Pandemic influences Gen Z employer rankings as popularity of pharma and healthcare employers rises – new research

  • Pharmaceutical employers grow in popularity among students across business, IT, engineering, and natural sciences industries
  • Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson rank within most attractive lists across all sectors
  • The HSE also increased in rankings across business and natural science students
  • Universum Director: “Remaining agile to changing market conditions and ensuring that your workplace policies and practices are reflective of same, will play a key role in attracting and retaining talent over the coming period.

Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies have experienced a rise in employer rankings among Gen Z students following the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest research by e-recruitment platform, in partnership with employer brand specialist Universum.

The Most Attractive Employers Index Ireland 2021, which was conducted among 10,043 students across business, IT, engineering, natural sciences, humanities, law and health in Ireland, reveals that students across all sectors are increasingly ranking pharma and healthcare companies as the most desired places to work.

According to the data, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson showed particularly strong growth, moving up the rankings across most industries over the past year.

“The growth in popularity of those within the healthcare space over the past year is a very tangible reflection of how the pandemic has shaped the attitudes and aspirations of young talent in Ireland.  Clearly, the unprecedented contributions made by the health and pharma community in both the public and private sector has resonated with young people”, said Steve Ward, UK and Ireland Business Director for Universum.

“Understanding the priorities of the newest cohort of talent entering the labour market will be crucial in attracting and retaining talent in the year ahead, and the Most Attractive Employers Index is one of the first pieces of data that captures the ongoing changes in student preferences.”

Business Breakdown

The top employers for students in the business sector are predominantly within the tech and professional services industries including Google, Apple, KPMG, Deloitte and PWC who ranked within the top five.

However, pharmaceutical companies have shown significant growth amongst business students with Pfizer (23rd, + 18 places compared to 2020) and Johnson & Johnson (27th, +12) both entering the top 30 list this year.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) also recorded some of the greatest gains within this cohort of students, moving up 16 places when compared to 2020 (49th vs 65th).

Rank 2021 Company Trend*
1 Google 0
2 Apple 0
3 KPMG 0
4 Deloitte +2
5 PwC 0
6 Microsoft +1
7 Amazon +2
8 EY (Ernst & Young) 0
9 Facebook -5
10 JP Morgan +2

*Trend: Ranking compared to 2020.

Engineering Breakdown

According to the research, jobs within the healthcare sector are particularly popular amongst engineering students, with Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific all ranking within the top five in 2021.

In addition, Medtech company Stryker, also entered the engineering rankings for the first time this year, entering the list in tenth position.

Engineering students were the only student group to rank Johnson & Johnson lower in 2021, dropping one place compared to last year.

Rank 2021 Company Trend*
1 Google 0
2 Pfizer +6
3 Boston Scientific -1
4 Intel -1
5 Jacobs Engineering 0
6 Apple -2
7 Microsoft -1
8 Johnson & Johnson -1
9 Arup +2
10 Stryker Newly listed

*Trend: Ranking compared to 2020.

IT Students

Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon all managed to hold their positions in the top four rankings for IT students in 2021, with Intel moving up the rankings to replace Facebook in the top five.

Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies also experienced significant growth within the IT rankings with Boston Scientific (26th, +6), Pfizer (29th, +19) and Johnson & Johnson (30th, +5) all making the top 30 list for the first time.

Rank 2021 Company Trend*
1 Google 0
2 Microsoft 0
3 Apple 0
4 Amazon 0
5 Intel +1
6 Facebook -1
7 Dell Technologies +1
8 IBM -1
9 Samsung 0
10 Activision Blizzard +2

*Trend: Ranking compared to 2020.

Natural Sciences

For students in the natural sciences sector, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson both rank as the top two most attractive places to work.

These are also joined by pharmaceutical companies Regeneron (7th, newly listed) MSD (10th, +1), Novartis (16th, -1) and AbbVie (17th, newly listed) who all ranked within the top 20 for students in this field.

The HSE has also grown in popularity for natural sciences students, moving up two places in this year’s rankings.

Natural Sciences
Rank 2021 Company Trend*
1 Pfizer 0
2 Johnson &Johnson +1
3 Boston Scientific -1
4 Glanbia 0
5 Health Service Executive +2
6 Kerry Group -1
7 Regeneron Newly listed
8 Google -2
9 Department of Education/ Teaching +3
10 MSD +1

*Trend: Ranking compared to 2020.

Health and Medicine

The HSE ranked in first position for health and medicine students this year,  holding the top position since 2020.

The HSE was followed by both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, who joined VHI Healthcare and Boston Scientific in the top five positions this year.

Health and Medicine
Rank 2021 Company Trend*
1 Health Services Executive (HSE) No change
2 Pfizer No change
3 Johnson & Johnson +1
4 VHI Healthcare Newly Listed
5 Boston Scientific -2
6 Laya Healthcare Newly Listed
7 Medtronic Newly Listed
8 Department of Education -3
9 Novartis +1
10 GSK -3


Humanities and Social Students

The Department of Education and Skills remains the top employer for humanities and social students in 2021. The HSE also made the top five list, holding forth position for the second year running.

Humanities and Social
Rank 2021 Company Trend*
1 Department of Education and Skills No change
2 RTÉ +1
3 Google -1
4 Health Service Executive (HSE) 0
5 Civil Service +2
6 Apple -1
7 An Garda Siochana +2
8 Aer Lingus +2
9 Microsoft +2
10 Twitter +3


Law Students

A&L Goodbody (1st, +1) Arthur Cox (2nd, -1)and the Department of Justice and Equality (3rd, no change) were among the three most attractive employers for Law Students this year moving up

Rank 2021 Company Trend*
1 A&L Goodbody +1
2 Arthur Cox -1XX
3 Department of Justice and Equality No change
4 Matheson 0
5 Google +1
6 McCann Fitzgerald -1
7 William Fry +2
8 Department of Foreign Affairs 0
9 Apple -2
10 Department of Defence 0


Commenting on the results, Steve Ward, UK and Ireland Business Director for Universum said:

The impact of Covid on the way we work is ever evolving and will continue to play a role in shaping the outlook of employers and employees for quite some time to come.

“For employers looking to get ahead of this curve, they must carefully consider the preferences and motivations of employees – both existing and upcoming.

“When we examine our latest student data, the increased interest in pharmaceutical and healthcare jobs is one of the biggest trends that we see emerging across all sectors, with multiple companies in this space climbing the rankings or entering the top 30 lists for the first time.  This was particularly apparent amongst Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.  Clearly the incredible work they have done in developing a Covid vaccine in a very short space of time has deservedly elevated their profile and positioned them as two of the most innovative employers in the Irish market, and organisations that are making an extremely positive and tangible contribution to society.

“This is an encouraging trend for those recruiting in the health and pharma space, but those looking to capitalize on this growth must ensure that their employer brand and offering helps them to stand out from the crowd.

“Remaining agile to changing market conditions and ensuring that your workplace policies and practices are reflective of same, will play a key role in attracting and retaining talent over the coming period.

“This is true not only for those in the healthcare sectors, but for any employer looking to competitively position themselves in a busy employment market.”

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