There’s no such thing as a 100% recession-proof job. Recessions sometimes strike jobs in unexpected ways, depending on the cause of the recession and the local impact.
That said, some jobs stay safer than others in an economic downturn.
Although many classic recession-resistant jobs require an advanced degree, such as medical doctors, other jobs don’t even require a college degree. Some recession-resistant jobs let you work from anywhere, whether you want to work from home or travel the world.
Top Recession-Proof Jobs
Now may be the perfect moment to switch careers, both to boost your income and protect your career in the event of a global recession.
As you prepare for the next recession, keep the following jobs in mind.
1. Health Care Professionals
People get sick whether gross domestic product (GDP) grows or shrinks. In fact, during a recession, stress factors increase and public health in general often suffers more.
That means health care workers like doctors, nurses, physician assistants, medical technicians, and hospital administrators remain mostly untouched by recessions. That extends to nonmedical workers who work for health care facilities, such as receptionists, janitors, and public-relations officers.
The one exception to this rule lies in elective medical service providers, such as cosmetic surgeons. In a recession, fewer people opt for facelifts or tummy tucks.
Dentists, orthodontists, and other dental workers sometimes see a reduction in appointments too. Many insurance plans don’t cover dentistry, so some patients skip their six-month cleaning and return after a year instead. Still, dental professionals tend to see less recessionary impact than many other industries.
2. Physical & Occupational Therapists
Similarly, physical and occupational therapy are part of the treatment for many ailments and the recovery process for most surgical procedures. Most comprehensive health insurance policies cover at least some of the costs, and these treatments aren’t optional.
Although physical and occupational therapists often see a slight decline in demand as cash-strapped patients postpone elective surgeries or treatments, their jobs and income remain far more insulated than most in a recession.
3. Mental Health & Substance Abuse Professionals
On the one hand, people may halt their twice-per-week therapy sessions if they or their spouse loses their job. On the other, stress levels skyrocket during recessions, causing more mental health challenges, more marital problems, and more substance abuse, according to a study published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.
That means counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and substance abuse workers stay in strong demand, even in recessions.
Those who specialize in more elective treatments, such as hypnotherapy, may need to lower their rates to maintain regular business. But don’t believe for a second that substance abuse clinics or psychiatric units see fewer patients during a recession.
In times of high stress, people suffer. And we all react differently to that suffering. Some endure panic attacks, others anxiety disorders. Some take it out on their spouses, while others turn to drugs and alcohol.
So mental health and substance abuse professionals stay busy during recessions.
4. Social Workers
Likewise, social workers see no shortage of demand when the economy tanks.
Social workers ultimately help people cope with their problems. When families become stressed, child abuse rates can rise. Child behavioral problems increase, as do adult behavioral and emotional issues.
Because most social workers operate in the public sector, which doesn’t see wild employment swings even during recessions, social workers prove doubly protected.
5. Senior Care Providers
Just as people still get sick during recessions, they still age too. Not all can age in place safely and comfortably, and even those who can often require at-home help.
Others have no choice but to move into an assisted living facility. Regardless of their housing arrangement, they still need elder care, recession or no.
Senior care workers include nurses, orderlies, cleaners, cooks, and other support staff members. Their jobs remain relatively immune to the movement of the economy.
6. Hospice Workers
The same goes for hospice workers. Beyond traditional elder care, hospice care keeps the dying comfortable as they approach the end of their lives.
It’s a specialized form of care and takes a particular type of person to administer it. But no one postpones their departure from this world based on economic conditions. Quite the opposite — recessions boost stress levels, which can trigger cardiovascular crises and other life-threatening events.
All of which means that in periods of both growth and contraction, the world needs hospice workers.
7. Funeral Workers
Because people die whether GDP grows or plummets, they still need caskets or urns, burial plots or cremation, funerals, and wakes. Death rates may actually increase slightly during recessions, boosting business across an otherwise stable industry that’s relatively difficult to break into.
Although family members may choose less expensive options during recessions, they can’t forego funerals entirely. As Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”
8. Accountants & Auditors
Speaking of taxes, everyone needs to file a tax return come rain or shine in the economy.
True, they can prepare their tax return themselves using tax return software like TaxAct or TurboTax. But many taxpayers risk making mistakes that cost more in higher taxes than the cost of hiring an accountant — or worse, mistakes that trigger an audit.
Auditors see consistent demand during recessions. And not just IRS auditors, either. Publicly traded companies undergo frequent audits and must file quarterly financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Financial regulations and tax laws don’t go away during recessions, so neither does demand for accountants and auditors.
Actuaries help businesses analyze risk. And during times of economic crisis, risk weighs more heavily than ever on both private companies’ and government agencies’ minds.
Some actuaries work with companies to review efficiency and the best places to cut spending with minimal financial and employment consequences for the company. Others work with insurers to help them understand the risk of benefit payouts compared to premium pricing.
Most remain in high demand, even when the economy takes a turn for the worse.
10. Insurance Providers, Underwriters, & Appraisers
Yes, insurance companies see a dip in demand during recessions. With fewer people employed, fewer people end up having health insurance and life insurance.
But most people keep their jobs and their insurance policies. Even while unemployed, many families prioritize health insurance as a mandatory expense.
And homeowners with a mortgage must maintain homeowners insurance as a condition of the loan. They don’t have a choice but to keep it.
The same goes for car owners. To legally drive a car, you must maintain at least liability coverage in case you hit someone else.
That means insurance agents, underwriters, and other insurance professionals keep writing policies in recessions. Claim adjusters and appraisers also stay busy — in fact, during times of hardship, policyholders sometimes file a claim when they otherwise might have paid out of pocket to avoid premium hikes.
11. Firefighters, Fire Inspectors & Investigators
Fires happen regardless of economic activity. In fact, when buildings sit vacant — as happens more frequently in recessions — they face a higher risk of fires, as do surrounding buildings, per a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
A study by the National Fire Protection Association found that from 2003 to 2015, vacant building fires peaked in 2008 and gradually declined thereafter, particularly in the real estate recovery period after 2012.
Which says nothing of arson, and those higher insurance claim figures mentioned above. The National Fire Protection Association study noted that fully half of all vacant building fires are started intentionally.
In times of economic downturn, firefighters and other fire-related individuals, such as inspectors and investigators, stay busy.
12. Law Enforcement
From beat cops to detectives, CSIs to sergeants, federal agents, and beyond, law enforcement workers don’t stop fighting crime during downturns.
As public workers, police officers remain somewhat buffered from layoffs. But they also stay employed because no one wants a spike in crime to add insult to the injury of a recession.
In the 20th century, evidence showed a clear correlation between economic conditions and crime rates. Young men often see the highest unemployment rates during recessions, according to a United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics analysis of the years 2007 through 2009. That leaves them with a surplus of time and a dearth of money.
The Great Recession actually bucked that trend, with data sources showing a decrease in crime rates, according to an overview by the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. But the pandemic-induced recession of 2020 and its aftermath did see a spike in crime rates and civil unrest.
Choose your own adventure, perhaps. But regardless of the sociological impact of recessions, law enforcement officers tend not to lose their jobs when times are tough.
13. Corrections Workers
Similarly, corrections workers such as corrections officers, parole boards, and probation officers don’t see layoffs during recessions.
Prisoners don’t walk free just because GDP drops. Jails and prisons operate as usual, and everyone who works there continues doing so. Again, if crime increases during recessions, prisons may actually get busier, albeit with a bit of a lag to allow for legal process.
14. Judiciary Workers
The courts stay open too. That goes for both criminal and civil courts, and everyone who works in them.
Workers from clerks to judges to bailiffs to sheriffs to bail bond agents to bounty hunters all keep working as usual. So do the satellite services that cater to them, such as paid parking lots and lunch cafes.
In a rare exception to this rule, the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered or delayed some court proceedings. But that was caused by the public health crisis, not an economic crisis.
Public health emergencies aside, the courts stay open rain or shine.
15. Military & Defense Personnel
The nation’s armed forces are about as recession-proof as it gets.
Security concerns around the world don’t just disappear when a recession hits. Defense spending may fluctuate over the course of decades, but on a year-to-year basis the military doesn’t just lay off personnel due to budget cuts.
In fact, whereas state employment tends to be more volatile, it’s extremely difficult to fire federal workers at all. The federal workforce was one of the few employment bright spots during the Great Recession.
16. Federal Employees
Few employers offer the job security of the federal government. I’ve had many friends work for Uncle Sam over the years — including some who did very little actual work — and they knew just how difficult it was to get fired.
Public employees also enjoy enormous job benefits. From pensions and other retirement plans to outstanding health insurance to generous paid time off, government workers often make up for mediocre paychecks with mighty benefits.
Those benefits and job security provide stability not just for you, but for your whole family. For example, my income fluctuates wildly as I’m self-employed, but I can sleep soundly knowing my wife’s job in education provides all our family benefits and a solid household income floor.
Kids don’t stop going to school because of recessions. Neither do college and graduate students, for that matter.
In fact, colleges and graduate schools see higher enrollment rates during recessions, according to Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby’s research from the 1960s through the Great Recession. With fewer job openings, particularly for those without degrees, young adults tend to postpone their entry into the job market by enrolling in higher education.
Teachers, professors, school administrators, athletic coaches, researchers, and support staff like groundskeepers all tend to have safe jobs during downturns. Schools make excellent sanctuaries during turbulent times, for students and employees alike.
That said, most schools and universities closed during the coronavirus outbreak. Salaried employees such as teachers and administrators continued earning paychecks, but it left many colleges thinking more critically about where they can trim costs and keep their tuition more competitive moving forward.
18. Public Utility Workers
No matter the economy, everyone still needs utility services like electricity, gas, water, sewer service, telephones, and internet.
Local governments operate some of these providers directly. Others operate privately with a state-sanctioned monopoly, but the government regulates them all aggressively. In nearly all cases, providers don’t compete in the traditional market sense. And even if they did, they don’t see much reduction in usage.
So technicians, customer service reps, and administrators for public utilities all generally keep their jobs during downturns.
19. Long-Term Real Estate Investors
Although house flippers may have trouble finding buyers during a recession, long-term investors often find great buying opportunities. With fewer buyers but plenty of distressed sellers, they can score great deals on investment properties. You can search for properties on the MLS or through platforms like Roofstock.
Landlords sometimes struggle during recessions as tenant default rates rise. Contrary to popular opinion, landlords hate evicting tenants — it’s the most expensive outcome for them, involving months of unpaid rent, costly turnover-related repairs, and marketing expenses in filling vacancies.
For investors looking for a bargain, recessions present an excellent buying opportunity. The trick is to keep your cash flow alive until the economy normalizes. You still have all your expenses even if your tenants stop paying rent, which is more likely in a recession. That includes not just your mortgage payment, but also repairs, maintenance, property taxes, property insurance, accounting and bookkeeping costs, and legal costs.
Consider buying rent default insurance through companies like Steady to weather the recession.
20. Marketers (Who Can Document Results)
Traditional attitudes toward marketing go like this: For every dollar spent, companies expect to see more than a dollar returned in higher revenues.
Mediocre marketers suffer during recessions as companies look for costs to cut. But any marketer who can prove their results keeps their job.
It’s an easy enough conversation: “I make you money. You spent $100,000 on my marketing budget last year, and for that cost, my campaigns generated $150,000 in revenue for you. Not only should you keep me, but you should double my marketing budget to boost your earnings further.”
21. Pharmacists & Pharmacy Technicians
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs continue flowing, regardless of the economy. People who need heart medication to avoid cardiac failure tend to prioritize it over other expenses, for example.
And for every person who stops taking Viagra because they can’t afford it, someone else requires anxiety medication to get through the stress of the recession.
Pharmaceuticals are entrenched in modern life, and people will find a way to get their drugs — legal or otherwise — even during times of hardship. Scratch that: especially during times of hardship.
22. IT Workers
Networks, databases, websites, and communications all still need to operate around the clock. Information technology is an enormous umbrella field, and most workers remain in demand, even in a recession.
That includes computer systems analysts, network administrators, data analysts, database engineers, programmers and developers, website designers, project managers, and hundreds of other specialists. The internet must go on.
In fact, many companies look for ways to increase automation during recessions to lower costs. Enter: IT specialists.
Still, some tech workers may find their job at increased risk of offshoring during a recession. They should prepare an argument for why their job should remain local and what they bring to the table in higher efficiency and skill compared to cheaper overseas alternatives.
If anything, people buy more groceries during recessions because they eat fewer meals out at restaurants.
Those groceries may include lower-cost items, like chicken breasts instead of New York strip steaks, but everyone needs to eat. Grocery stores tend to weather economic storms intact.
The same pattern holds with alcohol spending. Fewer people blow money at the bar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they stop drinking. They simply buy their booze at the grocery store or liquor store. These days, they don’t even have to leave home, thanks to grocery delivery services like Instacart.
In fact, research from the State University of New York at Buffalo suggests that many people drank more as a coping mechanism for stress during the Great Recession. The trend held during the COVID-19 recession as well.
Like humans, pets still get sick and injured during recessions. But because most people don’t carry pet health insurance, pet health care does dip in recessions.
Although vets should expect reduced patronage, most maintain more than enough business to stay in practice, even during recessions. A survey conducted at the height of the Great Recession by the Veterinary Information Network found that nearly half of vet practices — 45% — actually saw an uptick in volume rather than a decline. They concluded that veterinarians weather recessions far better than most professions.
25. Divorce Attorneys, Mediators, & Arbitrators
Evidence remains mixed about divorce rates during recessions. Hardship may keep some couples together but split others apart amid crushing financial stress.
For example, one Great Recession study by the University of Maryland didn’t find an overall spike in divorces but did find that divorce rates rose among college-educated couples in areas with high foreclosure rates.
Regardless, couples certainly don’t stop getting divorced during recessions. That leaves no shortage of work for divorce attorneys, mediators, and arbitrators during downturns.
26. Bankruptcy Attorneys & Staff
Sadly, bankruptcy filings do spike during recessions. That means abundant work for bankruptcy attorneys.
And not just attorneys themselves, but everyone who works at their firms. That includes paralegals, secretaries, and administrative assistants. Keep these law firms in mind as an option during downturns, especially if you work in another area of the law that suffers during recessions.
27. Credit & Debt Counselors
Not everyone who gets in over their head with debt declares bankruptcy. But they still often need help clawing their way out of the hole.
Debt and credit counselors can help consumers prioritize debts, pay them down using strategies like the debt snowball method, avoid high-interest debts and predatory lenders, and improve their credit score. Many can also help consumers negotiate with creditors.
If there’s ever a time when people need these services, it’s during and after recessions.
28. Auto Mechanics & Body Shops
Although car owners may try to postpone elective repairs during downturns, many (even most) auto repairs don’t fall under that category.
You can’t drive without brake pads or a transmission. You might skip a $50 regular tune-up, but you can’t skip major repairs that prevent your car from driving safely and legally. And that missed tune-up might even create more repair problems a few months later.
Many owners of older cars opt to keep fixing them rather than buying a new vehicle during recessions. Older cars need frequent repairs, but they’re still usually cheaper than the alternative of a hefty new purchase.
Plus, people still get into accidents. So both mechanical and body repair shops continue to get plenty of work.
29. Librarians & Archivists
Most librarians and archivists work in the public sector and find their jobs relatively safe, even during recessions.
In today’s world, libraries provide far more free services than simply lending books. Many offer technology classes for low-income families and free computer and internet usage. Beyond books, they lend out videos, audiobooks, and sometimes other forms of entertainment and education, such as video games.
Many also offer free or extremely cheap workstations and conference rooms, filling the same niche as coworking spaces. When I’m home in the U.S. visiting family, I often work from the local library.
Far from becoming obsolete, libraries continue to evolve and fill a crucial need in our communities.
30. Public Transit Workers
In times of recession, more people than ever rely on public transportation. That creates job safety for those who provide it.
From bus drivers to train conductors to ticket sellers and beyond, public transit workers remain as safe as anyone when the economy shrinks.
I remember seeing all these driverless cars around the Bay Area back in 2009, beta testing the technology. All the pundits pontificated that every driving-oriented job would be obsolete by 2020.
We all know how that prediction turned out. Quite the opposite, in fact: the rise in rideshare and food delivery apps have only created more demand for drivers, not less.
Millions of people continue to work in this space, whether as employees or gig economy workers. Beyond rideshare drivers, these workers include truckers, couriers, parcel delivery drivers, and more.
And during recessions, people still need things delivered, from Happy Meals to cheap clothes.
I have no doubt the day will come when self-driving cars make many driving jobs obsolete. But it hasn’t happened yet, and may not even happen in this decade.
Recessions are painful, and few people can claim immunity. No one knows this better than those out of work and looking for a job.
Still, some professions — such as jobs in construction and finance — get hit harder than others during a recession. Others manage to escape largely unscathed.
If you worry your job’s days are numbered or you’ve already lost your job, look to the professions above as relative safe havens during times of trouble. Although not recession-proof, they certainly offer more protection than most during downturns.
Don’t be afraid to go back to school to retool your skill set, even while on unemployment. By the time you get your degree or certification, the economic clouds may have passed and the hiring market might look much brighter.