Best Jobs To Ride Out A Recession

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2008-06-1826

Which are the best jobs and careers that weather a downtrend? Do you know which ones may not last?

When you’re in between jobs or just starting out, one wise move you can make is to consider work that may possibly be immune to economic shifts. And what exactly are these recession proof jobs like? Here are some things you should be looking for:

  • Jobs that are in high demand,
  • that require special skills,
  • that continue to provide goods and services regardless of what goes on with the economy,
  • that are found in specific industries that show resistance to downturns,
  • that are offered by stable companies that have the foundation to weather financial and market cycles.

I’ve got my own personal story that illustrates what I’ve done to get through some tough economic periods: During the high tech boom of the 1990’s I took a lot of risks and jumped from one employer to another, eventually landing a job at a small startup that wasn’t making any money. But in the early 2000’s, I was one of the numerous casualties of the dot com bust. So can you guess what I did after I got laid off? After a short break, I decided to sign up with a mature, stable and large company that offered me a full time job. Gone were my days as a contractor as I no longer had the nerve to take chances with my paycheck. And there I stayed for a good long four years (the longest I stayed anywhere!) until I decided to leave on my own volition.


Goes to show that when you join a larger, more mature company, you will probably be the most secure as you can ever be as an employee, though there may still be no guarantees. But your risks of job loss are greatly reduced.

How Are Jobs Affected During A Slump?

For those of us on the lookout for work, I thought these additional facts would be helpful: the latest unemployment numbers released some weeks back indicated that certain job sectors were recently negatively impacted,

  • Construction
  • Professionals: lawyers, architects, management consultants
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Transportation, Warehousing

while other sectors were actually adding jobs. These articles from PayScale.com and NY Times give us some ideas about the types of jobs that will hold up during hard times:

  • Few feds lose their jobs during a recession and most downsizing in the federal government is based on attrition, not filling vacant positions, rather than letting people go.
  • Sales and marketing positions and others supporting them are fairly sturdy. Anyone who makes or saves money for a company will be relatively safe.
  • Recession proof jobs are those that the population demands regardless, like healthcare and pharmaceuticals. People are getting older, people are getting frailer, and demographics of the population are aging. Biosciences, physical therapy, occupational therapy are recession proof, being in demand and requiring specialized skills.
  • Even during boom times no job is fail-safe. But some industries are safer havens than others, experts say, such as education, health care, the federal government, clean technology, information technology, and sales and marketing.

Top White Collar Jobs During A Recession

So if you’re a high school teacher, health care worker or computer engineer, you may be in pretty good shape. This table, reprinted from CNN Money (in conjunction with PayScale.com), shows us which professions provide the best combination of attractive pay along with solid job security.

JOB GROWTH RATE GROWTH* MEDIAN COMP WHY IT’S SECURE
Financial adviser 41% $74,000 As boomers retire, they’ll need financial hand-holding.
Software program manager 29% $103,000 Someone has to prevent complex systems from going kerflooey.
Database administrator 29% $77,000 See above. It’s good to be a computer nerd.
Physical therapist 27% $67,000 The baby boomers’ backs and knees aren’t getting any younger.
Physician assistant 27% $84,000 Managed-care companies love PAs: They’re cheaper than docs.
Environmental specialist 25% $53,000 Ever heard of global warming?
Hydrologist 24% $59,600 Water is in short supply. People get thirsty. Enough said.
College professor 23% $79,000 It’s Econ 101: Demand for schooling is growing.
Certified public accountant 18% $64,000 Thank complex tax codes and audit-hungry regulators.
Teacher 12% $48,000 Try to get fired from this union job. Just try.
Note* Projected growth in jobs between 2006 and 2016. Sources: BLS data, PayScale.com.

Looking For A New Job?

If you’re job hunting right now, you may want to try these online resources to help you with your search:

  • Monster.com: is one of the most visited web sites in existence and is the largest employment site out there. It’s an incredibly popular job search engine, which hosts job postings and resumes numbering in the millions.
  • Job.com: a resource for local jobs, career advice and other services to manage your job and career.
  • Executive Search Online: a leading nationwide job matching service for more experienced executives. Pay levels for these executive jobs are typically higher.
  • Beyond.com: an extensive career network that’s set up as a community of niche sites in various industries.
  • ResumeEdge: a resume editing resource for those who need a little help writing a high quality resume and / or cover letter. They are the leading provider of resume writing services online and the chosen resume partner of well-known job sites such as Yahoo! Hot Jobs, CareerJournal and Dice.com.
  • Resume Rabbit: a resume distribution service that submits your resume to top online job banks such as Monster, HotJobs, Career Builder, Dice, etc, as well as job search engines.
  • Snag A Job: a tool to help you find hourly jobs. This job site specializes in finding part-time and full-time hourly jobs.
  • Yahoo Hot Jobs: a popular online job board.

For more ideas, check out this article that lists 25 careers to pursue during a recession or this piece I wrote last week detailing the steps you can take to recession proof your job and career.

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. Micah June 18, 2008 at 11:26 am

Glad I’m married to a college professor. ;)

Maria @ Frugal Homesteading June 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I think it’s especially important, during a recession, to diversify income sources as much as possible. This is especially true of one works in a weak sector. What products or services can you offer apart form your main job in order to increase your income? What passive income streams can you build up as a safety net?

Bill June 18, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Great post! Your posts are always complete and informational.

Chad @ Sentient Money June 18, 2008 at 1:17 pm

The recession will be over before anyone can complete the schooling for these professions. Except for maybe the professor, as this person maybe graduating in the middle of the next recession. However, it is a good list for anyone who was already planning on going to school, as most of these professions have been strong for 15 years.

Silicon Valley Blogger June 18, 2008 at 1:36 pm

@Mrs. Micah,
Must be nice to get summers off?

@Maria,
Quite valuable advice, thank you! Too many of us are reliant on only one stream of income — the one coming from our jobs. So yes, if we can somehow diversify our income sources, we’d be much more protected during leaner times. Great food for thought.

@Chad,
Some people missed the dot com bust altogether because they were safely ensconced in somewhat “untouchable” jobs. They may not have experienced the highs of the boom, but they were also spared the depths of the bust. Some of these people were my colleagues at the large company I joined after I got laid off. They’re still in the same company after 15 years and are not complaining.

A lot can be said about large, stable companies — the pay may not be extraordinary but the perks are!

Funny about Money June 18, 2008 at 7:15 pm

This is really interesting. The pay rates seem a little exaggerated. In Arizona, K-12 teachers start around $25,000; top pay is around $50,000, but that’s only after you’ve been with a district for many years and have many continuing ed credits beyond the master’s degree. A person who’s earning that much here as taken as many graduate-level courses as a Ph.D. program would require.

Meanwhile, at my university, I don’t know anyone who’s making 79 grand. Some heavy hitters do that well and better, but they’re not typical. I’d say the average salary is more like $55,000 to $60,000. And if you’re not tenured, your job is less than eternal. Even if you are, administrators dream up ways to lay off tenured people, too.

Professors at public universities are state employees. Because our state legislature hasn’t come to an agreement about the budget, we’re being told that unless a budget is agreed upon by July 2, we will not be paid our next paycheck. So, no, we’re not laid off; we just get to work for free. :-o

The other thing that’s happening on the university level is that for reasons yet unidentified (but probably related to surging tuition prices), enrollment is not rising in the usual inverse proportion to the unemployment rate. Usually people go back to school when recessions occur. That’s not occurring this time. Consequently the universities are suffering, too.

James June 20, 2008 at 3:32 am

The downturn of the world economy has greatly affected our lives and recession is one great result. Businesses of varying scale try to keep afloat but the sad reality is, a lot of them perish.

Ed: Yeah, but new businesses pop up to take the place of those that “perish”. Uh…. survival of the fittest exists not just in nature; it’s the way the world works eh?

Ann Harrington @ The Recession Blog October 25, 2008 at 11:49 am

There are more tips I wrote here: finding a job during a recession.

Ed: Thanks for the tips, Anna.

Jobirn December 12, 2008 at 10:56 am

LoL! Why not be a Physical therapist? It may be the most respected job decades ago!
The baby boomers’ backs and knees aren’t getting any younger.

Ace March 4, 2009 at 8:44 pm

So far this year movie ticket US sales are up 17.5 percent for a total of US1.7 billion, and attendance is up a surprising 15 percent. If this continues, it will be the biggest box office surge in 20 years. Maybe the best job out there in the recession is a ticket taker at a movie theater.

David Stillwagon March 16, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Great information and lots of terrific links!

Tim April 6, 2009 at 10:01 am

This article paints quiet a picture and link-rich for sure. And financial advisers average $74,000? Wow.

Anyway, here’s a possibility that could get some looking in a different direction. Since so many are talking about being more creative during this economic slump, why not think outside the box of looking to work for another in the first place? I know, I know, but stay with me for a moment.

It’s amazing that there are plenty of skill sets that are for whatever reason not “conventional” enough to be taught in schools, but the mastery of which would lead to more autonomy.

Most of us are trained to be employees- nothing wrong with that, but thinking that way can be a kind of tunnel vision that keeps many from learning skills that would allow them to carve out their own path to income and contribution.

One of them is as close as the computer in front of you. No really, for the first time in history, we are 3 feet in front of the world, yet few learn how to use it in a way to render 1) value to others and 2)income for themselves.

There ARE ways to learn this stuff, if you can avoid all the junk and find good and reputable sources.

leavethejobbehind.com

Christian November 30, 2009 at 8:43 am

Having over a decade of experience in the Physiotherapy clinic world, I would have to only somewhat agree with the notion that Physical therapy positions are secure. Compared to many other types of professions on the job market, yes, Physical Therapists seem to fair better in terms of security. However, like other industries and markets, many physiotherapy clinics have been negatively affected. When people lose their jobs, they also lose employee benefits (in Canada) which often cover the costs for Physiotherapy. Factor in less income from job loss, and physiotherapy becomes less attainable financially for many patients. Although many physiotherapists do their best to work with all patients, even in such hard times, the fact is that many physiotherapy clinics (and jobs) are negatively impacted by the loss of patient volume in today’s tough economy – at least this is the case in the private sector.

Physio December 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Cream will always rise to the top no matter what you do so get into the mindset of offering added service, rather than thinking of your own needs. The rest will fall into place.

Reg Adkins August 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

You have an interesting article here but it needs updating. Teachers are no longer safe. I know a lot of highly qualified teachers who are out of work due to enrollment drops around places where the commercial market has moved on or become depressed. Tenure has become a myth as new regulations connected to NCLB make it easy to let a veteran teacher go in order to pick up a much cheaper fresh out of college graduate or even cheaper alternative certification teacher coming in from other depressed markets. Tennessee is particularly notorious for such shenanigans.

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