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I was just accepted into a full-time graduate program in a completely different field than my current job. It's March, and the program starts in September.

When I've switched jobs before (as a software engineer in the US), I've done the customary two-week-notice thing. But, with the academic calendar, I know plans further in advance. When do I give my notice? Now--and risk that my employer would be upset and not let me continue working over the summer? Or, wait and give 2 weeks notice before school starts--and risk my employer being even more upset that I hid that I was planning to leave?

Some more details:

  • I've been a software engineer for over 10 years, but at my current job for a little less than a year. (I'd been looking into this graduate program before I started this job, but it still felt more like something I'd apply to someday than knowing for sure I'd be starting it next year.)
  • The graduate degree is in an artistic field. It might not be a big money-maker, and I could still see myself working in the software industry someday.
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Generally you should only inform them you're leaving at the last moment you can for many reasons. These range anywhere from giving you a hard time about it to security escorting you off the premises. Not saying anything like that would happen...

So unless you have a good reason for letting them know earlier, don't do it.

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    Whenever you tell them, you should be prepared for that to be your last day. A former co-worker thought he was being nice by giving a 2 month notice. He dropped his resignation letter on his manager's desk first thing in the AM and by 9am he had packed up his desk and was escorted out of the building by security. – DLS3141 Mar 17 '17 at 13:02
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Yes, tell them.

The employer can then start to make plans on replacing you. That is a task that must be done. People, including the management of your employer, like knowing about tasks ahead of time, instead of having things thrust on them last minute.

This isn't so much for your benefit, but theirs. Well, and yours, if you want to have a positive reputation.

Note that there is some risk that the employer will just drop you (whether today, or maybe two months from now) if the employer finds that to be in the employer's best interest. The likeliness of this happening can vary significantly between different employers. Some may happily keep you hired even if it is a bit disadvantageous for you, as a favor, in return for the favor you did by providing extra notice. The cynical may think no companies would ever do such a thing; those are often the same people who will exhibit the selfishness of not cooperating by sharing readily available knowledge.

Case in point: Just this week I spoke to the owner of the company which is my current employer. I let him know of a plan to pursue other employment in just under six months. I may not get that position, in which case I plan to keep my current position. The owner of my current employer appreciates my openness; it is one of the things he likes about me.

In the past I have also given notice well over two weeks in advance, and I have never regretted it. However, I have also heard of other people who have regretted it. So, you'll need to make your own decisions on how risky this will be, and how much personal risk you're willing to take in order to be extraordinarily nice and cooperative.

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Though consensus seems to be going in the extremes, allow me to offer a third option: Wait until the start of summer. That way, if they do let you go earlier you have a useful way to spend your time already laid out with preparing for your studies -- getting back in takes some adjustment.

At the same time, you minimize your risk of being out of work too early.

Start of summer is just a ballpark, basically. Start giving notice when you know you could usefully spend your time if you would not be employed, but before being employed no longer becomes an option.

This maximizes benefit to both you and your employer.

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@Kilisi is right , unless you have a familly and want some vacations to spend time with them before starting your graduate program (or any other reason to stop working earlier) you should work as long as possible , and so give your notice the later the law allows you to.

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Waiting and giving your two weeks notice is probably for you the best option. If you feel like it would take more time to do the handover and you feel bad about quitting with a short notice your can tell them a little earlier.

But be aware that there is no benefit for you to tell them in advance, and you are taking the risk of your employer terminating your contract immediately depending on the laws of your country.

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Another option as well would be to discuss with your employer about working part-time during the classes. I worked full-time during my master's program and it wasn't that big of a deal. Most of my classes were at night from 6pm-9pm or so and I could just go after work.

Maybe you could drop down to about 20 hours of work, still earn a little income and it also shows a great level of drive and organization when applying for new jobs.

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