What Is an Essential Career?

Preparing for Essential Careers

Back in March 2020, states across the U.S. ordered many businesses to close or to move to remote operations, to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. While many industries had to either fully or partially shut down, others were deemed essential and permitted to continue to operate.

People who work in essential industries and careers continued to show up for work throughout the pandemic, doing their best to keep the world moving as much as possible and to provide essential help and services to others. If an essential career sounds appealing to you, learn more about what is involved and what you can do to prepare for one.

What Are Essential Careers?

One way to define an essential industry or job is one that is necessary to maintain the critical infrastructure of an economy[1]. Essential careers are found in several industries, including:

  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Food production/agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Transportation
  • Critical trades and manufacturing
  • Community services and government

Why Consider an Essential Career?

There are a few reasons why a career in an essential industry or job might appeal to you. One reason is job security. Many of the industries that are considered essential offer relative stability, even in times of economic recession. Some industries, such as health care and education, are among the most rapidly growing in the U.S.[2]. While millions of people lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and associated economic shutdowns, people who held essential jobs were able to continue to work.

If you are interested in doing work that contributes to the greater good, you might consider an essential career. Most essential jobs benefit society in some way. For example, with a career in health care, you can help people get the treatment they need for an illness or provide them with advice that allows them to live their best lives. A career in education allows you to teach the next generation of individuals, preparing them to be future leaders. A career in the transportation industry can mean that you are delivering products people need to survive and thrive during challenging times.

Is an Essential Career Right for You?

How can you know if an essential career is the right choice for you? Since there are many options when it comes to choosing a career in an essential industry, it can help to do some soul searching and ask yourself some questions:

  • What interests you the most? Ask yourself what you find interesting or what sort of work you would like to do.
  • What do you want to get out of your career? What are your career goals? If you are interested in making a difference or having an impact on the world around you, an essential career might be a good choice.
  • Are you willing to go to work when most people are staying at home? Essential workers typically need to go into their jobs even when others are told to stay home. That includes pandemic times as well as during times of bad weather or other difficulties.
  • Have you fully assessed the risks and benefits of the career? What risks will you undertake in an essential career? Do you believe that the benefits of the job outweigh any risks?

How to Prepare for an Essential Career

What you need to do to prepare for an essential career depends on the path you choose and the industry you are interested in working in. Before you choose a career, it is a good idea to learn as much as you can about it. You can find details about many jobs and careers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS produces the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which details the type of education and skills needed for many jobs. It also provides information on salary and job opportunities.

Often, the first step to take if you are interested in an essential career, whether it’s one in the transportation industry, health sciences, or education, is to enroll in a career certificate program. Orange Technical College offers dozens of different career certificate programs at our five campuses across Central Florida. We have been preparing people for essential careers for decades.

To learn more about our certificate programs and the application process, request more information today.


  1. COVID-19: Essential Workers in the States, National Conference of State Legislatures, https://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/covid-19-essential-workers-in-the-states.aspx
  2. Industries with the fastest growing and most rapidly declining wage and salary employment, Bureau of Labor Statistics