More than half of adults who left school at 16 say they did so to make money, a survey says.
Some pupils left because they did not do well in exams
But one in three of those thought they would be in better-paid jobs if they had continued to study, while a quarter thought they would have a more fulfilling job.
The survey, involving more than 2,000 adults, was carried out for the Learning and Skills Council by YouGov.
The council is warning teenagers not to leave school for dead-end jobs.
It is highlighting allowances available in England to teenagers from low-income families who stay in education after the age of 16.
Some of those questioned who left school at 16 (26%) said they could not afford to stay on, or that their parents would not support them financially (21%), while others (15%) cited peer pressure or the fact that they had done badly in their exams (14%).
The UK has one of the highest education drop-out rates at age 16 in the industrialised world.
The LSC says that those with further qualifications, such as GNVQs (vocational training) or A-levels, earn more than £4,000 a year more than those who have few or no GCSEs.
Ruth Bullen, from the LSC said: "By staying on at school or college at 16 young people will set themselves up for life, they will earn more money and are more likely to enjoy the work they do - and ultimately be able to create a better future for themselves.
"We are urging all young people who are stuck in dead-end jobs or who are thinking about leaving school at 16 to rethink their options."