Background : I'm a junior programmer, currently working in a small (<10 persons) company. I'm doing an apprenticeship, and the company is paying for my diploma. I've been working with them for 2.5 years, and I'm in my last year before getting my degree.
Since 1-2 years, I realized that I didn't want to work in IT my whole life. There is a field which I'm really passionate about (and always have been), and I've been taking night classes for a year now. I think I really found my vocation. My friends and family advised me to obtain my current degree before trying other studies, which I plan to start next september.
My employer really want me to stay in the company. He doesn't know about my plans, and I know he will end up very disappointed about me quitting right after getting my diploma. He clearly expect me to stay.
There is no clauses in my contract stating I have to work full-time after completing my degree. However, I'm really afraid about his reaction (Saying I "owe" them, because they paid for my education, that my decision is ridiculous, or that I should have quit earlier, etc.). It's a very small company, and I can't stop feeling guilty about quitting like that. I would have stayed a few extra months, but my contract end in september 2018, and I can't wait another year before beginning my new studies.
I'm wondering about how to tell them : should I tell them right now, or should I wait ? The earlier the better : I don't want to give them false hopes, but at the same time I don't want to spend a year in a hostile work environment. I have the feeling they're going to ask me soon about my future plans, and I don't know how to react. (Note : I have to give one month notice before leaving)
I'm also wondering what to tell them. I don't want to burn bridges, and I surely don't want them to think I "cheated" them. I think a random reason (like moving in another city) will be easier to accept, even if it is a lie. I also don't need/want to hear their opinion on my will to begin new studies.
It's my first time being in this situation, I'm very anxious about it. I just want to quit in the best way possible. Any advices are welcome about dealing with it.
*I on't think this is a duplicate of How do I resign without burning bridges when I'm a critical staff member?, since
- I'm not a critical staff member and
- I don't really mind about the bad/"job hopper" reputation. I just want to quit without being criticized and guilt-trapped.*