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Five Recession-proof Careers for a Tight Economy

The news keeps coming in, and it’s not encouraging. Declining home prices and the resulting slowdown in the American economy have put manufacturers, investment bankers, and retail employees out of work. With less to spend on luxuries–and less credit from banks and lenders to draw on for large purchases–less money is circulating through the market. Industry analysts fear that this cycle could have long ranging effects on the U.S. job market. Fortunately, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Ethan Harris, chief United States economist for Lehman Brothers, describes the U.S.’s current economic woes as a “slow-motion recession.” According to Harris, “In a normal recession, things kind of collapse and you have nowhere to go but up. But we’re not getting the classic two or three negative quarters. Instead, we’re expecting two years of sub-par growth.”

In the meantime, job seekers can look to other parts of the economy for career security. According to outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, at least five areas should see steady growth and offer excellent career prospects in the coming years.

Recession Proof Career # 1: Healthcare
Health care is one area of the economy where growth has been little affected by the credit crunch. Employment of nurses has remained especially high: currently the largest healthcare occupation (employing 2.5 million), nurses are expected to add another 587,000 new jobs to the workforce by 2016. In 2007, registered nurses earned a median salary of $60,010.

The need for new applicants has grown at such an alarming rate that many employers are recruiting workers laid off in other sectors of the economy. Faced with a growing patient population, Clair Young, chief nursing officer at the Cleveland Clinic, wants to add 300 new nurses to her staff of 3,800. The applicants are being lured from other parts of the economy with tuition reimbursement and flexible schedules. “Unfortunately,” says Young, “one of (our) strategies is capitalizing on the recession.”

Recession Proof Career #2: Energy

With high demand for fuel causing widespread uproar, energy companies have generated tremendous profits and may need to expand their workforces. In February, Exxon Mobil posted the highest profits ever recorded by a company, with net income rising 3 percent to $40.6 billion (The company’s $404 billion in sales exceeded the gross domestic product of 120 countries). Reacting to backlash from groups disgusted at the high profits, Exxon revealed the scope of its investment in discovering and developing new sources of energy: more than $80 billion between 2002 and 2006, and an additional $20 billion in 2008.

The turmoil of gas prices and the effort to implement alternative fuel sources have spawned tremendous growth in environmental engineering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental engineers should expect employment growth “much faster than average” through 2016, with an estimated 25 percent more jobs to open in the field. Job seekers can take advantage of these projected openings by earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. And if tuition costs have you pondering the decision, keep in mind that environmental engineers earned a median salary of $72,350 in 2007.

Recession Proof Career #3: Education

Over the coming decade, careers in education–higher education in particular–are expected to remain stable. Fred Crowley, economist of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, notes that UCCS typically enrolls more graduate students during a recession. And though during the last recession the university coped with hiring freezes and frozen wage increases, Crowley noted, “No one actually lost their jobs here.”

In K-12 education careers, opportunities are likewise expected to remain welcoming. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, increased retirement, higher student enrollment, and teacher turnover should add 2.8 million teachers to the workforce over the next eight years, with the greatest gains at the preschool and kindergarten levels. Though surprising to some, kindergarten teachers earned a median salary of $45,120 in 2007.

Recession Proof Career #4: Security

Though the economy may have its ups and downs, the importance of local and national security personnel remains constant. The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security may need to fill an additional 83,000 jobs over 2008 and 2009. In order to help train new applicants, many universities and colleges are offering associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees in homeland security, as well as certificate programs in security.

Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of police officers and detectives to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations–7 to 13 percent–between 2006 and 2016.

Recession Proof Career #5: International Business
Although the recent banking and credit crunch has sent painful shockwaves through the world economy, a few international business careers should remain stable, even during a recession–in particular, finance and accounting careers. Steve Birkshire, Regis University professor explains, “(b)ecause of the issues with Enron and all new requirements–combined with the shortage in the field–that’s going to keep accountants in business. They’re really protected.” According to the BLS, job openings for accountants will increase by roughly 18 percent through 2016, with the best prospects for those with a college degree and/or CPA certification.

A Golden Opportunity
Job hunters may wonder what it will take to land a job in the new economy. Experts advise job seekers to keep an open mind. Nelson Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute, advises job hunters to grow comfortable working “in the service of new technologies.” Staying involved in continuing education is also important. Relevant coursework in new job skills–especially computers and software applications–are a must-have for today’s job hunter, and many recession-resistant jobs require extensive postsecondary education. Most importantly, however, job seekers should maintain a positive attitude.

Kelli Smith is the senior editor for www.Edu411.org. Edu411.org is a career education directory for finding colleges and universities, training schools, and technical institutes.

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