My Covid Gap Year - Share Your Story, Navigate Wisely

What will college classes be like this coming year? What will pre-college classes be like, for that matter? I was shocked when I encountered a likely scenario for college students attending classes during the Fall 2020 semester. If you want a glimpse into the future, check out The Physically Distanced Classroom: A Day in the Life. Here’s a brief excerpt:

You try to listen to your instructor give directions for the day. It’s a little challenging, since the mask muffles her voice. Then it comes time to work with your partner at the table. Sitting six feet apart and wearing a mask means you have to raise your voice to be heard — but so does everyone else in the room. After doing this for two earlier classes, your throat is pretty sore. This doesn’t help your anxiety, since you can’t help wondering if this might be a COVID symptom.

Your partner tries to show you something on their computer, but you can’t see it from six feet away. Plus, the Plexiglas shield down the middle of the table distorts your vision (you wonder when it was last wiped down). So instead you work together on a shared Google Doc …

I can see this being the reality in more than a few colleges. I’m also trying to project these safeguards into a high school, middle-school or even an elementary-level setting, with all the overcrowding that exists in public schools today. One has to wonder where on the priority list actual education rates. Is it ahead or behind COVID-19 safety protocols?

Study Indicates Certain Careers Are Eager to Hire

Getting back to college, and in particular this year’s college graduates, the facts show that the national employment situation isn’t good. Millions of workers have lost their jobs because of pandemic-related cutbacks. Many collegians have had their summer jobs and internships canceled, as you can see from the in-the-trenches reports in this thread on the College Confidential discussion forum. But even within a pandemic, there is opportunity.

Why do I say that? Well, a new study reports that college graduates will now have an advantage for first-year jobs in the field of education, all related to COVID-19. Citing one example, due to the downturn of individual attention previously enjoyed through in-person schooling, parents and students are turning to tutor services to make up the difference. Tutoring not only creates jobs, but can also afford opportunities for grads to give back and be exposed to a possible career in education.

Leveraging data from sources like Johns Hopkins University and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study also found that since 2014, growth in the online tutoring industry has soared $197 million, according to IBISWorld. A recent Wall Street Journal report reveals that on-demand tutoring site Varsity Tutors is still looking to fill over 9,000 more positions and Zion Market Research predicts that the tutoring industry will eclipse $178 billion in projected growth by 2026. An old adage says that success happens when preparation meets opportunity.

All this leads to some information that rising college seniors — and even recent college graduates — should consider:’s Top 10 Entry-Level Jobs for College Grads in the COVID-19 Era. The introduction of this report notes:

For new college graduates, entering the workforce now is daunting, to say the least. According to the latest US Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the US economy lost an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs in April, with an almost 15 percent unemployment rate.

However, the current crisis has hit specific industries harder than others, and demand has soared for some types of jobs. Let’s take a look at 10 great entry-level positions that the class of 2020 can apply for right now, complete with average starting salaries and number of job listings …

To give you a taste of what those Top 10 are, here descriptions of the two top-rated jobs. The number-one job opportunity is Contact Tracer. This makes sense because of the ongoing effort to track down those who may have been exposed to a COVID-19-infected individual, in order to limit wider-spread infections. Here’s an overview:

1. Contact Tracer

Average Starting Salary: $55,000/yr. (Because of the relative newness of this position, this has been based on an average of media-reported estimates.)

Average # of Online Job Listings: 100 (Because of the relative newness of this position, this average based on several online job sites may not reflect what is available. Check local/state websites for opportunities directly available from the government and other organizations.)

Educational Requirements: HS Diploma; training courses available

Popular Industries: Hospitals and Health Care, Federal/State Government

Remote Work Available? Yes

If you’re looking for a career in public health, you may want to start here. “Contact tracer” is one of the most talked-about jobs of the moment, but if you haven’t heard of the job title, you are probably not alone. While contact tracing — the identification of who may have come into contact with an infected person — has been around for decades, it has gained prominence in the era of the coronavirus. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) provides a detailed contact tracing guide and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers a free six-hour course on the subject. Remote contact tracing jobs are common, some of the positions offer benefits, and reported salaries range from $35,000 to $65,000 a year.

As of this writing, over 10,000 Americans have applied to become contact tracers, and job listings are available from local governments as well as large healthcare companiesExperts estimate that anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 contact tracers will be needed across the country. As former CDC Director Tom Frieden told the medical news website Stat, “We need an army.” With immediate national demand for such a key position in the fight against the coronavirus, contact tracing is a field with a lot of potential. With so much immediate and future opportunity, this role is a perfect jumping off point for a long career.

The projections for Contact Tracer job growth are impressive. As of the end of April, 11,000 CTs worked in 44 states. New York is currently seeking 17,000 tracers and California needs 20,000. Across America, 100,000 to 300,000 tracers are needed. This would be an excellent first job that could provide a wide range of experience and qualifications that could lead to other, more degree-specific employment for new and recent graduates. Elements of writing, science, statistics, client interaction and other on-the-job skills could be easily transferable to other disciplines.

Here’s a look at the job ranking second:

2. Health Informatics Specialist

Average Starting Salary: $62,000/yr.

Average # Of Online Job Listings: 1,100

Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in computer or information science; or business/liberal arts degree with information technology or programming experience

Popular Industries: Information Technology, Hospital & Health Care, Research

Remote Work Available? Yes

If you’re a recent college graduate desiring to enter a lucrative field with growth potential in the COVID-19 era, health informatics is the area to pursue. A perfect position for those with either a computer science degree or a liberal arts background with programming experience, the health informatics specialist develops methods to collect and distribute health data via information systems. It is projected to have 11% job growth between 2018-2028, classified as “much faster than average,” and senior staff in the health informatics field can make upward of $100,000/yr. There are health informatics jobs available in industries as varied as telemedicine, insurance, biotech, and public health, and these listings for entry level positions at BlueShield and Advocate Healthcare can be applied for right now.

Please note while job searching that the “health informatics specialist” position concentrates largely on computer/IT work, and the more traditional “health information specialist” role deals more with medical records. To reflect this overlap between the two, we considered both roles for our job listing metric for the position.

In a time when gathering information on issues such as infection rates and other sensitive health data is so crucial in tracking and controlling the spread of COVID-19, jobs like this and contact tracing are increasingly in demand. The CDC lists health informatics as one of their most common jobs and offers a good deal of online training and information on the topic. According to the Brookings Institution, the US currently lacks the extent of information technologies in place to adequately fight the coronavirus epidemic. Brookings also points out that having robust health informatics systems in place will also help tremendously with managing telehealth, which is another burgeoning industry due to the current pandemic. One thing about this pandemic is certain: The healthcare industry will face unprecedented changes long after it’s over. Taking all of this into consideration, this position is a great opportunity in an exploding industry for a new grad.

Thus, many times there may be opportunity within adversity if you know where to look. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned things upside down this year, but, as the adversity-opportunity principle dictates — and as you can see from the above job needs — even when inverted, things can definitely be looking up. Check the full study for even more insights.

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