I often enjoy using settings in which civilized society as we know it has recently collapsed. I find this to be a particularly interesting way to explore the limits of human survival, especially when the characters are people who led normal lives before the collapse and now must reckon with a new type of existence. One of the things that always comes up, especially when trying to create a believable situation in which a person or group of people are able to survive for an extended period, is the skillset of an individual or the combined skills of a group.
We take an enormous number of basic life necessities for granted in our modern society. When those conveniences are removed we have to contend with the basics and complexities of survival. Obviously with a group of people it’s easier to pull together the specific skill sets required, but with a very small group it becomes a lot more challenging. As it happens I have just such a situation where I’m trying to justify two or three people being able to survive on their own for a multi-year period throughout a number of different environments. While their past careers are of no real importance to the story, those careers can play a significant part in justifying the characters’ survival. As a result, I’m curious about what profession would give someone the best fighting chance at long term survival after societal collapse.
To help shape a meaningful and effective answer to this question, I’ll provide the following clarifications:
- I’m interested in professions in a Western culture located somewhere in North America.
- We’ll use the following definition of profession: “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.”
- We’ll assume that the person had a minimum of 10 years experience in this profession.
- The nature of the apocalypse is unimportant. All that matters is that society and its modern infrastructure have crumbled and daily survival has fallen to the individual.
And because I suspect a great many professions could qualify as a reasonable answer, I'll provide the following criteria that I'm specifically looking for from the ideal profession (in order of importance):
- Creates the experience or knowledge to acquire food and potable water without the complex industrial farming and transportation system we have today
- Grants at least basic expertise at medical care both with and without modern medications
- Provides the experience, knowledge, and / or tools to defend oneself with minimal personal risk
- Provides the experience or knowledge required to find or create a year-round dwelling
- Provides at least basic cross-country navigational knowledge without modern technology
- Geographically positions a person such that when society collapses, they are at less risk of death in the immediately ensuing chaos.
What profession would cover most, if not all, of those criteria?