The labor economy is rapidly changing. For years, we’ve heard about the threat of automation. But today, we are witnessing a true shift in the way work is done. The accelerated pace of innovation in machine learning and artificial intelligence is rapidly altering the labor landscape. In doing so, it may also be threatening the job security of millions of skilled laborers.
At the same time, we are facing rising warnings of a possible economic downturn, possibly even a sustained economic recession. In the face of these warnings, what steps can you take to ensure that you aren’t swept aside in a wave of job cuts and automation?
Well, there are no guarantees in life, but there are some jobs that simply fare better than others in the face of economic downturns.
Recession proof jobs are those for which there is always demand, and for which compensation is always commensurate with this demand. The ideal recession proof job is one which carries with it high job security and widespread opportunity for those with required education, training, and/or credentials..
But what are recession proof jobs? What kinds of skills do employers continue to prioritize even in times of economic hardship? And what features make a career path a recession proof one?
We’ll explore these questions below, then we’ll jump right into our list of some of the most recession proof jobs on today’s job market.
What Are Recession Proof Jobs?
Recession proof jobs are those that offer strong job security, projected growth, and salary that is not typically impacted by shifts in the economy. Emeritus says that “While it might be a stretch to call any job completely safe from economic uncertainty, recession-proof jobs are the ones that stay in demand and don’t get impacted by periods of high inflation or recession. These careers offer high job security in comparison to others and might even thrive, regardless of the economy’s health.”
Essentially, you’ll be looking for job openings in fields where workers are in high demand regardless of the current economic cycle and where the field seems likely to add rather than subtract jobs over the next decade or so. Bear in mind as you read on that this doesn’t always refer to the best paying jobs. The recession proof jobs listed here will vary widely in pay, required education, and opportunities for economic mobility.
But what they do have in common is a likelihood of continued demand for human beings with a specific set of skills. These jobs offer more job security because the human beings who do this work are considered essential and irreplaceable. This means your goal is to build skills that promise to create long-term value in the job market.
What kinds of skills do employers prioritize even when a recession hits?
So what kinds of skills are we describing exactly? Broadly speaking, this refers to 21 Century Workplace skills, the kind that yield dynamic, versatile, and essentially irreplaceable employees.
Emeritus notes that “Even in times when there are no job guarantees, the right skills can allow you to make your own opportunities.”
Emeritus subsequently divides these skills into two basic categories: Soft Skills and Hard Skills. Emeritus notes that soft skills like Communication, Leadership, Creativity, Critical Thinking and Adaptability remain in high demand. Likewise, employees with high emotional intelligence, the ability to work independently, and problem-solving mentality tend to succeed in today’s job market.
Emeritus identifies valuable hard skills that are also in high demand today including technology and coding skills as well as knowledge in high-growth areas like digital marketing and data analytics. Project management skills also remain extremely valuable to employers.
Prospective employees who can bring the right combination of soft and hard skills to the table will likely fare better in a rapidly changing labor economy. But of course, you’ll want to choose a career that gives you the best chance of weathering broader financial hardship.
So what exactly makes recession proof jobs so well suited to survival?
What Features Make Recession Proof Careers?
For one thing, it helps to look for jobs in areas where demand is steady regardless of macroeconomic conditions like inflation, unemployment spikes, or outright recession. What are the fields where skilled workers are needed in all economic cycles?
As the popular blog Clever Girl Finance points out, “While some careers are tied to the economy, such as hospitality and tourism, or some retail jobs, others stay fairly constant regardless of whether the economy is doing well or not. These generally involve necessities or everyday life situations that people will pay for even when times are tough such as food and healthcare.”
This underscores the importance of choosing an industry or sector that has historically been stable. Look for fields that have a strong track record of steady employment growth even in the face of catalyzing economic events such as the Great Recession and the COVID-19 crisis.
In addition to considering the recent history of each field, it is wise to look to the immediate future as well. As we noted, we are living in an age of rising automation, emergent AI-powered technology, and increasingly computer-driven productivity. So where does that leave us collectively as human workers?
In truth, the answer to that question is complex and still as yet undetermined. Things are changing rapidly and we’re only beginning to see the impact on the labor market with the introduction of technology like ChatGPT. So what can you do to prepare for and navigate these challenges? What career paths might lead to stable jobs even as the very nature of working shifts around us?
In the simplest terms, there are two equally important answers to this question. In the future, the careers with the highest job security will be those in which:
- The work of human beings remains essential and can’t be automated or replaced by technological innovation; and
- The work of human beings who are skilled and knowledgeable in the utilization, maintenance, repair, and enhancement of technology.
Fortunately, these two categories cover a ton of ground. That’s why the list below is so varied.
10 Recession Proof Jobs You Should Consider
For our purposes, a recession proof job is one with higher than average projected growth over the next decade. The jobs that promise the highest security in the immediate and mid-term future are diverse in pay, sector, and required education, but each field is projected to achieve a rate of growth that is equal to or–in most cases–higher than the national average rate of 6% growth for all jobs.
This offers a unique way to look at potentially recession proof jobs in that it isn’t simply a ranking of high paying jobs with lofty educational requirements. Robust growth may actually be projected in numerous fields–such as food services and healthcare–where no college degree is required. In other words, opportunities abound for accessible recession proof jobs regardless of your access to, and level of, education.
We should also note that while the professions included here are listed in order of their rate of projected growth, from highest to lowest, this was not the sole consideration for their inclusion nor an indication of their overall ranking for job security in the broader economy. A number of qualitative factors were also used to determine which jobs were included here including the continued demand for skilled human laborers, the relationship between innovation and occupation, and the diversity of settings in which a given job may be performed.
1. Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers top our list with an extremely robust rate of growth and a high salary to match it. This leadership role includes functions such as planning, directing and coordinating the day to day operations of organizations in the healthcare sector such as hospitals, long term care facilities, and outpatient facilities. This critical leadership role proved of increasing importance during the COVID-19 crisis.
With hospitals and healthcare facilities stretched to their limits, we learned just how critical organizational leadership is in the healthcare sector. We also saw that the demand for healthcare administrators remained high–and even grew–in the midst of economic downturn. And this demand will only grow along with the rate of aging in the American population, as well as longer life expectancy and a larger number of Americans with healthcare coverage thanks to the national insurance marketplace.
Altogether, this explains why medical and health services managers are projected to see a 28% rate of growth between now and 2031. This amounts to the addition of 136,200 jobs over the next decade.
And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for medical and health services managers in 2021 was $101,340. Most who hold this role will have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, though some organizations may prefer candidates with some clinical experience or an advanced degree such as a master’s degree in healthcare administration.
2. Home Health Aides
To reiterate the point above, an aging population and longer life expectancy have contributed to a general rise in roles and opportunities for healthcare professionals. But few jobs in any field offer the type of growth potential that the BLS projects for those providing in-home healthcare services.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for home health aides in 2021 was $29,430. However, this field offers an extremely robust projected 25% rate of growth between now and 2031. This amounts to the addition of 924,000 jobs over the next decade.
Those who serve as home health and personal care aides typically work closely with individuals who are injured, disabled, or suffer from chronic health issues that make it difficult to attend to daily tasks alone. Your job will largely be to provide support in completing these activities as well as assisting with basic medical needs like taking medication and completing physical therapy.
Aides may work in a variety of settings including healthcare and rehabilitation facilities as well as group homes and private patient homes. Earning a high school diploma or GED will be sufficient to qualify you for work in most states. However, some home healthcare organizations or hospice agencies may require you to earn role-specific certification in order to practice.
3. Computer and Systems Information Management
As we’ve noted several times here, we are living in the midst of rapid technological innovation. Automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence all promise to dramatically alter the labor landscape. So it makes sense that one of the most secure places to build your career is directly within this space. This is why computer and information systems managers are likely to see some of the strongest job market growth over the next decade.
The BLS notes that computer and information systems managers are generally responsible for planning, coordinating, and leading organizational functions related to computer systems, networks, databases, and more. It may be your role to build, maintain, and/or leverage these systems to the benefit of your organization. You may also be required to perform various managerial duties as well from user training and onboarding to project management and delegation of responsibilities.
And because computer information systems are essential in every sector, you could provide these skills in a nearly endless array of contexts from healthcare facilities and supply chain operations to public transportation grids and state governments, just to name a few.
Given the diversity of opportunities and its connection to our current wave of innovation, it should come as no surprise that this field offers some of the most robust projected growth that you’ll find in the job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy will add roughly 82,400 computer and information systems management jobs between now and 2031. This amounts to an extraordinary 16% rate of growth.
It should also come as no surprise that this heightened demand is paving the way for an extremely high rate of pay as well. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for computer and systems information management was $159,010 in 2021.
There is a meaningful educational threshold to clear before you can earn this type of salary, however. The minimum threshold for computer and information sciences professionals will generally be a bachelor’s degree. However, the BLS confirms that in a highly competitive field, many computer and information systems professionals will go on to earn a graduate degree as well. This may be a particularly good way not just to improve your earning potential and job security but to identify a specialization that can enhance your value and provide you with immediate professional direction.
Bear in mind, this is a field from which so much innovation will arise over the coming years. This is your chance to be a part of it, and to enjoy the high job security and earning power that come with it.
4. Chemical Engineers
Engineering is, in general, an area with steady growth potential, well above average pay, and a recession proof outlook. But the chemical engineering specialization projects to be among the strongest job markets in the engineering sector over the coming years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for chemical engineers in 2021 was $105,550 with an extremely healthy 14% rate of growth projected between now and 2031. While this amounts to the addition of 3,700 jobs over the next decade, the job market is brimming with various closely related roles in areas like bioengineering, food sciences, architectural engineering, and so much more.
From private sector and government jobs to opportunities for entrepreneurial leadership in the engineering sector, chemical engineers will apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics in an extremely wide range of areas. And the good news is that innovation is near constant in many of these fields.
This can include work in drug manufacturing, food production, alternative fuel development, environmental protection, and in the construction industry. As a chemical engineer, you would likely work onsite and provide direction to a team. Because this is a highly skilled role with opportunities for leadership, a bachelor’s degree is often viewed as the minimum academic threshold for qualification.
Moreover, in order to become a Professional Engineer (PE) in your state, you would likely be required to pass your state’s licensing examination. In order to qualify for this exam, you must not only have earned your bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or a related field, but you must also have accumulated several years of practical field experience working under a mentor.
While the process of earning your PE license can be lengthy, the resulting salary and job security suggest it may be a worthy investment of your time.
5. Health Education Specialists
We learned a lot during the COVID-19 crisis. Most particularly, we learned how much we still have to learn! The pandemic underscored the importance of those working in areas like public health, community health, and health education. Health education specialists and community health workers will generally work in a wide range of settings including free health clinics, hospitals, non-profit public health agencies, government agencies, and in consultation of policy development related to important public health issues.
More generally, health education specialists help to promote knowledge, awareness and resource access in various areas of importance to public health. The primary goal is to compel individuals, communities, and targeted demographics to adopt healthy behaviors. Often, health education specialists will work on coordinated campaigns to promote objectives like nutritional eating, engagement in physical activity, or as we experienced during the pandemic, mask-wearing and hand-washing.
In other words, there are many different pathways for those who wish to contribute to public health and health literacy. That’s why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of health educational specialists and community health professionals will add an estimated 15,200 jobs over the next decade. This amounts to a very strong 12% rate of growth–double the national average of 6% for all jobs.
The median annual salary for Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers was $48,860 in 2021. And most roles in the field require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. It may alternatively be possible to become a community health worker with a high school diploma and some on the job training. Depending on the state, organization, or agency where you plan to work, you may be required to complete a certification program which could include a licensing examination.
And given the wide range of growing public health challenges that we face as a nation including hunger, opioid addiction, gun violence, and a more general challenge of dispelling the widespread disinformation that proliferates online, there are countless opportunities for health education specialists and community health workers to make a positive impact. This avenue offers both job security and a way to contribute to our shared health and wellbeing.
6. Forensic Science Technician
There is a growing demand for those with specialized knowledge, skills and education in areas like law enforcement, security, and jurisprudence. In particular, law enforcement, security, and homeland defense agencies are seeking those with the scientific training and background to assist in investigations, analysis of evidence, and the construction of legal cases.
This is why forensics science technicians have seen such strong growth in opportunity, alongside a fairly robust starting salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for forensic science technicians was $61,930 in 2021 with a projected 11% rate of growth between now and 2031. This is projected to lead to the creation of roughly 2500 job openings each year over the next decade.
While the rate of growth for forensics techs is extremely fast–nearly twice the 6% average for all jobs–the profession itself is fairly modest in size. Today, the BLS reports just 17,600 individuals are working in this role.
However, for those with the specialized skills in question, the demand is robust. Moreover, advances in technology continue to improve our forensics capabilities. This will heighten the demand for those with the knowledge and skills to leverage this technology in contexts such as law enforcement, investigation, and in the courts.
The BLS notes that the forensic science technicians primarily aid in criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence both at crime scenes and in laboratory settings. The basic educational requirement to become a forensics science technician is typically a bachelor’s degree though most roles in law enforcement and homeland defense also require on-the-job training.
7. Financial Analysts
It goes without saying that there is a lot of money in the field of finance. Financial professionals are routinely among the top earners in the business sector, which itself is generally home to the highest earning professionals in the American labor economy. In other words, those who work in roles such as financial analysts can generally anticipate a substantially higher than average salary.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for financial analysts in 2021 was $95,570. This is also paired with a very strong rate of growth. The BLS anticipates that the number of jobs for financial analysts will grow by roughly 9% between now and 2031. This amounts to the addition of 31,900 jobs over the next decade.
Financial analysts enjoy job security because their skills are valuable across a wide spectrum of fields. Simply stated, every kind of business, organization, or government agency must be able to understand the meaning of its own operational costs, streams of revenue, investment portfolio, and more, especially within the context of given economic events and regulatory climates.
This means that financial analysts provide insight and guidance to departments, companies, and policy makers as they make key financial decisions. Most financial analysts will have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, however finance is a highly competitive field. Many candidates will have an advanced degree. In fact, the BLS notes that finance professionals enjoy among the highest salary premiums of all business professionals upon earning their MBA.
8. Human Resources Specialists
Human Resources Specialists have come to play an increasingly prominent role in organizational management and stewardship. HR personnel can perform an extremely wide and varying set of roles in a given organization from recruitment, onboarding and training to compensation and benefits management, conflict mediation, and disciplinary enforcement. ‘
And like many of the jobs that make our list, this one is noteworthy because it applies in so many different industries. Large retail outlets, healthcare networks, construction companies, and financial firms alike have HR departments charged with a wide range of duties. This is why HR professionals earn a strong salary and are projected to see steady growth in job prospects over the coming years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for human resource specialists in 2021 was $62,290 with a projected 8% rate of growth between now and 2031. This amounts to the addition of 58,800 jobs over the next decade. The path to entry is also relatively affordable and accessible. According to the BLS, the majority of human resources specialists will be qualified to enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in business or a related area.
Those interested in pursuing HR management roles will likely want to earn an MBA with a concentration in human resources. As a bonus, earning this advanced degree will only further strengthen your long-term job security.
9. Education Services
Regardless of events in the broader economy, education remains a basic and critical need. For this reason, the field of educational services is rich with relatively recession proof jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for education professionals was $57,220 in 2021, with a projected 7% rate of growth between now and 2031. This amounts to the addition of 658,200 jobs over the next decade, with many concentrated in early education and private educational service settings.
Broadly speaking, education services is a catch-all that includes teachers, library workers, career and technical training educators, museum workers, special education teachers, teacher assistants, and much more.
Education services cover a broad gamut of roles, levels and pay ranges. The figures here above reflect the field more generally. However, those in roles such as post-secondary education earned a median salary closer to $80,000 in 2021. While the vast majority of those working in education services are classroom teachers at the preschool, primary, middle-school and high school levels, this field also includes many contributors in the private sector.
A wide spectrum of organizations engage in training, certification, publishing, production of educational materials, innovation in educational tech, and much more. This means there are various settings where you could provide your skills and time in the educational services field.
And today, educators remain in demand across numerous subsections of the ed sector. For instance, the BLS anticipates 7% growth in job opportunities for instructional coordinators,a 12% rate of growth among archivists, curators, and museum workers, and a robust 15% rate of growth in preschool roles over the next decade.
Roles for primary, middle school and high school educators are expected to grow on pace with the national average of 6% job growth between now and 2031.
At the risk of stating the obvious, electricity powers everything we do. Those with the skills and knowledge required to work with electricity will always be in demand. Even as power generation and alternative energy alter the landscape, our infrastructure is built on our ability to harness and use electricity both safely and efficiently.
This is why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities are expected to grow at a projected 7% rate between now and 2031. This amounts to the addition of 50,200 jobs over the next decade.
The median annual salary for electricians in 2021 was $60,040, which is an above-average pay for jobs not requiring a college degree. In most cases, the pathway to work as an electrician will begin with technical or trade school. This is typically followed by a period of apprenticeship with an electrician already working in the field. Most states also require licensing, which means you would likely be required to pass a certification exam.
As an electrician, you would be responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of various electrical systems including power grids, communication networks, lighting systems, and more. Not only is there a steady and ongoing demand for individuals with these skills, but your knowledge of electrical systems could put you in a strong position to evolve with the job market.
As we come to rely more on automated systems and computer-powered innovations, electricians may be in a unique position to help us leverage, optimize and even enhance these systems. This could put you in a position, as an electrician, to not only weather downturns in the broader labor economy, but even to thrive as the landscape changes.
Of course, it’s important to reiterate that no job is technically 100% recession proof. We selected the jobs included here because they project strong growth even in the face of potentially fierce labor economy headwinds.
But as we also note throughout, there are numerous ways that you can enhance your value, earning potential and, most importantly, your job security. It’s up to you to pursue the education, knowledge and credentials that can lead to strong long-term career stability.