to elevate your skill set,” she finishes.


This survey was commissioned by and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish on February 1, 2023. In total, 1,000 participants in the U.S. were surveyed. All participants had to pass through demographic filters to ensure they were between the ages of 16 and 26.

The survey used a convenience sampling method, and to avoid bias from this component Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. Learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.