Looking for Job Security? Here Are the 5 Best Degrees to Get

Best Degrees

Nursing, one of the best degrees to get if you’re concerned about job security.

In 2005, after working for peanuts for two years at a Boys and Girls Club, I decided to go back to school to become a teacher.

Teaching seemed like a great career choice: I loved working with kids and I knew that teaching would provide me with job security for the rest of my career.

It turns out that I was delusional.

From the outside, it seemed like teaching would be a recession-proof job that I could walk into once I had the proper certification. But the reality is that many areas face teacher gluts (especially among English teachers like myself) and public school budget cuts often result in pink slips for teachers. I was not certain about the future of my hard-won job for my entire teaching career.

While there is no career field that is absolutely immune to recessions or changes in technology, some degrees confer more security than others. Here are five degrees that promise job security throughout your career:

The Best Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degrees

1. Actuarial Science. This field is all about estimating future probabilities and analyzing risks—and taking this job is very low risk, indeed. This is a well-paid and growing profession: actuaries have a median salary of over $87,000 per year, and the profession is growing at a rate of 27%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The average rate of growth for all occupations is 14%).

Actuaries need to have excellent math skills, particularly in the fields of Calculus, statistics and probability. In order to become an Actuary, you must have a bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science, and pass a series of professional exams. Many actuaries work for insurance companies or the federal government, although actuaries are valuable assets to any number of major companies and fields that need someone to predict potential risks and costs.

2. Nursing. The demand for registered nurses is always high, since recessions don’t stop people from getting sick or injured. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the next decade will see an increased demand for this profession—at growth rate of 26%—for a variety reasons, including

“technological advancements; an increased emphasis on preventative care; and the large, aging baby-boomer population who will demand more healthcare services as they live longer and more active lives.”

There are several paths to this profession, including earning a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in nursing, or earning a diploma from an approved nursing program. In addition to the education requirement, RNs must also pass a national licensing exam before they may begin their career. Since registered nurses may start their careers with a two-year degree and can expect a median salary of nearly $65,000 per year, this is one of the least expensive yet lucrative degrees a student can earn that will promise a long and secure career.

Best Master’s Degrees

3. Occupational Therapy. With the boomer generation projected to need help coping with all of the diseases and disabilities associated with age, this profession just keeps growing and growing. Occupational therapists do require some extra schooling—generally you will need to get a master’s degree in the field, as well as pass your state’s certification licensure requirements—but the additional time in school will be worth it for the great sense of job security. Over the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the field of occupational therapy will see 33% growth (bls.gov).

With median pay of about $72,000 per year, a great deal of job flexibility (OTs can work with patients of all ages and walks of life in any number of venues, from hospitals to clinics to homes), and the feeling that they are making a measurable difference in their patients’ lives, occupational therapists report a very high level of job satisfaction to go along with a sense of job security.

4. Master’s Degree in Counseling. Mental health counselors and family and marriage therapists can help individuals cope with issues of addiction, depression, relationship problems, and emotional disorders. As the stigma surrounding therapy fades away, more individuals are willing to seek help with their problems, making this a growing field. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that growth is expected in this field

“as insurance companies increasingly provide for reimbursement of counselors and marriage and family therapists as a less costly alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists.”

The median salary for this profession is relatively low at just under $40,000 per year. However, the projected growth over the next decade is 37%, and this profession offers individuals an opportunity to help others overcome obstacles. This career requires both a master’s degree and a license in order to practice.

Best Doctoral or Professional Degrees

5. Doctor of Pharmacy. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) reports that “a shortfall of as many as 157,000 pharmacists is predicted by 2020 according to the findings of a conference sponsored by the Pharmacy Manpower Project, Inc.” Add to that expected shortfall the increased demand for pharmacists as the American population ages and needs more pharmaceutical care, and it is clear that this is an excellent career for those wanting good job security.

The median salary for a pharmacist is over $111,000 per year. Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) as well as a professional license, which is granted after passing two exams.

The Bottom Line

Not all jobs are created equally secure. The key to having a long career in your chosen field is to pay attention to trends and to stay current with your education and professional development. Making sure you do that will help you remain a valuable asset to your employer and your field, even if you work in a career that doesn’t promise the kind of security these jobs offer.

Did your degree provide job security? If not, did you return to school to get a different degree?



Last Edited: June 13, 2013 @ 12:26 pm
About Emily Guy Birken

Emily Guy Birken is a former English teacher, and an excellent freelance writer. She's also a stay-at-home-mom. She resides in Lafayette, IN, with her engineer husband and son. Emily's thoughts on parenting and life in general are found at The SAHMnambulist.

Comments

  1. “as insurance companies increasingly provide for reimbursement of counselors and marriage and family therapists as a less costly alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists.”While in theory this is true, the actual rate of reimbursement by insurance companies and state programs are really quite low.  As a result many in this field have chosen to specialize and go into private practice to avoid low reimbursement rates coupled with a ridiculous amount of paperwork.  I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in 3 states so I speak from experience.  Still, if I were recommending degree for mental health and similar work, I would go with a MSW-Master of Social Work as they tend to be more versatile.
     
    The need for nurses is also quite overstated across all shortage literature.  The reality now in this economy is that with state and hospital cutbacks, many nurses are being laid off or asked to take salary cuts.  To make it you need a specialty coupled with a lot of specialized training to set yourself apart.  Many resort to temp or placement firms but as you can imagine, they are quite saturated with an overabundance of clients with the same designation and nothing about a specialty that would help them stand out.As with any degree, have a plan for how you will either get a job or create an opportunity for yourself.  The degree in and of itself won’t guarantee you a position.

  2. “as insurance companies increasingly provide for reimbursement of counselors and marriage and family therapists as a less costly alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists.”
     
    While in theory this is true, the actual rate of reimbursement by insurance companies and state programs are really quite low.  As a result many in this field have chosen to specialize and go into private practice to avoid low reimbursement rates coupled with a ridiculous amount of paperwork.  I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in 3 states so I speak from experience.  Still, if I were recommending degree for mental health and similar work, I would go with a MSW-Master of Social Work as they tend to be more versatile.
     
    The need for nurses is also quite overstated across all shortage literature.  The reality now in this economy is that with state and hospital cutbacks, many nurses are being laid off or asked to take salary cuts.  To make it you need a specialty coupled with a lot of specialized training to set yourself apart.  Many resort to temp or placement firms but as you can imagine, they are quite saturated with an overabundance of clients with the same designation and nothing about a specialty that would help them stand out.As with any degree, have a plan for how you will either get a job or create an opportunity for yourself.  The degree in and of itself won’t guarantee you a position.

  3. A friend of mine from school is an actuary and you’re right it is recession proof.  You stated that you need a degree in Actuarial Science but he actually has an economics degree.

    •  @OneSmartDollar Its true, you do not need a BS in Actuarial Science in order to to be an Actuary.  While having a BS in Actuarial Science will help in passing the professional exams, since must people that have a BS will have already passed the first exam if not the second as well.  Plus it will give you a jump start on the material that will be covered in following exams.

  4. I live right by OHSU a huge teaching hospital, so all my friends who are nurses have a hard time finding jobs since everyone moves to Portland, falls in love with it and wants to stay.

  5. VeronicaHill79 says:

    Right on the money. I can concur that occupational therapists do really well, and fairly quickly. My aunt is an OT and she went from a really low income to making some decent money very quickly.

  6. AverageJoeMoney says:

    I find it interesting that most of these jobs follow the Baby Boomers. I wonder what happens to these fields once we crest that wave. Of course, that’s many years down the road….

  7. I think people would GRIMICE when they look back on their life of trading time for money.  It’s a TRICK don’t do it.  CUT YOUR EXPENSES and free your life.  YOU don’t need all that junk anyway.

  8. Realizing that a nursing job is more recession-proof and its increasing demand, my auntie took up nursing after being laid off from her job in a construction firm. We are glad that she will be finishing her course next year. 

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  10. If your saying the Nursing is a secured degree. how come there are basically thousand of unemployed registered nurse out there? I am not sure fully agree with you on this. I have read an article in <a href=”http://www.finance-frog.com/”>The finance frog</a> frog which discusses about how Nursing Degree is in a huge trouble.
     
     

  11. There are many professions but according to bls.gov there is very less unemployment rate in medical. http://aboutonlinedegrees.org/

  12. I may need to start all over and become a pharmacist. An estimated shortage of 157,000 pharmacists by 2020? That sounds like I could name my salary…