What Are Essential Jobs? Exploring Your Career Options after High School

welder skilled trade career

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The COVID-19 pandemic affected us all. One term that you might have heard a lot was “essential worker.” Essential workers helped keep society running.1 If you are a high schooler wondering what to do after you graduate, you might consider going into an essential field of work.

What Are Essential Jobs?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines “essential workers” as people whose jobs are critical to maintaining a range of infrastructure operations, such as in energy, defense, and agriculture.1 During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, these essential jobs fields included:1

  • Water and wastewater
  • Transportation
  • Child care
  • Critical retail, such as grocery stores and mechanics
  • Critical trades, such as construction and electrical work, including:
    • Plumbers
    • Electricians
    • HVAC techs

These are just a few examples of the many essential jobs out there. Some states defined their own essential jobs outside of the federal definition.1

Essential workers may be required to report to work even in states of emergency or global pandemic.2 This is because the goods and services they provide are somehow vital to life and wellbeing.2

Benefits of Working an Essential Job

  1. Social value. One potentially positive outcome of the pandemic has been a greater social awareness of the importance of essential jobs.3 A silver lining to the coronavirus disaster is a greater appreciation of people like grocery clerks, nurses, warehouse workers, farmers, electricians, and plumbers.1,3 These are the people who keep society running, even when catastrophe strikes.3
  2. Job security. During a time when much of society shut down in a way most had never experienced before, essential workers were able to keep their jobs, and therefore their income.4 For some, it’s a great benefit to hold a job that won’t automatically disappear in times of crisis.4 Having a steady paycheck can help you sleep easier at night, knowing you have financial stability.4
  3. Predictable routine. Especially after experiencing the upheaval and disruption of the pandemic, having a steady and predictable routine can be something to appreciate.4 Even when other peoples’ lives were being upended, essential workers like plumbers, truck drivers, or healthcare workers could count on having a workplace to go to and a job to do.4

3 Essential Jobs You Can Train For Now

Essential jobs can include unskilled laborers like grocery clerks, as well as skilled trades workers like electricians. Some essential careers require advanced degrees, such as doctors or engineers. If you are graduating high school and are curious about essential jobs that don’t require a four-year degree but that might command a higher wage than unskilled labor jobs, consider what career avenues might await after completing vocational training.

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Here are 3 essential jobs you can train for now at The Refrigeration School (RSI):

1. Electrician

electrician in training

Electricians are essential to society for their important electrical skills, such as installing, replacing, and repairing the wiring in buildings. As long as people need electricity, we’ll probably always need electricians. The job growth rate for electricians in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 9%. This means that 66,100 more electricians are predicted to be needed over the next ten years.5

Electricians typically begin their career with a high school diploma followed by some form of technical training. RSI’s Electrical Applications training program is three months long, and teaches basic electrical principles, an introduction to the National Electric Code (NEC), and fundamental wiring techniques to prepare students for an entry-level job or apprenticeship. Electricians typically need to complete a 2,000-hour paid apprenticeship before they are considered experienced enough to work on their own as a journeyman.

2. HVAC Technician

hvac technician

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers are essential to keeping office buildings and homes running with indoor temperature control. These technicians learn how to install, clean, and repair specialized HVAC equipment to keep heating and cooling systems running properly. Refrigeration technologies are essential to keeping medicine, food, and other perishable goods safe and viable. As long as homes and businesses will need heating and cooling technologies, HVAC techs will likely be considered essential workers.

To train for a career in HVAC, consider RSI’s 6-month Refrigeration Technologies program. This vocational program focuses on the fundamentals of comfort systems and refrigeration, including electricity and troubleshooting. Students learn from a combination of in-class lecture hours and hands-on lab hours to be ready for an entry-level job in HVAC.

3. Welder


Welders are responsible for joining, cutting, and fitting metal parts together using superheated handheld or remote equipment. Welding processes touch nearly every aspect of society, since it is the most common way to join metal parts together. You can find welding in shipbuilding, manufacturing, automobile repair, aerospace, and many other industries. Welding is a common practice in construction, and is often essential to critical infrastructure projects such as erecting new buildings and bridges.

RSI’s Welding Specialist training program can be completed in 7 months. This vocational program teaches students how to weld using some of the most common welding techniques, including SMAW, GMAW, FCAW, and GTAW. A diploma is awarded upon completion. The training program is designed to prepare students to pass professional weld tests, such as the Certified Welder program at the American Welding Society, which many employers look for on a resume or job application.

For more information about these or any other skilled trades training programs at RSI, please reach out to speak to an enrollment specialist, who can answer any questions, at 1-480-676-5843. RSI is in Phoenix, Arizona.

Additional Sources

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