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?

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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.