How Long Should You Stay at a Job?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

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When it comes to your career path, there’s no definitively correct or incorrect way to move forward. You get to decide the best way for you to navigate any given situation—including deciding when it’s time to move on from a job.

Conventional guidance suggests that you should stay at a job for at least two years. However, as long as you aren’t bound by a contract, there’s no set amount of time that you are obligated to stay at a job, and if you don’t feel able to move closer to your goals in your current role, two years can be a long time to limit your progress.

In this article, we’ll discuss how long employees typically stay at a job and offer some guidance for figuring out whether it may be time for you to consider pursuing something new.

How long the average employee stays at a job

As of January 2022, the median amount of time employees had been with their current employers was 4.1 years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—the same amount of time as was reported two years earlier in 2020 [1].

It’s worth breaking this statistic down further, as the amount of time employees tend to stay with their employers changes depending on factors such as age, industry, and occupation.

Average tenure by age

According to BLS data, older employees tend to remain with their current employers much longer than younger employees. Here’s the full breakdown of median tenure by age [2]:

AgeMedian tenure in years (January 2022)
16-17 years0.7
18-19 years0.7
20-24 years1.2
25-34 years2.8
35-44 years4.7
45-54 years6.9
55-64 years9.8
65 years and older9.9

Looking at the data this way, it appears that younger employees tend to change jobs more frequently than older employees, who are more likely to have established their positions within their company and may hold leadership roles.

In fact, employees with management occupations had the highest median tenure, 6.2 years, according to the BLS. Younger employees, on the other hand, tend to have stronger representation in service occupations—jobs in health care support, food service, or personal care, for example—which had the lowest median tenure of 2.8 years [1].

Still, when you look at these numbers, remember that the median is a midpoint, meaning that just as many 25 to 34-year-olds have been with their current employer for less than 2.8 years as have been there longer. This brings to mind a more recent trend, job hopping.

Is job hopping bad?

Job hopping is the career advancement strategy in which workers change jobs frequently in order to accelerate their growth. Many employees, particularly in the younger generations, have found success leveling up at work by moving to a new company every year or so, as opposed to waiting for a promotion at their current company.

Traditionally, employers have interpreted a job history made up of a collection of roles held for short periods of time as an indication that a worker was unable to hold a job. Hiring costs are high, so companies tend to prefer to hire employees who are likely to stay with their company for a longer period.

Recently, however, it’s become more common for workers to embrace this strategy if they see career growth opportunities elsewhere. According to a recent survey from Career Sidekick, 62 percent of people surveyed have left at least one job within the first year. In their survey, they found that, on average, people change their jobs every 2.73 years, and 42 percent of people change jobs every one to two years [3]. (It’s worth noting that Career Sidekick did not collect age data from their participants, but if we compare the 2.73 average tenure to the BLS data, it may be reasonable to suspect that their surveyed audience skewed closer to that 25 to 34 year old demographic.)

Career Sidekick also found that three most common reasons for leaving a job are [3]:

  1. Finding a new, better opportunity

  2. Leaving a toxic work environment

  3. Lack of growth opportunities in their current role

In this sense, job hopping may be off-putting to some employers, but it also comes with growth potential that you may not find by staying with your current employer.

Questions to ask before leaving your job

Conventional guidance and average tenures aside, determining how long you should stay at your job requires some self-reflection. There are many reasons for leaving a job, and your decision to stay or leave isn’t only a reflection of you—it’s also a reflection of your employer and their ability and willingness to support their employees’ growth.

With your career goals in mind, here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider what’s the right next step for you:

  • What are the benefits of staying in your current job?

    • Can you live without those benefits?

  • What are the benefits of leaving your current job?

    • Can you continue growing without those benefits?

  • Did you accomplish the things you wanted to accomplish in this role? At this company?

    • Are you able to identify opportunities to accomplish any unmet goals if you remain in your current position?

  • What do you hope to achieve by leaving your job?

    • Is there a path for you to achieve that goal while remaining at your current job?

  • What would you do if you weren't working?

    • Can you do those things while continuing to work?

Keep learning

Continue exploring your career options with Coursera. Strengthen your idea of your dream job with the University System of Georgia’s Career Discovery Specialization. Or build job-ready skills to launch your career as a data analyst, project manager, cybersecurity analyst, and other in-demand roles by earning a Professional Certificate from industry leaders like Google, Meta, and Microsoft.

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Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employee Tenure in 2022,” Accessed September 12, 2023.

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