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Pandemic Drives Career Shifts

A new study of data generated by an education platform has found that college students and other adults spent at least some of the pandemic rethinking their career plans. The finding was calculated based on the number of visits for study activities (serving as a proxy for engagement in particular subjects) that students undertook on the software. Those activities might be use of flashcards, multiple choice or fill-in-the blank questions, games or something else.

Quizlet, an education technology company that produces study tools by the same name, analyzed data pulled in June 2021 from its platform. Quizlet said it has some 60 million users, including students, teachers and faculty members, and others who are studying any number of topics.

In 2020 during the recession, the GMAT, the entrance exam for business school, saw a rise in related studying 48 percent higher than 2019. The GRE, the admissions exam used by numerous graduate colleges, saw its own bump in studying of 6 percent compared to the previous year.

Over that same period, interest levels in healthcare careers rose:

  • Studying for the MCAT, the entrance exam for prospective medical students, jumped beginning in June 2020 with a 65 percent year-over-year increase, compared to a previous growth rate of about 9 percent. In spring 2021, specifically, the uptick was 27 percent compared to the same period in the previous year.
  • Learning activities related to the NCLEX, the nursing exam, rose 61 percent year-over-year in spring 2020, and 90 percent in 2021 overall.
  • Another nursing accreditation exam, provided by Health Education Systems Inc. (HESI), saw a 54 percent increase year-over-year in spring 2020, and a 59 percent increase in 2021.
  • Also, interest in infection control certification ticked up 56 percent in spring 2020 and 39 percent in 2021.

Similarly, studying related to information technology certification increased as well:

  • Interaction with learning activities for CompTIA credentials had a 44 percent increase year-over-year from 2019 to 2020, and has since grown this spring by 75 percent.
  • AWS certification studying increased by 88 percent year-over-year in 2020
  • Microsoft certification studying grew by 34 percent year-over-year in 2020.

As a final note, child development was another area of study that saw pickup, increasing by 56 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.

"The pandemic has amplified the importance of self-learning resources needed for students to not only counter learning gaps, but also to encourage and support their long-term career goals," said Amanda Baker, director of data analytics at Quizlet, in a press release.

A report of findings, which also includes an analysis of users from K-12 environments, is available for download in a Quizlet blog post.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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