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42 recession-proof jobs to keep cash flowing during economic downturn

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Worried about having a job?

Whether we’re currently in a recession — or we’re on the verge of entering one — is currently up for debate among economists. But it is certain that the job market is fluctuating widely with massive layoffs, even though at the same time we seem to be in a worker shortage. 

Read our guides on 74 side hustles and best at-home careers to bolster your skills and career plans, which may include jobs that do not require a degree or starting one of these 7 recession-proof businesses.

Still worried? More info on what happens in a recession and how to prepare for a recession.

What are recession-proof jobs?

Most recession-proof jobs are in essential industries, which means people will continue to spend money in those sectors regardless of the what is happening in the economy. 

During the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate rose to a whopping 10% — today it sits at 3.5% — with construction, manufacturing, and financial advising sectors losing the highest numbers of jobs.

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What are the top recession-proof industries?

These are some industries that have historically remained the most stable in a recession:

Government

During the Great Recession, federal hiring increased about 14%, with higher increases in the executive branch and defense departments. 

Health care

In its April 2011 Monthly Labor Review, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the health care industry added 428,000 jobs during the 18 months of the Great Recession and continued a steady growth in the months that followed.

Food / discount retail

According to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, families increased spending at discount stores during the Great Recession.

Mental health

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found in a 2019 study that people who suffered a financial, housing-related, or job-related hardship as a result of the Great Recession were more likely to show increases in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and problematic drug use. During this time, clinical psychologists reported an increase in referrals, as did those during the economic downturn early in the Covid pandemic. 

Professional services

Professional services can include everything from financial advisors to funeral directors. 

People in a recession may turn to financial professionals like accountants, bookkeepers, tax preparers, auditors, and insurance agents to ensure their financial security. 

Government recession-proof jobs

All annual salaries are from Ziprecruiter, unless otherwise noted:

Military

Why it’s a recession-proof job: In January 2009, the New York Times reported that all active-duty and reserve forces either met or exceeded their recruitment goals for the first time since 2004, though it’s worth noting that the same year, violence in Iraq intensified.

Job training: Go to the U.S. military website and read about the requirements for each branch (they all vary in terms of age, fitness level, education and more). 

Salary: $52,369 average, with earning potential of $111,000 per year

Criminal justice jobs

Why it’s a recession-proof job: According to an article published in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, robbery and property crime rates typically rise during recessions — though the Great Recession was an anomaly in this regard. However, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did report during that recession that their staffing levels went from “critical” to “adequate.” 

Job training: Requirements vary by position/state/county/municipality, but most criminal justice jobs require you to complete a training or degree program and pass entrance exams/undergo extensive background checks.

Salary: 

  • Police officer – $57,931 average, up to $81,500
  • Corrections officer – $42,777 average, up to $62,000
  • Prison guard – $68,069 average, up to $183,000
  • Crime Scene Investigator – $53,940 average, up to $71,500
  • Detective – $42,792 average, up to $83,000

Court clerk

Why it’s a recession-proof job: The New York Times reported in December 2009 that New York state courts handled 4.7 million cases that year, the highest ever recorded at that time.

Job training: You can get an entry-level court clerk job with a high school diploma or GED in most states, though it helps to enroll in a court clerk certification course.
Salary: $40,177 average, up to $73,000

Healthcare recession-proof jobs

ER doctors and nurses

Why it’s a recession-proof job: The Kaiser Family Foundation found that people tend to put off preventative and other needed care during a recession, which in turn leads to increased ER admissions. 

Job Training: After high school, ER doctors need 11 more years of study and training – four years of undergraduate, four years of medical school and three to five years of residency, typically. ER nurses need a four-year degree, plus at least two years of residency. 

Salary:

  • ER nurse – $102,995 average, up to $253,500
  • ER doctor – $346,707 average, up to $400,000

Psychiatrists

Why it’s a recession-proof job: A study published by the Association for Psychological Science found that people who experience a recession have a higher risk of adverse mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicide. 

Job training: After earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need either a PhD in psychology, which is more research-based, or a PsyD in psychology, which is more practice-based. You’ll then need to complete your state’s licensing exams. Psychiatrists must also go to medical school and complete about three years of psychiatry residency. 

Salary: $270,087, up to $400,000

Nurses/RNs

Why it’s a recession-proof job: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that during the Great Recession, nursing wages and employment increased. 

Job training: Nurses have either a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which takes four years to complete, or an associate’s degree in nursing, which takes as little as two years but might net you a lower salary (Nightingale College reports ADN nurses make an average $40,250, while BSN nurses earn $71,730 on average). 

Salary: $76,124 average, up to $123,500

Home health aides/LPNs and CNAs

Why it’s a recession-proof job: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Great Recession saw marked growth in hospitals and doctors’ offices, as well as home health and skilled nursing facilities.

Job training: To be a licensed practicing nurse, or LPN, you’ll need about 12 months of training, and you can become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or home health aide (HHA) in as little as a few weeks. 

Salary: 

  • HHA – $28,211 average, up to $38,000
  • LPN – $50,867 average, up to $79,000
  • CNA – $34,168 average, up to $56,000

Check out our list of five HHA training classes to get certified as a home health aide

Occupational therapists

Why it’s a recession-proof job: An article from the American Occupational Therapy Association cites job security for OTs during the Great Recession with “demand being on the rise.”

Job training: You’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, an accredited OT program (usually about six weeks), clinical hours (varies depending on program) plus pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Salary: $96,075 average, up to $165,500 

Pharmacists and pharmacy techs

Why it’s a recession-proof job: According to the 2009 National Pharmacist Workforce Survey pharmacists were in “high demand overall” during the Great Recession.

Job training: 

  • Pharmacist – Most PharmD programs (a doctorate in pharmacy) can be completed alongside your bachelor’s degree, equating to about six years total of education. Then you’ll need to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and either the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or a jurisprudence exam specific to your state. 
  • Pharmacy tech – You can complete either a certificate program, which takes about 9 months, or go for an associate’s degree in about 2 years. Then you’ll have to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam, or PTCE, and get licensed. 

Salary: 

  • Pharmacist – $115,427 average, up to $150,000
  • Pharmacy tech – $34,319 average, up to $48,000

Hospice workers

Why it’s a recession-proof job: In an article published in Hospice News, hospice CEOs expressed confidence that their facilities would remain in high demand in a recession, citing an aging population and increased demand overall for hospice services. 

Job training: Many different professions are needed in hospice care, including nurse aides, occupational therapists and mental health counselors, and training varies for each. 

Salary: As of Aug 8, 2022, the average hourly pay for a Hospice Nurse in the United States is $38.40 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter.

Intake Specialists 

Why it’s a recession-proof job: Intake specialists are the folks who welcome you and check you in for medical appointments. Given the recession-proof nature of health care jobs in general, according to the BLS, intake specialists would likely be safe in the event of a recession. 

Job training: You can typically gain employment with a high school diploma or GED.

Salary: $35,615 average, up to $52,500

Mental health recession-proof jobs

Psychologists and psychiatrists

Why it’s a recession-proof job: A study published by the Association for Psychological Science found that people who experience a recession have a higher risk of adverse mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicide. 

Job training: After earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need either a PhD in psychology, which is more research-based, or a PsyD in psychology, which is more practice-based. You’ll then need to complete your state’s licensing exams.

Salary: $113,600 average, up to $217,000

Many therapists like the flexibility and ease of serving clients through online therapy platforms. We reviewed Betterhelp.

Social workers

Why it’s a recession-proof job: Not only is social work still needed during an economic downturn, the US Bureau of Labor & Statistics predicts it will grow 12% between now and 2030.

Job training: To become a social worker, in most states you will need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from an accredited program, plus a license. To be a clinical social worker, you’ll need supervised clinical experience. 

How much you can make: The average salary for a social worker is around $56, 797 per year, or $27 per hour. 

Counselors

Why it’s a recession-proof job: The American Counseling Association published an article in 2009 that “fear, panic and disillusionment are way up” during tough economies. 

Job training: To become a licensed mental health counselor, or LMHC, in most states, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, clinical supervised training, a completion of the National Board of Certified Counselors exam, and your particular state’s license to practice. 

How much you can make: The average national salary for LMHC is around $83,984.

Substance abuse counselors

Why it’s a recession-proof job: A 2019 article published in Case Management Basics discusses how any sort of counseling is recession-proof — not only do people need more counseling in tough times, but the role cannot be automated and should be secure in the future. 

Job training: You’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in counseling, check whether you need supervised field experience in your state, then pass the exam(s) and apply for a license in your state.

How much you can make: Expect to make around $43,494 as a national average. 

Learn more about the signs of a recession and how one will affect your life.

Recession-proof jobs in retail

Grocery store workers

Why it’s a recession-proof job: Eating is essential, but dining out is not — and this 2022 article from PYMNTS.com talks about consumers shifting from restaurants to grocery stores during a recession. 

Job training: You don’t need a college degree to work in a grocery store. Most will train you on-site to become a cashier. But for a specialized supermarket role, such as butcher or florist, you’ll need additional credentials. 

Salary: Expect to make around $12/hourly, or $24,631 yearly, on average, as a grocery store cashier. 

Discount retail cashiers

Why it’s a recession-proof job: While discount shops such as OLLI and Dollar Tree target lower income households, during a recession, their business booms. Check out this 2022 article from Investor’s Business Daily to read how discount retailer stock shares rise in recessions. 

Job training: Similar to grocery store cashiers, discount retail cashiers typically only need a high school education. 

How much you can make: Again, similar to being a grocery store cashier, expect to make an average of $12/hourly.

19 easy and legit ways to get free gift cards in 2022

Beer, wine and liquor sales

Why it’s a recession-proof job: People’s drinking habits didn’t shift much during the Great Recession. According to polling from Gallup – 65% of American adults still raise a glass in hard times.

Job training: Similar to other retail cashier roles, you’ll need a high school education, and likely the ability to lift heavy boxes. 

How much you can make: Expect to make around $23,634 a year in a liquor store, or $11/hourly. 

Professional services that are recession proof

Financial advisors

Why it’s a recession-proof job: People who hire financial advisers are not likely to stop using them in an economic recession. In fact, this article from Personal Finance says that 77% who work with one think their adviser will help them through the recession. 

Job training: Start with a bachelor’s degree, and then enroll in courses that will make you a Certified Financial Planner. Some are available through major banks like Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch. 

How much you can make: Expect to make around $81,325 a year.

Tax Accountants

Why it’s a recession-proof job: Jobs in accounting are expected to grow 7% between now and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Job training: Beyond a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need around 150 additional hours’ worth of accounting-related courses, followed by the CPA exam. 

How much you can make: Expect to make around $76,616 yearly as a CPA.

Lawyers

Why it’s good in a recession: People always need lawyers, says this article from LawPath, updated in 2022, but certain kinds will fare better in a recession: criminal lawyers and family lawyers in particular, rather than business and transaction lawyers. 

Job training: To become a lawyer, start with earning a bachelor’s degree, then pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) exam, then graduate law school and complete the bar exam. 

How much you can make: An entry-level lawyer can expect to make around $52,304 annually.

Credit and debt counselors

Why it’s good in a recession: During a recession, many people realize they need help managing credit — check out this 2009 article, published by WTOC News in Savannah, discussing the uptick in consumers needing credit help. 

Job training: After earning your bachelor’s degree, get certified through The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC) or Financial Counseling Association of America. 

How much you can make: Expect to rake in about $57,368 per year as a credit counselor.

Funeral directors

Why it’s a recession-proof job: Check out this article from 2008 discussing how funeral services are still valid in a downturn — and the National Funeral Directors Association “projects the U.S. death rate will increase from eight people per thousand in 2007 to 9.3 people per thousand in 2020 and 10.9 per thousand in 2040, as baby boomers die off…” 

Job training: Most states require at least an associate’s degree in mortuary science, then an apprenticeship, before you can become licensed. 

How much you can make: Expect to make a yearly salary of $51,973 on average. 

Insurance agents

Why it’s a recession-proof job: An article from Insurance Business America published in 2020 reminds us that “people and businesses need insurance whether the economy is doing well or not.”

Job training: You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to be an insurance agent but it helps. Afterward, determine what your state’s requirements are to be licensed — in most cases you’ll have to take at least a few courses and pass an exam. 

How much you can make: Expect to make around the national average of $50,707 each year.

Bookkeepers

Why it’s a recession-proof job: Small businesses rely on bookkeepers to help them determine where to cut costs, according to this article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Job training: Obtain a bachelor’s degree and improve your chances of getting a job by enrolling in a certificate program — plenty exist online and you can complete one remotely. 

How much you can make: You’ll probably make an average of $42,837 as a bookkeeper, though many earn into the six-figures or mopre.

We explore how to become a bookkeeper without any experience, and review Bookkeepers.com, the leading online bookkeeping training course.

Recession-proof jobs in education and academia

Teachers

Why it’s a recession-proof job: According to an article from Randstad, education has been ‘dealt a better hand’ than many other professions during economic recession. The article points out that even if you’re laid off from one school, chances are you can find work at another. 

Job training: You need a bachelor’s degree to become a public school teacher, followed by a teaching certificate and experience in the classroom. 

How much you can make: Expect to make around the average of $32,396 annually as a public school teacher.

Tutors/Homeschool Teachers

Why it’s a recession-proof job: A 2010 article published by The Christian Post points out that the Great Recession did not affect homeschooling — in fact, the movement was growing and continues to be stable now.

Job training: Requirements to tutor or work as a homeschool teacher will vary according to the family hiring, but becoming a certified teacher is always desirable for the position. 

How much you can make: Expect to make an average of about $65,302 per year — potentially double what public teachers make — as a private homeschool instructor. 

How to get free tutoring

Library Work

Why it’s a recession-proof job: An article from Smart Cities Dive, published in 2020, pointed out the necessity of libraries in a downturn to help people find job-related resources and engage in free community activities. 

Job training: To be a librarian, you need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in library science — but many libraries will hire assistant roles, requiring less education. 

How much you can make: A librarian can expect to make about $57,411 annually, while a librarian assistant can bank on about $39,255.

Recession proof utility/trade jobs

Water Treatment

Why it’s a recession-proof job: The Department of Homeland Security has deemed safe water quality an essential service, as published in this Water Quality Association newsletter. 

Job training: In some states, you can work in water without any kind of water operator certification, but check your location to find out. 

How much you can make: Expect to make about $43,233 as a water treatment operator. 

Waste Management 

Why it’s a recession-proof job: The country produces hundreds of millions of tons of trash per year – and someone has to pick it up and process it. 

Job training: Typically, working in waste management consists of on-the-job training. 

How much you can make: Expect to make an average of $52,093 per year in waste management.

Electrical Work

Why it’s a recession-proof job: Thinking about becoming an electrician? Bright idea – there’s an electrician shortage and the demand is high, according to a 2021 article from Qmert. 

Job training: If you have a high school diploma, enroll in either an electrician program at a trade college or find an apprenticeship program. Then, pass the test and get licensed in your state.

How much you can make: Expect to make roughly $51,695 annually as an electrician. 

Even more recession-proof jobs

Mechanic

Why it’s a recession-proof job: Take a look at this article from the Great Recession in 2009 published in Charlotte — auto repair shops were seeing an uptick in business, since fewer people bought new vehicles. 

Training: Most of the time, you can enroll in a mechanic training program through a trade school after finishing high school. You can then get on-the-job training and, down the road (pun intended) get certified for more complex repairs, such as brakes and electrical systems. 

How much you can make: Expect to make around $44,459 a year as a car mechanic. 

Home repair/Handyman

Why it’s a recession-proof job: The Daily Record reported in 2008 that handymen and repair service providers stayed busy in the downturn due to people not purchasing new items. 

Training: Training depends on the repair, but in many cases, no formal training is needed.

How much you can make: Expect to make around $55,303 per year as a handyman. 

Veterinarian 

Why it’s a recession-proof job: According to this article from PetCareRX, spending on pet care has increased 4.6% annually in the last decade, and millennials have more pets than previous generations. 

Training: You will need a bachelor’s degree plus four years of vet school and clinical training to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, or DVM.

How much you can make: Expect to make about $145,858 annually as a vet. 

…..and the worst jobs during a recession?

So what jobs should you steer clear of when the economy looks like it’s heading for a crash? Here are six professions that won’t be as durable. 

  • Construction/Renovation: Construction projects are often paused in a recession. This includes renovations. 
  • Auto sales: Large purchases, including new cars, are put on hold in recessions. 
  • Tourism/travel: Less travel in a downturn means less need for travel-related employees. 
  • Culture/Events: Most people watch TV at home during a recession, rather than buying tickets to events, movies and concerts. 
  • Restaurant workers: Cooking at home and skipping restaurant dining is par for the course in recessions. 
  • Marketing: Because people stick to essential goods and services during a recession, less marketing is needed.

Bottom line: Protect yourself with recession-proof skills

To make the most of your education and skills during a recession, ask yourself what would be the highest-paying, most essential job you can obtain in the shortest amount of time. You might even want to rewrite your resume to showcase your most recession-proof skills. With a little bit of planning, you can keep the cash flowing no matter what. 

What are recession-proof jobs?

Most recession-proof jobs are in essential industries, which means people will continue to spend money in those sectors regardless of the what is happening in the economy.

What are the top recession-proof industries?

These are some industries that have historically remained the most stable in a recession: retail, professional services, and healthcare.

Denise K. James is an independent writer and editor based in the Southeast. She holds a master's degree in English from the College of Charleston and has lived in multiple Southern cities, with Atlanta as her current home. Denise has written for a variety of websites and publications, including Homelight, Celebrate Hilton Head, Grand Strand Magazine, Birmingham Lifestyle, Edible Northeast Florida, Southern Flavor and many others. In her spare time, Denise enjoys exploring Atlanta, taking road trips, watching the birds and squirrels out of her window and reading great works of literature.

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