Five Industries That Are Pandemic-Proof

by Evan Thompson
• 4 min read
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Choosing a career path as a college student can be scary even in the best of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic makes that decision even more complicated.

Economists believe the job market may take a hit if coronavirus cases spiral out of control. The return of lockdowns and wide-scale shutdowns would reduce spending and tighten budgets, which means fewer jobs for fewer people. And if the coronavirus recession persists for several years, the potential ramifications are even worse.

However, according to job reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some industries have fared better than others during this pandemic. Despite the economic pressure, a handful of industries have had minimal unemployment, and a few have even seen job growth.

We've used the BLS October jobs report to assemble the top pandemic-proof careers. The main determining factors for this list are the percentages of job loss and job growth over the past year. We've also considered how specific jobs have adjusted to the pandemic and related economic uncertainty.

At a Glance: Unemployment in the Worst-Hit Industries

Top 5 Pandemic-Proof Industries

  1. Information Technology
  2. Federal Government
  3. Insurance
  4. Scientific Research and Development
  5. Real Estate

1. Information Technology

The tech sector has fared better than most industries during the pandemic. Many tech jobs don't need much face-to-face interaction and are easy to do from home, which is why they've become some of the best jobs for college grads during the coronavirus crisis.

According to the BLS, the tech industry has seen a 3.75% increase in hirings from late 2019 to late 2020. The BLS also projects computer and information technology occupations will grow by 11% over the next decade.

With companies increasingly using the web to manage operations, there's also an increasing need for computers, networks, and systems. Many tech workers provide technical support for these operations, while others manage information and data security.

The BLS reported that the median annual income for information technology professionals in May 2019 was $88,240. Some other popular technology occupations include:

Web Developer
Description Design and create websites.
Entry-Level Education Associate Degree
Median Salary $73,760
Computer Programmer
Description Write and test code for computer applications and software programs.
Entry-Level Education Bachelor's Degree
Median Salary $86,550
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Description Invent and design new processes for computing technology and develop innovative uses for existing technology.
Entry-Level Education Master's Degree
Median Salary $122,840

2. Federal Government

The federal government stepped up its hiring in 2020 to support its response to COVID-19. Although some are temporary positions, many offer competitive salaries with possible job extensions.

The BLS reported a 9.75% increase in government jobs over the past year, but this growth is slightly misleading: 147,000 temporary U.S. Census workers were also let go in October.

Still, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has authorized the federal government to continue hiring workers through the end of the pandemic. As long as there is a crisis, there will be a government hiring response covering a wide range of careers, including fields like computer science, mechanical engineering, and human resources.

In 2019, federal civilian workers had an average wage of $95,359, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Some of the positions currently in high demand at the federal government include:

Diagnostic Radiologic Technologist
Description Perform diagnostic imaging examinations for medical diagnosis and treatment.
Entry-Level Education Associate Degree
Median Salary $62,280
Source: USA Jobs
Industrial Hygienist
Description Analyze, identify, and measure workplace hazards that may affect employees' health and efficiency.
Entry-Level Education Bachelor's Degree
Median Salary $70,480
Source: USA Jobs
Research Statistician
Description Use statistical models and mathematical techniques to analyze and assess the potential impact of financial, economic, political, and technological developments.
Entry-Level Education Master's Degree
Median Salary $92,030
Source: USA Jobs

3. Insurance

Job growth in the finance and insurance sector shouldn't be much of a surprise. According to the Pramana Research Journal, people are relying on insurance companies as a financial precaution during the pandemic.

If someone gets hospitalized and needs a ventilator, the bill could be expensive. As a result, customers are investing in insurance to protect themselves from costly COVID-19 coverage.

The BLS reported that hirings in finance and insurance increased by 0.63% from 2019 to 2020. In October, employment rose by more than 17,000 jobs, though it's still below its level from February.

According to the BLS, the industry's median annual income was $61,480 in 2019. The most common occupations include:

Insurance Sales Agent
Description Contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance.
Entry-Level Education High School Diploma or Equivalent
Median Salary $50,940
Loan Officer
Description Evaluate, authorize, or recommend approval of loan applications for people and businesses.
Entry-Level Education Bachelor's Degree
Median Salary $63,270
Accountant and Auditor
Description Prepare and examine financial records.
Entry-Level Education Bachelor's Degree
Median Salary $71,550

4. Scientific Research and Development

The demand for a COVID-19 vaccine has made scientific research and development crucial during the pandemic. In particular, the life sciences sub-sector is vital, as it's the one responsible for creating, testing, and mass-producing vaccines.

The BLS reported scientific research and development suffered a 2.9% job loss over the past year, which is relatively low. This modest decline reflects the industry's importance and the significant investment by the U.S. government aimed at making a vaccine widely available.

Research and development scientists are also on the cutting edge of new scientific and technological discoveries. Significant sub-fields include aerospace, automotive, biotechnology, electronics, nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and chemical and materials science.

The BLS reported that the industry's median annual income in May 2019 was $103,970. Some of the most popular occupations include:

Biological Technician
Description Assist biological and medical scientists with laboratory instruments, experiments, data and sample collection, observations, and calculations.
Entry-Level Education Associate Degree or Bachelor's Degree
Median Salary $45,860
Microbiologist
Description Investigate the growth, structure, development, and other characteristics of microscopic organisms.
Entry-Level Education Bachelor's Degree
Median Salary $75,650
Aerospace Engineer
Description Perform engineering duties in designing, constructing, and testing aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft.
Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Median Salary $116,500

5. Real Estate

Real estate has relatively thrived during the COVID-19 recession. The stay-at-home culture born from the coronavirus pandemic has led to increased demand for new and existing homes. According to the BLS, the industry has seen a job loss of only 1.95% from late 2019 to late 2020.

While every state requires real estate workers to have a license, other requirements can vary. In general, brokers and agents need at least a high school diploma or its equivalent and must complete mandatory real estate or college courses and pass a licensing exam.

The BLS reported the real estate industry's median annual income in 2019 at $56,390. There are many job options in real estate, including:

Real Estate Sales Agent
Description Help clients buy, sell, and rent properties through a licensed brokerage.
Entry-Level Education High School Diploma or Equivalent
Median Salary $45,540
Real Estate Broker
Description Licensed to own a real estate firm that buys, sells, and rents properties.
Entry-Level Education High School Diploma or Equivalent
Median Salary $58,780
Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Manager
Description Manage residential, commercial, or industrial properties.
Entry-Level Education High School Diploma or Equivalent
Median Salary $58,760

Evan Thompson is a Washington-based writer for TBS covering higher education. He has bylines in the Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, and others from his past life as a newspaper reporter.

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