While some decided to stay put in  their current job in 2020, others in the defense industry realized that this is the time to shake things up. Of course, national security did not suffer the same economic downturn many other job sectors did. The federal government awarded contracts and work still needed to be completed. Some arenas, including medical research and cybersecurtiy, saw increased demand. The national security show must go on since adversaries didn’t decide to quarantine. When the whole world around you is changing, some candidates stay put. Others say – ‘why not change jobs, too?’ For those candidates looking for career opportunities, what were the keyword searches ranked highest in 2020?

Top 5 Job Search Terms in 2020

In today’s job market, often the right job comes to you even before you have to search for it – thanks to networking groups, job alerts, and social networking features. But even with the best smart search features, sometimes it’s good to do a little digging. When candidates visit the ClearanceJobs career listings of approximately 50,000 open positions, here are the top keywords they’re searching for.

1. Intel

Whether candidates want to be intelligence analysts or support the intelligence field as a whole, the number one key word search had the term “intelligence” in it. Candidates were also on the lookout for counterintelligence, SIGINT, and HUMINT, with those terms landing in the top 20 key search terms. It’s clear that being a part of the intelligence community is important to job seekers. Keeping our nation safe from threats is a worthy cause, and both proactive and reactive roles are important.

2. Cyber and IT

The issues were high in cyber warfare this year, and the searches for jobs are in line with that. Candidates searched for cyber, security, IT, and network. Sometimes, the search terms were separate or lumped together. However, it’s clear that after all of the cyber issues, the jobs are plenty to be found in support of cyber work. The cyber jobs vary depending on where candidate certificates and experiences line up with the positions in the cyber chain. So whether candidates are looking to start out in a help desk position or higher in the chain, the options to work in cyber and IT abound. The list of threats is long, on-going, and ever-changing.

3. Space Force

Regardless of the ranks that Space Force uses, the uniforms they select,  or if they call themselves Guardians – candidates are interested in supporting the U.S. Space Force. Job choices range from engineer to technical writer with a diverse set of defense organizations. While the Space Force is on the leaner side, the age of space exploration and defending our country from a different vantage point are a draw. The world of space opens up so many more possibilities for the world of simulation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning.

4. Remote Work

It makes perfect sense that remote work is a top search in 2020. While employees have complained for years about the lack of telework options in the defense industry, it took a pandemic to help leaders rethink how to approach this option. When life begins to resume, it may not include 100% remote work anymore. However, it seems clear that the old mindsets of “telework means I can’t tell if you’re really working” or “if I can’t see you, you must not be working” have faded into the background of the telework discussion. Candidates have their eyes on the lookout for cleared jobs that offer remote options, and it’s important for agencies and employers to find ways to meet those demands.

5. Linguist and OCONUS

Perhaps 2020 made people feel a little bit confined, or the extra time at home gave some the ability to brush up on their lingual skills. Whatever the reasons behind it, candidates searched for linguist and OCONUS with an eye for jobs that will either take them out of the country physically or mentally. Searches for Arabic, Korea, Germany, Japan, and Russia – in that order – were also in the top 20.

Key Takeaways

Everyone continues to say this was a crazy and weird year. In many ways it was. However, with a new year comes new possibilities. So many hard things were weathered in 2020, and a lot of changes came about that will mark our national security field for years to come. It’s important to be ready to flex and adapt as needed. Agility was a key skill in 2020, and it’s clear that regardless of the contract or role, it’s a skill that will be needed in the future.


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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.