10 Recession Proof Jobs

Careers That Can Withstand an Economic Slowdown

Piggy bank illustrating recession
••• Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

From December 2007 through June 2009 the United States suffered through what economists termed "The Great Recession." Unemployment rose from 5 percent to 9.5 percent during that period and even reached 10 percent in the months following. The long-term unemployment rate—unemployment lasting for at least 27 weeks—was at an all-time high (Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS Spotlight on Statistics: The Recession of 2007-2009. February 2012).

The Great Recession was the 10th recession to strike this country since 1948. With 10 such events in about 60 years, these economic slowdowns, unfortunately, aren't all that unusual. With an abundance of horror stories of people losing their jobs and taking a long time to recover, you may be thinking it would be wise to look at recession proof jobs.

History has shown us that while recessions typically impact some job sectors more than others, every one is different. An industry that remained unscathed during previous slowdowns can be decimated by the next one. No occupation is guaranteed to withstand an economic downturn, but some are more stable than others. Typically, jobs that are vital to the functioning of society fare best during difficult times.

The following careers are as close to recession proof as you can get. The need for people to work in these occupations typically remains steady even during economic downturns. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts they will have job growth that is at least as fast as the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. The government agency predicts some of them will even have growth that is faster (an increase of 10 to 14 percent) or much faster (14 percent or more).

1. Registered Nurse

RNs, as registered nurses are commonly known, care for patients and provide emotional support to them and their families.

Required Education: Bachelor's, Associate, or Certificate in Nursing

Median Annual Salary (2017): $70,000

Number of People Employed (2016): 2.9 million

Projected Employment (2026): 3.3 million

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 15 percent

2. Physical Therapist

Physical therapists use a variety of modalities to restore their patients' mobility, relieve their pain, and prevent or limit further disabilities.

Required Education: Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree

Median Annual Salary (2017): $86,850

Number of People Employed (2016): 239,800

Projected Employment (2026): 306,900

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 28 percent

3. Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists help their patients regain their ability to perform tasks of daily living.

Required Education: Master's Degree or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy

Median Annual Salary (2017): $83,200

Number of People Employed (2016): 130,400

Projected Employment (2026): 161,400

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 24 percent

4. Special Agent (Detective)

Special agents, sometimes called detectives or criminal investigators, determine whether people have broken laws.

Required Education: H.S. Diploma plus experience as a police officer

Median Annual Salary (2017): $79,970

Number of People Employed (2016): 110,900

Projected Employment (2026): 115,900

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 5 percent

5. College Professor

College professors teach students various academic subjects at post-secondary institutions like community and four-year colleges.

Required Education: Doctorate in the area of expertise; Master's degree may suffice at some community colleges

Median Annual Salary (2017): $76,000

Number of People Employed (2016): 1.3 million

Projected Employment (2026): 1.5 million

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 15 percent

6. Teacher

Teachers provide elementary, middle, and high school students with instruction in a variety of subjects including math, history, language arts, science, music, and visual arts.

Required Education: Bachelor's Degree in Education/Master's Degree required in some states

Median Annual Salary (2017): $54,230 (Kindergarten); $57,160 (Elementary School); $57,720 (Middle School); $59,170 (High School)

Number of People Employed (2016): 154,000 (Kindergarten); 1.4 million (Elementary School); 630,000 (Middle School); 1 million (High School)

Projected Employment (2026): 166,700 (Kindergarten); 1.5 million (Elementary School); 677,700 (Middle School); 1.1 million (High School)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 8 percent (Kindergarten); 7 percent (Elementary School); 8 percent (Middle School); 8 percent (High School)

7. Funeral Director

Funeral directors coordinate all the details of funerals, including services and burials.

Required Education: Associate Degree in Funeral Service or Mortuary Science

Median Annual Salary (2017): $51,850

Number of People Employed (2016): 28,700

Projected Employment (2026): 29,800

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 4 percent

8. Accountant

Accountants prepare financial statements, examine them, and make sure they are accurate.

Required Education: Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

Median Annual Salary (2017): $69,350

Number of People Employed (2016): 1.4 million

Projected Employment (2026): 1.5 million

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 10 percent

9. Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers manage the manufacture and installation of computer systems and servers.

Required Education: Bachelors Degree in Computer Engineering

Median Annual Salary (2017): $115,120

Number of People Employed (2016): 73,600

Projected Employment (2026): 77,600

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 5 percent

10. Software Developer

Software developers oversee the creation of software that is used to make computers, mobile devices, video game systems, and e-readers function and perform the actions their users expect them to.

Preferred Education: Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

Median Annual Salary (2017): $107,600 (Systems Software Developers); $101,790 (Application Software Developers)

Number of People Employed (2016): 425,000 (Systems Software Developers); 831,300 (Application Software Developers)

Projected Employment (2026): 472,100 (Systems Software Developers); 1 million (Application Software Developers)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 11 percent (Systems Software Developers); 31 percent (Application Software Developer)

Although it is prudent to take employment outlook into account when choosing an occupation, it is unwise to disregard whether the career is also suitable for you. Learn about yourself by doing a thorough self assessment and gather facts about the occupation before making a final decision.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook and Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online.