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By Jack Ganssle

Recession Proof Jobs

Published 7/28/2008

Are we in a recession? Various analysts have different answers, but I'm not sure the question really matters since these downturns are usually identified ex post facto. Calamity always makes for good press, and nothing is more personal than the economy, so every downturn gets examined like an oncologist studying a smoker's X-rays.

Yet the unemployment rate in the US is a relatively low 5.5%.

The current slowdown does have the feel of a perfect storm of bad news with huge energy price hikes and the collapse of mortgage markets spiking costs and accelerating layoffs. The dollar continues to slide against, well, most mainstream currencies while our trade deficit sends too many greenbacks to China, which is creating an odd blend of communism that is perfecting capitalism. T. Boone Pickens is buying ad spots to say we ship $700 billion overseas each year just for oil, which is more than the GDP of all but 16 countries. None of these problems seem likely to change in the near term, so the rough times could go one for quite a while.

The word "recession" inspires fear, above all, of job loss. There's not much scarier than getting a pink slip as so many live a paycheck or two away from ruin. Are any jobs safe? Are some more at risk than others?

Jobfox did an analysis of their hiring data and came up with the 20 most recession-proof professions (http://www.jobfox.com/Site/Employer/pdf/TopJobsJuly08.pdf ). I think their methodology was flawed, but the numbers are interesting nonetheless.

Surprisingly, the most recession-proof job is that of Sales Rep/Business Development. Normally these are two very different occupations so it's odd they were clumped together. Software Design/Development is number two, and the study claims "Computer software engineers are expected to be among the fastest-growing occupations through 2016." That's great news for firmware folk.

Accounting gets slots 4, 5 and 10, followed at 6 by network admins. Surely that "profession" will change as networking becomes truly the invisible and automatic fabric of the world. MCSEs and the like will go the way of the slide rule once networking under Windows works properly becomes seamless. I suspect there will be a need for low-level techs who plug cables, and for networking engineers who design datacenters and Internet connectivity.

EEs get spot 17. So, from an embedded perspective, both sides of our business are expected to remain in strong demand.

Careers that manage technology, in various forms, hold five positions, a full quarter of the top so-called recession-proof jobs. So perhaps the most interesting takeaway from this study is: Get that MBA.

What's your take? How recession-proof is embedded development?