The American economy might be humming along right now, but you should be prepared in case that changes. Job seekers hoping to insulate their careers from even the most devastating downturn should opt for expanding industries and specialized tasks that can’t be done by a robot or are less likely to be outsourced to another country.
No job is 100 percent recession-proof, but keep reading to see 10 industries where you can have better job security in a recession.
Within the information technology sector, information security analysts are among the most in demand as the number of cyberattacks on computer networks and systems increases. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted an increase by 18 percent, or 14,800 jobs, between 2014 and 2024, making for many new job listings.
In light of this trend, colleges are implementing dedicated information security programs to help train aspiring analysts. Many already in the workforce hold more generalized bachelor’s degrees in computer science, programming or related fields.
Until employers are able to fulfill the ever-growing need for information security analysts, such workers will likely find themselves logging overtime and on-call hours to protect their organizations' computer networks and systems. In exchange, many take home a nearly six-figure salary of $92,600, the median annual average in May 2016, according to the BLS.
Healthcare and Surgery
A growing number of healthcare providers and their clients might be trying out telemedicine or conducting robotic surgery, but some procedures and calls can’t be handled solely through technological tools.
"Even with the automation of some functions in the medical field, nothing can replace a real person taking care of you," said Cheryl Palmer, founder and president of the career coaching firm Call to Career. There will always be a demand for doctors, who need an extensive education that typically includes an undergraduate degree, a medical degree, and often three to seven years spent in internships and residencies, depending on the practitioner's specialty.
This might not be the best career choice if you're looking for work-life balance. Doctors tend to work long hours or endure irregular schedules, overnight hours and mandatory shifts on call. But helping patients feel their best can be personally and financially rewarding.
Primary care physicians received a median annual compensation of $241,273, and physicians practicing in medical specialties received total median annual compensation of $411,852, according to the Medical Group Management Association’s Physician Compensation and Production Survey, published in 2015.
Medically minded people who don’t want to spend as much time in school could opt to become occupational therapy assistants, one of more than a half-dozen healthcare industry jobs on the BLS list of fastest growing careers. The median annual wage for OT assistants was $59,010 in May 2016, according to BLS figures. This pay can help compensate for the physical demands that can come with a career helping clients complete challenging tasks to cultivate and improve skills needed for daily living.
If you want to be an occupational therapy assistant, you need an associate degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program and a professional license in most states. Post-high school training and licensing requirements are typical of many of the best jobs for weathering a recession, said Bruce Hurwitz, president of the executive recruiting and career coaching firm Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.
“Recession-proof jobs are any jobs that are hands-on," he said. "Think of anything from an auto mechanic to a physician. These are jobs that provide services that, despite the economy, people still need.”
An economic downturn could actually boost job security for mechanics and other auto repair specialists as drivers look to keep cars running longer. Most technicians need to complete post-secondary education programs and earn certifications in their field to land entry-level jobs. They must also be more computer-savvy than mechanics of a generation ago.
Automotive technicians have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations, according to the BLS. They must frequently work with heavy parts and tools at their job sites, putting them at risk for workplace injuries such as cuts, sprains and bruises.
Those hazards could be a small price to pay in exchange for good job security and a solid salary. The median annual wage for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $38,470 in May 2016.
Accounting and Auditing
For some people, crunching numbers isn’t the most fun or attractive way to earn a salary. That’s why certain types of financial services professionals are always in demand, according to human resource experts. After all, keeping close tabs on company cash flow can be even more crucial during an economic downturn, which means tax accountants, forensic accountants, auditors and those with similar titles are fairly insulated during recessions.
These professions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, but the educational investment will probably pay off. Accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $68,150 as of May 2016, according to the BLS. These are also among the few jobs on this list that offer some remote and work-from-home options.
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Personal Financial Advisement
If you’re more of a people person, it’s worth noting the BLS shows the role of personal financial advisor will continue to be one of the fastest growing jobs in the country, increasing by 30 percent, or 73,900 jobs, between 2014 and 2024. A bachelor’s degree in business, accounting or finance could also prepare money-minded people for this profession. The median salary for a personal financial advisor in 2016 was $90,530.
Although the number of police officers and detectives isn’t expected to increase much faster than the average rate, the number of jobs in that industry is still expected to grow through 2024, according to the BLS.
“The industries that are related to our most basic needs are the ones that are recession-proof," said Peter Yang, co-founder of ResumeGo, which offers career coaching and resume-writing services. "Jobs in the areas of healthcare, law enforcement and food services will always be in demand.”
Not all departments require a college degree; however, you can increase your chances of getting a job if you have a bachelor's degree and law enforcement or military experience and if you speak more than one language.
Police officers and detectives can also earn substantial salaries — see here what they make in each state — with the highest paid 10 percent taking home more than $102,750 annually, compared with the median of $61,600 in May 2016. But, considering police and sheriff’s patrol officers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses and often work overtime or late-night shifts, donning a uniform isn’t for everyone.
Other jobs in the public sector are rarely at dire risk during a recession, said Lauren McAdams, a career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeCompanion. Add public school teachers to that list.
“First of all, there are strong protections and safety nets, so it's rare — though not unheard of — for [public sector] employees to face layoffs,” McAdams said. “Furthermore, these jobs offer strong pension packages as well as a range of benefits and plenty of job security. Because even if the economy isn't doing so well, people still have to pay taxes, so public sector paychecks are, by and large, secure.”
For instance, the BLS expects elementary school enrollment to rise in the coming years based on population trends. At the same time, class sizes are also expected to increase, which could make many teachers’ jobs more challenging.
Education has also become popular for people wondering how to make money online. Thanks to the rise of online education, online instructors for distance learning are in demand more than ever.
Still, competitive salaries and benefits could attract many altruistic individuals to the classroom. How much do teachers make?
The median salary for elementary school teachers, excluding those in special education, was $55,800 in May 2016.
Heating and Cooling System Maintenance
Heating and cooling system technicians are part of a long list of installation, repair and maintenance workers whose ranks are expected to grow over the next decade, with heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers expected to boost their numbers by 14 percent, or 39,600 jobs, between 2014 and 2024.
“Service jobs are recession-proof in areas such as electrical, plumbing, heating and roofing,” said Laura Handrick, a certified human resources professional and human resources staff writer at Fit Small Business. “Even if new construction slows, existing homes and businesses continue to need maintenance, and service jobs can't very well be outsourced overseas or done by computer.”
Indeed, working as a heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic is a hands-on job, with professionals maintaining heating and cooling equipment in homes, schools, stores, hospitals, office buildings and factories. Their jobs put them at risk for electrical shock, burns and injuries related to lifting heavy equipment. Workdays can entail long, irregular hours, particularly during peak seasons.
These technicians are also increasingly expected to earn associate degrees or certificates from technical and trade schools or community colleges that offer programs in the field. But the median annual wage for heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $45,910 as of May 2016, according to the BLS.
The number of insurance sales jobs will increase by 43,500 between 2014 and 2024, or a faster-than-average 9 percent, according to the BLS. It's also one of the best jobs to have in a recession.
“The insurance industry is recession-proof because finance companies require it on businesses and homes, and the Department of Transportation requires it on autos,” Handrick said. “So jobs like insurance sales … and adjusting remain fairly recession-proof.”
To find a job, insurance sales agents must be licensed by states to sell various types of policies, and most states require aspiring agents to complete coursework and pass related exams before issuing licenses. Most states also require agents to take continuing education courses to maintain their certifications.
The study time could lead to solid salaries for sales-oriented individuals who understand the ins and outs of insurance. The median annual wage for insurance sales agents was $49,990 in May 2016, according to the BLS.