Possible Majors for Students Who Want to Become Essential Workers

Though many lost their jobs because of COVID-19, others had to work to keep our communities going. Check out possible majors for these essential roles!

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed our day-to-day lives in just a few short weeks. Many “non-essential” businesses have been forced to shut down, causing millions of people to lose their jobs, and most students are either taking classes online or have had the rest of the semester canceled. While we’re living in uncertain times, there will be a light at the end of this tunnel, and there are some hard workers out there making sure we’re getting through it all. If you haven’t chosen your college major yet but like the idea of doing your part and being a helper in times of need, here are some great potential majors for these essential jobs.

* Please note: This is not a comprehensive list, and there may be essential jobs and majors that we missed. Also note that these majors come in varying forms of degree levels and certificates.

Health care providers

Health care workers are on the front lines fighting for our safety during this pandemic. They’re working long hours, protecting patients and other people, and boosting morale at a time when it’s low. These incredibly hardworking and caring people are the first to risk infection to aid others who are already sick. If that sounds like you, here are some majors that can help you enter the field.

Potential majors

  • Nursing: Whether a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, or a nursing aide, nurses are right at a patient’s bedside providing care and helping save lives.
  • Nursing Administration: If bedside manner isn’t your thing, nurses always need smart administrators to push the right policies through.
  • Medicine: Getting a degree in medicine can lead to a lot of different jobs. Neurologists and respiratory care physicians are just a couple of career possibilities.
  • Primary Health Care: If you’re more interested in seeing regular patients and creating connections in your work, being a primary care doctor is a great opportunity.
  • Emergency Medical Services/Technology: EMS and EMT workers are often the very first line of care when it comes to medical emergencies. This is a great area if you like a fast-paced job.
  • Nursing Home Administration: Working in nursing homes can be so rewarding knowing you’re making a difference in the latter half of people’s lives. This is especially crucial in this situation as older individuals are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Related: Exploring the Health Sciences: How to Find the Right Field For You

Police officers

Police officers keep us safe and orderly as a society and work to ensure communities are the best they can be. If you’re looking for an active and impactful career, here’s what you might study in college!

Potential majors

  • Police Science: Police Science is a good background for any police officer to have. You’ll learn about maintaining public safety and crisis intervention, among many other useful skills.
  • Police Management: If you’d rather keep the team organized and motivated—in general or in a crisis—Police Management may be more your speed.
  • Police Administration: Alternatively, if you’d like to help put policies in place that keep the police force a just and motivated workplace, look into a degree in Police Administration.


Firefighters don’t just respond to fire emergencies. Have you ever noticed that in any emergency situation, there’s almost always a fire truck present even if there are no flames in sight? That’s because firefighters work for general public safety. While their primary job is fighting fires, they’re doing their part in this crisis to keep people safe overall.

Potential majors

  • Fire Science/Public Safety: Being a firefighter means going in as a first responder in emergency scenarios. If you’re the bold type, this is your field.
  • Fire Science Administration: Much like Police Administration, if you want to make a difference without being on the front lines, Fire Science Administration is so important to the integrity of the field.
  • Fire Science Technology: If you like the technical side of things, consider majoring in Fire Science Technology to help keep firefighters safe with the most crucial advances.

Military service

We may not see it, but while we’re staying safe in our homes during the crisis, the military is consistently in the background, ready for anything. If the country has to go into full military lockdown, these courageous men and women will be there to keep us safe and organized by maintaining the policies put into effect by our government. If you want to join the service, here are some higher education options before you do!

Potential majors

  • Military Affairs: This major comprises a wide range of military needs, from personnel and veteran needs to methods and organizational concepts. If you want to be a well-rounded military member, this area of study is a good choice.
  • Military Leadership: All careers need good leadership. If you have the top leadership skills for a military career, we need you.
  • Military Strategic Studies: Military Studies often involves worldwide communications and planning. If you want to do your part for the good of the country and world, here’s your chance.
  • Military Technologies: This is another great option for tech lovers. The most up-to-date military technology is as important as the people who develop it.

Related: A Quick Guide to ROTC: How to Know if It's Right for You 

Grocery store workers

While it may not take a degree to work in the grocery industry (or retail in general), grocery store workers are unsung heroes. Going grocery shopping is something everyone does, and they’re always there with a helping hand so we can get the sustenance we need. And right now, they’re the ones dealing with crazy crowds and toilet paper hoarding. So if you’re looking to get into the industry with a little extra skill, here are some possibilities. 

Potential majors

  • Customer Service: Knowing the best way to conduct business with the general public in a kind but assertive way is key to bringing a positive reputation to your workplace.
  • Retail Management: Grocery store managers are keeping stores and employees together during the chaos. You could provide this much-needed organization too.
  • Retail Sales/Merchandising: If you’re the really efficient type, keeping the actual products organized and well stocked is of the utmost importance—because without the products, who’s shopping at the grocery store?
  • Accounting/Bookkeeping: Accountants are needed for any career but even more so for retail work to keep the business running smoothly. If you’re good with number crunching, try this major.

Food service

Food service is another industry that doesn’t require a degree to break into but is still crucial to our day-to-day lives. While dining in at a restaurant is a distant memory right now, food service workers are working hard to bring delicious food to people while they stay safe at home through delivery or pick-up orders. In a crisis, a sense of normalcy and comfort—like you get from your favorite meal at a local restaurant—is highly important to help quell anxiety and fear. Check out the higher education options for this industry!

Potential majors

  • Food Service Administration: Food Service Administration helps keep the industry to the best standards while also playing a part in policies like the ones allowing restaurants to remain open in a time of crisis.
  • Restaurant Management: Who do you think is running all your local favorites while servers have to be sent home? The managers. You could be a key player in a restaurant’s overall business with this type of background.
  • Customer Service: As with grocery stores, giving the customer a positive experience will keep them coming back for more. Be a part of making your workplace memorable for the right reasons for customers in times of need!
  • Culinary Arts/Production Management: What’s a restaurant without food? The chefs are unsung heroes of the industry, creating the meals and conducting the management of all food-related materials. 

Related: Colleges With Strong Culinary/Cooking Programs

Mail service

Communication in all forms is crucial during times of isolation. We’re connecting via the internet and cell phones, but mail communication must also continue. Whether we need packages for essential daily life items or still need to receive bills that haven’t been postponed by the pandemic, postal workers are traveling around cities to get your mail to you. Consider getting an associate degree in this field.

Potential majors

  • Postal Administration: As with other administrative positions, the only way to keep a tight ship in any field is by having good people implementing the right practices.
  • Public Administration/Communication: Being a postal service worker means working with the public to deliver mail, so having specific skills in this area would be a benefit, especially if you want to work up to postmaster.
  • Postal Service Technology: We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our daily lives, including organizing and delivering mail. Be ahead of the curve in postal technology by pursuing this area of study. 

Animal welfare

While the biggest concern with this outbreak is people contracting coronavirus, we can’t forget about our animals. While the CDC says there is no evidence that animals are at risk of becoming sick due to COVID-19 (though they could potentially carry it, so wash those hands after touching your pets), the real concern is the current lack of resources for animals in need, as most resources are being diverted to other causes. Here are some ways you could help animals in the future!

Potential majors

  • Animal Care Specialist: Animal care doesn’t just apply to pets; it applies to domesticated and wild animals too. If you want to know all you can about animals and how to help them, consider specializing in this area.
  • Animal Center Management: Animal shelters and wildlife refugee centers aid creatures in times of crisis, and knowing how to manage them could save a lot of animal lives.
  • Veterinary Sciences: We can’t control when we need medical attention, and neither can our pets. So if you’re driven to help animals in need at any time, consider becoming a vet.

Teachers and professors

While teachers and professors may not be considered “essential” by the standards of lockdown or “shelter-in-place” orders, they are wildly important. Many colleges and high schools have taken their learning online, and these hardworking people are adapting to a new style of teaching to still bring knowledge, connections, and a quality education to their students. 

Potential majors

  • Early Childhood Development/Education: With this major, you’d have a fulfilling career in caring for and shaping young children at a crucial point in their development.
  • Elementary Education: Kids can be so fun to teach with their creativity, boundless energy, and inquisitive minds.
  • Middle Childhood Education: Middle school is a tumultuous time for most students, but you could have a hand in helping students ready themselves for high school.
  • Secondary Education: High school is a crucial stepping-stone to higher education and a great career. Help students find their passions with this major!
  • Special Education: Students with learning and other developmental differences are so rewarding to work with because their accomplishments are astounding.

Related: Colleges to Prepare for a Career in Education

Although none of us should be panicking about the next crisis that could befall us, all of the careers and majors listed above are crucial for their own reasons in times of need. We need brave and caring people in these roles for the future, so consider these career paths if you really want to make an impact on people and communities at large.

* All majors were pulled from CollegeXpress’s internal database and therefore are available on one or more of the thousands of school profiles on the site!

Use our College Search tool to find great schools that offer these majors, and check out our COVID-19 resources for students here.

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