Continuing education for working people: Much motivation, little action

IU study shows: Young people consider lifelong learning in professional life to be crucial

  • For almost 9 out of 10 respondents, continuous education is the most important factor for a successful career, but only a good quarter actually continue their education.
  • The most important motivating factors for those who are currently participating in, have enroled in or are interested in continuing education are “personal development”, “higher salary” and a “higher professional position”.
  • The educational offer is motivating for the respondents if what they have learned can be applied directly and pays towards personal goals. 

Erfurt, 17 January 2023 - The current study of IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU), "Lifelong Learning. Motivating factors, inhibiting factors." shows that although 88.7 percent of those surveyed consider continuous further education to be crucial in order to be able to embark on a successful career in the long term, reality looks different: Only 13.9 percent are currently actually completing continuing education, 14.3 percent have registered for continuing education that has not yet started. This is despite 86.3 percent of those surveyed believing that personal continuing education will become even more important in the coming years.

Younger employees are more motivated than older employees

The motivation for continuing education is high: 88.2 percent of all respondents are motivated to complete a continuing education programme approved by their employer. In the case of personal – e.g. privately financed continuing education – the assessment of one's own motivation is also strong with 77.4 percent of respondents. It is striking that younger employees are more motivated than older employees. Above all, respondents up to 29 years of age strive for new knowledge - through personal (83.6 percent) or employer-approved continuing education (90.6 percent). Of those over 50, only 66.7 percent and 77.6 percent respectively are still motivated - in each case more than 10 percentage points less than across all age groups.

Those who are currently participating in, have registered for, or are interested in continuing education cite above all “personal development” (66 percent), along with the “desire for a higher salary” (43 percent) and the “goal of attaining a higher professional position” (42.6 percent) as reasons for continuing education.

Further education? Simply not thought about it

Although motivation is high, in practice it looks quite different: 71.8 percent of those surveyed neither participate in continuing education nor have they registered for it. This includes 40.8 percent who have not planned any continuing education measures at all; 12.5 percent who express interest in principle but are prevented from participating by other reasons such as “lack of time” or “high costs”; and 18.5 percent who, according to their own statements, have informed themselves but have not yet registered.

This group of those who do not currently plan to participate in continuing education cites the following as the main reasons for their lack of commitment: their “employer does not offer any continuing education” (27.1 percent), they “already have all the necessary knowledge” (21.2 percent), they “do not have the time for continuing education” (20.4 percent) and they “have simply not thought about it” (20 percent).

Dr. Mario Herrmann, Professor of Psychology and Social Work at IU, sees a need for action on the part of employers: "Employers can motivate and support employees to take part in continuing education by minimising the financial and time costs for the employee and offering the prospect of benefits in the shortest possible time.” 

The results of the survey confirm this: those who are not currently involved in continuing education cite “salary” (59.9 percent) and the “employer's assumption of the costs” (40.9 percent) as the main potential motivating factors. For 33.7 percent it would also be “important to be able to complete the continuing education measures during working hours”.

Concrete, practical and lucrative: Expectations of training measures

For continuing education to be motivating and fun, 55.3 percent want to “be able to immediately apply what they have learned in their professional practice”. At the same time, “what is learned should also be in line with personal goals” – this is stated by 50.7 percent, slightly more than half of the respondents. And for 34.6 percent, it is motivating if the study content can be flexibly adapted to their own pace and time availability.

"Working people want to be able to apply the newly acquired knowledge and skills directly in their own work. A strong practical orientation of the offer is therefore indispensable. But a high degree of flexibility in continuing education is also important to ensure compatibility with work, family and leisure time and to allow room for movement in the form of self-determined learning," Herrmann summarises.


As part of the study, "Lifelong learning. Motivating factors, inhibiting factors.", 955 employees in Germany were interviewed. The gender ratio was 50.6 percent women and 49.4 percent men. 20.5 percent of the respondents were up to 24 years old at the time of the survey, 19.7 percent 25 to 29 years old, 20.3 percent 30 to 39 years old, 19.3 percent 40 to 49 years old, 14.2 percent 50 to 59 years old and 6.0 percent older than 59 years old.

The white paper on the short study is available here.

Photo material of the speaker:

Dr. Mario Herrmann, Professor of Psychology and Social Work at IU


With over 100,000 students, IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) is the largest university in Germany. The private, state-approved educational institution with its main campus in Erfurt brings together more than 200 bachelor's and master's programmes under one roof, which are offered in German or English. Students can choose between dual studies, distance learning and myStudies, which combines online and face-to-face events, and design their studies independently with the help of a digitally supported learning environment. In addition, IU enables further training and promotes the idea of lifelong learning. The aim of the university is to give as many people as possible worldwide access to personalised education. IU started operations in 2000 and is now represented in more than 30 German cities. It cooperates with over 15,000 companies and actively supports them in the development of their employees. The partners include Motel One, VW Financial Services and Deutsche Bahn. Further information at:

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