Since one drawback of capitalism is that it’s cyclical, the question isn’t whether or not an economic downturn is coming —it’s when. At the moment, unemployment is low and consumers are spending. Both are strong signs that the next recession may be milder than the one that kicked off in 2008, lasted about 18 months, and tossed 2.6 million American workers out of their jobs.
While there’s unfortunately no such animal as a 100% recession-proof job, a few fields and functions were relatively safe even in 2008, and they’re likely to stay like that next time around, too.
“Historically, there are industries and occupations that have been less correlated to business-cycle fluctuations than others,” says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at career site Glassdoor. “In the past, jobs in health care, education, and utilities have not suffered as many job losses during a down cycle.” Also somewhat shielded from what Chamberlain calls “the slings and arrows of economic variation” are union jobs and positions in government.
Glassdoor recently took a deep dive into its database to find out which jobs are most likely to weather the next recession relatively unscathed. Alas, these gigs aren’t easy to get, since specialized training and licensing is usually required.
The researchers came up with a list of ten, in no particular order, and what gives them a good chance of outlasting a downturn:
Public-school teachers are often union members, which makes their positions harder to cut. Beyond that, no matter what the economy gets up to, the report points out, “children still need to go to school.”
2. Physician assistant
This is a tough field to enter. You need a bachelor’s degree plus two more years of schooling that Glassdoor describes as “comparable to an abbreviated medical school,” often followed by hands-on training similar to a medical residency, and then a license from your state. But, even in a troubled economy, people still need medical care. What’s more, the study notes, “working as a physician assistant can offer flexibility in location, making it easier to switch practices if necessary.”
You usually need a doctorate, along with teaching and research experience. But tenure —a status that is often long and tricky to achieve— is like “hitting the job security jackpot,” the study says, adding that because it’s practically synonymous with lifetime employment, tenure is “one of the most enviable achievements in academia.”
4. Accountant or auditor
Regardless of the economic climate, accountants will always be needed, especially during tax season. Auditors are perhaps even safer, since audits are required by law for any publicly traded company, recession or not. Both roles call for a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or business, followed by Certified Public Accounting (CPA) training and licensure for accountants. For auditors, employers usually prefer a graduate degree and, in some cases, a certification for auditing in a specialized area.
Similar to physician assistants, nurses are needed in any economic weather, with either a two -year or four-year nursing degree and a license from the state after passing an exam. Particularly as the population ages, the study says, demand for nurses is likely to remain high no matter what.
6. Utility worker
“Behind every basic modern convenience is someone working behind the scenes to make it happen and keep it running,” the study notes —from maintaining roads to hauling trash to making sure the lights stay on. Most utility employees have a high school (or GED) education, plus technical experience in the field, and “physical stamina.”
Because their job involves helping businesses to make decisions that minimize risk, including which areas of a company to cut back or shut down altogether, “actuaries can be some of the most attractive people to employ” during a downturn, the study says. The job calls for at least a bachelor’s degree in a finance-related field, with a graduate degree in actuarial science “a significant plus.”
8. Teacher’s aide
Like teachers, aides “fall under the umbrella of education, which can earn them a safe space during a recession,” Glassdoor says. Teacher’s aides need at least an associate’s degree, with additional licensing and certifications that vary by state.
9. Nurses’ aides
To qualify, you’d need a certificate in nursing, after completing a program at a community college or vocational school. Not only is almost any credentialed job in healthcare more recession-proof than most other fields, but nurses’ aides can work in a variety of different settings —such as hospitals, nursing homes, and home care— so that finding a new job, if need be, is relatively easy.
10. Funeral director
Granted, this one is not for everybody. The role calls for a two-year degree in funeral studies, followed by state licensing exams. But “recessions don’t stop people from dying,” says the study. “There are very few things you can predict in life, but death is the one constant everyone can count on.” Talk about being recession-proof.
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