Many jobs are doing well financially right now compared to the average in the economy. Other professions like dentistry and optometry approached financial crisis before bouncing back in a big way. We have done the most detailed analysis of any site I’m aware of to determine what were the most secure jobs of the pandemic financially.
Student Loan Planner® surveyed between 2,700 to 4,000 readers of this site on five separate dates from March 2020 to March 2021 to gauge how the pandemic had affected them financially.
We chose March 18, 2020, April 17, May 15, August 12, and March 1, 2021 to gather this data. The population was statistically equivalent in each survey, with similar levels of income, student debt, age, location, and job experience or qualifications.
We wanted to know how incomes across different professions have changed in response to the Coronavirus pandemic over time.
These jobs may be financially secure. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t Americans in every profession struggling from loss of income, including the ones I listed.
Overall, incomes took a huge hit from March to April, but compensation started to recover in May.
Our August 2020 data shows incomes started to recover substantially in many professions. March 2021 data shows the recovery has continue to improve in almost every profession.
In addition to our ranking, we’ll include comments from readers in each respective career field so you get a feeling for what they went through.
We ranked this most secure jobs list according to the following two criteria:
- The percent of each profession that reported unchanged income compared with before Coronavirus. The higher the number, the more laborers had financial stability during the pandemic.
- Each profession needed at least 50 individual responses in the surveys.
Here’s our list of the most financially secure jobs of the pandemic. These jobs will likely be stable and more protected from economic headwinds for years to come.
Percent of nurses reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18, 2020: 83%
- April 17: 64%
- May 15: 69%
- August 12: 71%
- March 1: 77%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 73%
In many cases, nurses in elective fields were quickly let go in April. Many had not yet returned as of August, although it’s clear the field has recovered a lot in March 2021.
One thing to remember is that nurses have a wide variety of career paths and job functions. This profession also has a wide array of education credentials, including roles that require an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Therefore, some nurses might specialize in specific areas of medicine that had less demand during a pandemic.
Patients cut back their demand for elective procedures significantly. This demand drop has showed up in lower incomes for nurses and health care workers.
That said, nursing as a whole did well compared to other occupations, especially in areas of medicine not subjected to COVID demand drops. While many nurses were affected in a variety of ways by this pandemic, the profession overall still made the cut for one of the most secure jobs.
Nursing is rewarding and stable. I took a small pay cut during the pandemic when I had been expecting a significant increase due to reclassification, but at least I am still working and helping
Because elective surgeries are being cut, the hospital is losing money. Therefore, we are losing some hours by being flexed in and out, having to take our hard earned PTO to cover for the time off or no pay if we chose. Our ancillary staff is forced to take time off so the work load is much much harder for us nurses. Our prep time has decreased to really read our patients chart to understand what’s really going on with our patients and it’s just becoming unsafe.
Percent of teachers reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 76%
- April 17: 76%
- May 15: 77%
- August 12: 76%
- March 1: 80%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 77%
Many K-12 teachers struggled through virtual lessons. But most still got paid.
Only 2% of teachers reported loss of income completely in most of our surveys. Teachers don’t make huge incomes, but their incomes were generally cut rather than completely eliminated.
That makes sense, as local governments employ the largest number of teachers. Those employed at private schools suffered the most initially, while employment there recovered once some families chose to move children for in person instruction.
Overall, layoffs and salary reductions in teaching didn’t get progressively worse during the pandemic. This makes teaching one of the most secure jobs of all professions for those who were initially unaffected financially.
Financial stability isn’t everything, though. In our August survey, we found teachers had the highest rate of regret for choosing their career due to what’s happened to them during the pandemic.
My district is trying to teach online, and we are working out the kinks and so I’m not really on the same 7:30 to 3:30 schedule that I was, but I am still getting paid my contract wage for my contract hours (not necessarily identical to Corona hours).
When Corona hit in March and we were forced to go online, teachers were praised for their efforts. Now, we are considered “lazy” for trying to be cautious and protect ourselves and our families for not wanting to go back to school. A lot of teachers, myself included, are expected to teach face-to-face while simultaneously maintaining virtual courses for students in quarantine. We are mentally and physically and emotionally drained due to Corona.
8. Corporate employee
Percent of corporate employees reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 83%
- April 17: 74%
- May 15: 71%
- August 12: 72%
- March 1: 86%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 77.2%
Many small businesses shut down, but workers at large multinational corporations had a lot more financial stability, according to our survey results.
Zoom allowed many meetings to continue virtually. IT workers, project managers, and sales reps can continued most of their work from home.
We can see that corporate employees had the hardest hit in May, while by March 2021, many in this sector have roared back to pre-COVID level incomes or even higher.
The Coronavirus panic is affecting my mental health and my stress levels are sky high, which in turn, is affecting my ability to focus on work. Business feels steady (I work for a software company that doctors use), but how long will we be okay for and how long do we need to be okay for?
I work in financial services which is a stable space to be in right now and continues to have relatively high earning potential among corporate jobs. My student loans are manageable and I anticipate my income will only continue to increase. I also previously worked in the airline industry and I am glad I decided to move to financial services long before Covid happened!
Percent of veterinarians reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 75%
- April 17: 67%
- May 15: 73%
- August 12: 87%
- March 1: 91%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 78.6%
Veterinarians faced a surge in consumer demand as the pandemic stayed around for many months.
Customers had to stay cooped up with their pets in some cases for months at a time. Hanging out with your pets far more often than usual caused many people to notice health problems or concerns they might have otherwise ignored or missed.
It helped that veterinarians could mostly treat animals for injuries or illness inside their offices without humans present. Many report pet owners would sit in their car while the vet would handle treatment.
Some veterinarians even reported that this led to increased efficiency in the number of patients they treated. Hard shutdowns in April caused some vets to temporary lose incomes in some parts of the country, but veterinary medicine has been one of the most secure jobs of the pandemic financially.
Pandemic or not, my passion is in veterinary medicine and I’m glad that I went through all the hurdles to get to where I am now.
Not affected terribly by Covid. It’s more mental health rather than student loans in terms of second guessing my career choice.
Still love my job!
6. Nonprofit professional
Percent of nonprofit professionals reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 100%
- April 17: 76%
- May 15: 62%
- August 12: 72%
- March 1: 85%
- Average with no income change March 2020 to March 2021: 79%
Nonprofit organizations rely on donations for their operations. When the stock market fell back in March, wealthier individuals pulled back on their giving substantially. The wealthy tend to want to be confident that the market has fully recovered too before opening up the purse strings again.
We are still in a precarious economic time. Many nonprofit jobs have not come back yet. However, government stimulus and a rebounding stock market have caused the nonprofit sector to almost be on par with corporate America for financial stability of incomes.
It seemed like the nonprofit sector was slower to cut pay early on in the pandemic, which is why they show up at number six on our list of most secure jobs.
Although I am currently working, my husband is a sports broadcaster who is now laid off and will be out of work as long as sports are cancelled. We are now trying to plan for at least six months with him being out of work, and relying on my nonprofit worker salary only
In my primary occupation, I have been as busy as ever due to the organization’s need to maintain stability within operations. I feel extremely lucky to be in my position, with my primary hope being that school is back in session next year for my kids.
5. Physician Assistant
Percent of physician assistants reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 91%
- April 17: 70%
- May 15: 67%
- August 12: 85%
- March 1: 84%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 79.4%
We went from one in 10 PAs reporting a drop in income in March to three out of 10 in April and May. However, we saw the percent reporting a normal pre-pandemic level of pay jump to 85% in August and 84% in March 2021.
The PA category was alone in having fewer respondents report unchanged income in March 2021 compared to August 2020. But the number is about the same.
What’s probably happening is PAs with specializations in surgical areas that are more elective might still be facing a slower rebound in earnings. That said, it seems that the majority are still doing ok and many of the elective procedures are coming back.
I do wound care for the elderly. I’ve noticed families are scared and taking their loved ones home due to COVID-19 since visiting hours have been banned. My income will take a slight dip but should bounce back due to higher cases of elderly people getting sick or current patients developing wounds due to activities being cancelled, nursing staff being overworked, and patients subsequently getting more skin break down and falls.
I’m a rural family practice PA. I’m working a lot more hours since one of our doctors is off work awaiting COVID-19 testing. I am not able to see many more patients physically and the volume of bullshit (phone calls, med refill requests, etc has more than doubled). I am definitely concerned about burnout.
Percent of lawyers reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 87%
- April 17: 80%
- May 15: 80%
- August 12: 79%
- March 1: 86%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 82.4%
As one of my lawyer friends told me this week that “if there’s massive numbers of bankruptcies, you’ll need lawyers to process them all.”
Instead, we saw a wave of corporate activity, home buying, SPACs, election legal filings, and lobbying with three stimulus bills that were each larger than the 2008 stimulus in one year.
In good times and bad, it seems like lawyers do well. The legal profession was one of the most secure jobs during the pandemic. This profession adapted well to remote work.
By March 2021, incomes have recovered to the point of being similar to corporate America. However, incomes in the legal field never fell as steeply during the worst part of the pandemic.
As a litigator, I am seeing business increase. Companies are scared about business income interruption and employment law concerns.
Torn between spending more and helping the local businesses I care about in my community, and saving enough for darker times. Income currently is stable, but worried that that could change during a prolonged crisis.
Percent of physicians reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 91%
- April 17: 78%
- May 15: 78%
- August 12: 84%
- March 1: 89%
- Average with no income change from March to March 2021: 84%
My wife is a physician. She does elective surgeries for older women with pelvic disorders. Originally, we thought she might be pulled to cover shifts in the emergency room.
Our area, like many in the country, did not see its healthcare capacity become overwhelmed. What healthcare systems did have was a massive drop-off in revenues.
However, then we had massive stimulus bills and returning patients who had put off needed care that in many cases made up for those losses.
From our survey results, physicians reported in April that only the worst emergencies or important patients consults still happened at their hospitals.
By August, many of these patients started coming back. In every healthcare system that we’ve heard cut a 401k contribution, that has since returned. Generally, pay cuts were also restored.
Very few physicians reported losing their jobs entirely at any point from March 2020 to March 2021. Our data shows only 1%, which is one of the lowest of any profession.
Physicians are in one of the most secure jobs and financially better off than most. However, some physicians experienced a drastic drop in income, RVUs or salaries. Equally concerning, many medical professionals are physically or mentally spent from battling on the front lines of this pandemic.
Being forced to take two weeks unpaid quarantine due to an occupational exposure.
I am not spending money because I am working 100+ hour weeks
I am a sole practitioner and while I am able to do Telemedicine, I’m seeing a decline in patients seen as we aren’t emergent care. While income is still present now, I am concerned about the coming months as my practice is not insurance based, but cash based.
2. Government employee
Percent of government employees reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 100%
- April 17: 87%
- May 15: 84%
- August 12: 86%
- March 1: 89%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 88.8%
There’s a lot of talk about government workers in danger of being laid off. So far, we haven’t seen that happen.
The American Rescue Plan passed in March 2021 provides $350 billion to state and local governments, many of which had relatively unchanged revenues when comparing 2019 to 2020.
That said, government employment often moves slowly when making financial adjustments. I think at the state and local level, we might have seen some salary cuts and hour reductions in anticipation of a financial crisis that never fully materialized.
We will probably see a relatively slow reinstatement of those earnings and hours compared to the private sector, given that government also takes these earnings away more slowly than the private sector.
For the high level of stability along with minimal cuts even during the worst of the pandemic, government employment was second on our list.
My three siblings have lost their jobs. I’m the only other relative they have in the US and who ultimately takes care of our family.
In CA, the governor announced a 10% reduction in pay for state employees. This reduction is temporary until we get back on our feet, but obviously the recovery length of time is unknown.
Percent of pharmacists reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 93%
- April 17: 88%
- May 15: 81%
- August 12: 88%
- March 1: 95%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 89%
In March 2020, one prominent pharmacist said, “People are flocking to pharmacies not just to get their prescriptions ahead of time, but trying to buy everything and anything. So, staff are being asked to work extra hours.”
Some pharmacists work in drive-thru pharmacy settings and might have less exposure than other front-line healthcare workers. However, others face more patient contact and have significantly more risk.
It’s worth noting that just months ago, we wrote an article about the struggling job market in pharmacy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 3% decline in job growth from 2019 to 2029.
But things have changed very, very fast as pharmacy has been one of the most secure jobs during the pandemic.
By March 2021, 0% of pharmacists in our sample reported losing their income completely, the best statistic of any profession we surveyed.
If you look at the entire year and average it out, being a pharmacist was the most financially stable profession of the COVID pandemic.
I work at an independent pharmacy. Many medications seem like they will be on back order soon if they aren’t already. If we can’t fill medicine, we don’t make money, and I don’t get paid. So far it isn’t an issue, but it’s uncomfortable to think about.
I work per diem for the VA. Luckily, I have been receiving full-time hours but I have been told that could change. The fear is that there will be a hiring freeze across hospitals if we go into a recession so I am saving up now in case I cannot get a full time job in the future and my hours get cut. The future is uncertain.
Worst hit professions are now recovering: Dentistry case study
Pandemic shutdown orders in spring 2020 took a huge toll on professions that weren’t suited for virtual work.
Dentistry reached a financial crisis briefly in April and May, but it recovered strongly as the shutdown orders ended and PPP loans allowed doctors to retain their staff.
Here’s the percent of dentists reporting no change in income compared with before the pandemic, March 2020 to March 2021.
- March 18: 32%
- April 17: 19%
- May 15: 25%
- August 12: 61%
- March 1: 74%
- Average with no income change from March 2020 to March 2021: 42%
Back in March and April, dentists told me if we surveyed them in a week that they think 100% of dentists would report a huge drop in income.
In the survey we did on March 18, 2020, three in 10 dentists said that they no longer had an income at all. Only 31% reported that their income had not changed, and many of those who said that seemed to work in military dentistry or in very rural areas.
On April 17, only 19% of dentists still had similar incomes as before COVID. 56% lost their income completely. The ones that still had incomes in some cases were staying open only for emergency procedures.
On May 15, 25% of dentists reported normal incomes. 42% lost their income completely, which is an improvement from May. Luckily by August, the majority of dentists reported incomes have returned to pre-COVID levels.
By March 2021, dentistry looks similar to other professions on this list. That’s a welcome change.
Here’s some of the thoughts we heard from dentists pack during the worst of the pandemic.
As an incoming dental student, much of our curriculum has moved to remote instruction so we aren’t getting the hand skills we need, yet tuition isn’t being changed at all.
Practice loan repayment is a concern. Not sure how banks will react and help.
Was about to buy a dental practice and since have had to put it on hold since the future of dentistry this year is very uncertain.
Profession rankings: From most secure jobs to least during COVID-19
Here’s the full survey results below of major professions ranked from most secure jobs to least. I restate the top 10 and show dentistry as a reference point.
I list the results from the April 2020 and March 2021 surveys to show the period close to the trough compared to the period of recovery to show how drastically incomes have improved.
April 2020 Versus March 2021 Survey Results
Economic recovery has happened, but it will take time for everyone to recover financially
While many workers in the most secure jobs above are doing ok financially right now, not all are.
As some of the comments mentioned, you might be getting a steady paycheck but you might have risked your life and the lives of your family. It’s been a difficult year.
While these are scary times, financial markets and the economy will survive this. Most of our readers aren’t necessarily worried about their student loans right now compared to their overall finances. But if you do need a plan, we can help.
If you wanted to share what you’ve gone through during the pandemic, just comment below and share.
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Serena Annette Williams says
I am currently in school majoring in Political Science and now that this coronavirus thing has started, I am in super panic mode now! Now trying to decide if I should keep going down this path or switch into a healthcare career just to be safe. Help!
Travis Hornsby says
Well healthcare is a lot more likely to get a job after graduation. I switched out of poli sci im glad I did
Kate McDonough says
I’m a teacher and my job is safe for now. Do you recommend I put a full $7000 (I’m 62) in Roth for 2019? If I do I won’t have a savings but will save 1500-ish vs. $44 return. I plan to retire in 10 yrs best case and 4 worse case scenario.
I have an roll over 401k into IRA and lost $30k-ish. Should I adjust to your recommend 40/40/20? I’m at 69/20 foreign/ 8 bonds/2% short term/1% other.
Travis Hornsby says
Generally I suggest pretax contributions for teachers bc theyll be in a low tax rate in retirement. The limit for IRAs is 6000 for 2019 not 7000.
She gets the extra $1,000 catch up for over age 50.
Serena Annette Williams says
Yes after calming down and weighing my options, I decided to pursue medical assistant for a career change and then pursue PA/MPH degree. Thanks for the insight.
Michael Rodriguez says
I’m planning on going back to school to earn my masters degree. I’m thinking of either forensic psychology, finance, or supply chain management. I haven’t applied for anything yet because I’m frozen on what will be safe and be able to withstand a pandemic like the coronavirus. Any suggestions??
Tiana Gumpert says
I’ve been wanting to go back to school for a long time, and I’ve been going back and forth for what to major in. I tried going to school for different medical professional from medical billing and coding (graduated with a certificate, but there were no jobs where I lived), to pharmacy technician (the school kicked me out, but I was doing good). And I’ve had a passion for animals since I was a kid. Would I get a job if I went to school to be a veterinary technician?
Travis Hornsby says
I’d email your state’s vet school and ask. Not sure honestly. Something nursing related would be very secure
I actually work as a pharmacist in the ICU and we’ve had to increase our personal. We first shifted the ED position to help cover ICU as less and less people are coming through the ED non-covid related. We are also hiring additional pharmacist to increase staff on 2nd and overnight shifts. And with more sick calls and less staff to cover, there’s actually more overtime to pick up right now.
I am a pharmacist as well in Charleston, SC and our hospital, like many, is struggling due to no electives and bare ED. They have furloughed many, cut salaries, and had to let go other healthcare workers. We do not have the “COVID surge” that other parts of the country are seeing-it’s quite the opposite. Although the hospital needs pharmacists, we are all getting hours cut as well as salaries cut because our census is so low. I am a “PRN” worker and have not worked since the beginning of March. Thankfully my husband is still working (CRNA) and we are ok. My income goes to “extras” and we have some food storage, so no real “hit” right now-trying to to save up some emergency funds in case his hours get cut.
Our hospital has done everything they can to not furlough anyone. Luckily most people have decent PTO stocked up so people are just taking an extra vacation week or a day or two of PTO. There is also an opportunity to be redeployed to help out in other departments that are needed. Most people are taking redeployment options to rather than eat through PTO because who knows how long this will last or where we will be in a month.
Worked for a large retail chain as a pharmacist for almost 30 years and was let go in October for not hitting quota for flu shots. There are no jobs anywhere…none…
Travis Hornsby says
We wrote an article about the pharmacist job shortage pre corona but now it seems like employers are holding onto pharmacists a lot more than we expected. Sorry to hear of your job loss Dan
temp agency denver says
Let’s just be grateful if your have a job not all is lucky to have it, even though not paid fully it is better than nothing at all this pandemic has frozen everything, we have to learn to be contented.
I’m none of the above listed. However, I was a flight attendant for over 10 years. However, in between my career I obtained my ABA Paralegal Cert., I worked with an attorney for 6 years, A Addiction Counseling Cert., and this year my Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner Cert. PRA. Unfortunately, because I have been away from those industries, I am a little rusty. Now with this crisis I am not sure what or where I am going……very unsettling and scary. Finding a new passion feels very uncertain.
Amy at Student Loan Planner says
It’s definitely an unsettling time. No one knows what to expect. Sounds like you built a great base to keep your options open!
Such Lies says
please with the teachers don’t make a lot! NYC DOE starting salary with masters and no prior teaching exp is OVER $62,000! How many jobs do you know that dont require previous exp and will pay that much walking in the door? I work for the SAME city at another agency and most admin jobs WITH A MANDATORY BACHELORS and 5yrs previous RELEVANT work exp is $30,000!!!! THAT is a low salary! Please dont insert opinion into your columns please stick to facts. The DOE and most City agencies post what the positions pay on the title. Not to mention most if not all other city jobs do not get economical increases ever. Only union which they spend years fighting for. And the salary ‘ranges’ most titles have in other agencies you will never see you only ever get the base /lowest for them to even think about giving you more money they say they have none and then tell you to take another Civil service exam, apply for the next level in your title and then you go to that base salary. It took me 8 years with the same City to see what they start with! And I came in with 6+ yrs experience already. PLEASE stick to facts bc things like this are beyond aggravating to read.
Robert Gumm says
What is bad is when you go to school, work hard and then find out degree is worthless. Then you get a good job, then they lay you off because of not enough demand for product. You try to get work in your field, non existent without more training. Former training was bad (ie ITT TECH). Middle age and having to start over. Then get a “job” then the pandemic starts. Knocks you out of work. Now older middle age trying to start over. It’s like climbing an ice sheet.