In 2009, the job market will be full of contrasts: some industries will be eviscerated while others face shortages of workers. The good news is that despite the recession, there are still real jobs to be had. The bad news is that you may have to change fields to find one.
The trick to job hunting in 2009 will be to figure out how your skill-set can translate across industries, says Elaine Varelas, a managing partner at Boston-based outplacement firm Keystone Partners, so that you're not confined to searching one sector of the economy. "People are frustrated because it's taking them a while to assess the job market," she says. "They'll have to figure out other things they can Ð and want Ð to do." Successful job-seekers will be the ones who can figure out how to take skills learned in one kind of job and translate them into assets in others.
Here are the top eight areas where work can be found in 2009:
1) Nursing & Medical Services
Perhaps the best bet in 2009: Becoming a registered nurse or medical technician. With over 50,000 new nursing jobs to be created this year alone, med techs and nurses will have their pick of jobs and salaries, the latter averaging about $57,000 per year.
Social services jobs will see a boom too, as a swelling number of retirees check-in for medical care, says the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report. But not all health care jobs will see equal growth. "The growth here will be more about the services and delivery people—nurses and technicians—than administrators," Varelas explains. "Hourly workers interested in changing roles should get into any role that services the elderly," she suggests.
2) Computing & Engineering
Computer-related jobs are projected to grow by more than 20 percent in the next decade, and 2009 will be no exception. Software engineering is particularly in demand, with network systems and data communications analysis also booming. These jobs also had some of the highest median salaries in 2006, according to the BLS, with computer software engineers earning a median income of $79,000 a year.
These positions are expected to grow at nearly double the rate of other types of jobs, but that won't last forever. "As the software industry matures, and as routine work is increasingly outsourced abroad," fewer computing jobs will be available in the next decade, the BLS notes.
But for now, technology workers are still in high demand, says Varelas. Most of the open positions will be found at smaller companies, where employers will be looking for a versatile, multi-faceted worker that can fill more than one role. "You have to be a business person who's also a tech person," to be an ideal candidate, Varelas explains. That could give an advantage to seasoned workers over recent grads.
"To a great extent, education is recession proof," says Roy Krause, President and CEO of recruiting and staffing company Spherion. In 2009, roughly 38,000 of our economy's new jobs will be created in colleges and universities nationwide. As more students wait out the recession in college and graduate programs, the need for teachers, administrators, assistants and other staff will expand.
The demand for primary and secondary-school teachers will be booming as well. "There always seems to be a shortage there," says Krause. Some of the most in-demand teaching roles will prepare workers for the most in-demand jobs. "There are literally not enough educational programs to generate the volume of health-care workers we'll need," Varelas explains. As high schools and universities expand to meet demand for nurses, computer engineers and teachers, the demand for teachers and professors will grow commensurately.
Post-secondary teachers can expect a media salary of about $56,000, according to the BLS, while kindergarten through 12th grade teachers can expect between $43,000 and $48,000.
4) Green Jobs
So-called "green" jobs haven't been measured in BLS reports to date, but some experts have predicted they'll shake up the list of the fastest-growing jobs before the end of the decade. "More and more companies are adding dedicated staff to focus their environmental efforts," says Alison Doyle, About.com's Guide to Job Searching. Green jobs are arriving in two breeds, she explains: some will be at specialized firms that reduce human environmental impact, like environmental consultancies; others will simply be jobs at environmentally-friendly companies looking to improve their eco-image by hiring specialized "green" officers to audit and improve the company's environmental impact.
But the recession might slow the corporate world's eco-makeover, as many companies' transition to green-hood is delayed by financial problems. To see any growth in green job demand, we'll also need to see some "very creative new organizations," Varelas explains. Upstart green-services companies may be hiring, she says, but otherwise this sector will be what she describes as a "slow-growth industry: high demand but high competition."
Companies that can afford to go green will hire staffers like Traceability Managers, who will examine global supply chains and check for suppliers that might be excessively pollutive or carbon-costly to buy from. Environmental consultancies will seek to hire engineers or architects who are LEED-accredited, understand HVAC systems and can help guide developers through the LEED approval process for their buildings.
"There's a big buzz on campus about renewable energy," says Chris Higgins, Senior Associate Director of Career Management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Outgoing students are particularly interested in startup companies, he says. "Biofuels seem to be the biggest area of investment." Those venture-backed businesses should still be in good shape to hire in 2009, since they are more insulated from the broader economy.
"Obama's talking a lot about green initiatives, so alternative fuels are going to be big," agrees Spherion CEO Krause. But those renewable energy jobs might also see a glut of interest from workers in traditional energy, thanks in part to increasing volatility and competitiveness in the market for oil and gas jobs that has resulted from wild oil-price fluctuations. "We're seeing a slowdown in Texas and Canada," Varelas says of North America's two biggest oil-producing areas. Workers in the energy industry have very specific skill-sets and knowledge that don't translate well to other industries, she notes. She predicts that many of these workers may "be jumping at a green energy job" if they have the opportunity.
With the president-elect vowing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on internal improvements like roads, bridges, broadband infrastructure and financial oversight, some experts are predicting niche job booms. "We work with a couple of companies that build bridges, and they're expecting a lot more business." says Krause.
Financiers might also find new lives as a part of the government's new regulatory apparatus, which will need auditors, accountants and compliance officers. Obama's energy-independence programs will also require electrical and mechanical engineers, grid managers, biofuel chemists, and civil engineers. Electrical, mechanical, chemical and civil engineers made median salaries of about between $68,000-$79,000 in 2006, according to the BLS Median salaries for power plant operators were about $55,000, or about $70,000 for operators at nuclear power facilities.
7) The New Finance
Financiers should prepare to be especially flexible in 2009. "Those people will need to take a look at reinventing themselves. They'll have to figure out where else they can use their skills, and move into other industries," Varelas says. For many bankers, that will mean applying their middle or back-office operations knowledge in other businesses. How long before they can move back into their former careers? "This consolidation is going to be long Ð at least three-to-five years," Varelas says.
But don't discount finance yet. "We'll simply see shifts. There will be a shift from originating mortgages, for example, to collecting on them," Krause explains. "If interest rates go down to 4.5%, you'll also see a lot of refinancing." This will require underwriters, actuaries, and administrators.
For financial workers switching fields, an initial pay cut may come with the transition. A financial analyst who made the median 2006 income of about $66,000 and decides to become, say, a commercial loan officer will probably net about $10,000 less in 2006 dollars. However, after three years of experience, that loan officer's salary would jump to between $61,000 and $100,000, according to the BLS.
8) Self-Employment & Small Business
Replacing farmers in the self-employment demographic are growing numbers of people "who don't want to be employees anymore," says Katy Piotrowski, a career counselor and author of The Career Coward's Guide to Changing Careers. "I'm seeing a lot of people buying franchises, or setting up arrangements that involve multiple online businesses," she says.
As a career counselor who assists adults interested in mid-life career switches, Piotrowski reports growing numbers of workers "trying to escape the desk job format." Experienced career jumpers are also wary of taking new positions that promise little job security Ð jobs Piotrowski likens to "black holes" of employment. Top prospects for small businesses will be Internet companies that can get funding while the venture market is still well capitalized, as well as green consultancies and international sales, which could benefit from the volume generated by a weak dollar.
The BLS does not calculate income estimates for self-employed workers of any kind.
9) Retirement, Reconsidered
The BLS says that over the next ten years, "the need to replace workers who leave a field permanently is expected to create more openings than growth will." But with retirement accounts losing value, many baby boomers could postpone leaving. Could this affect turnover?
"This recession will delay retirement, but not the traditional way," says Krause. "Retirees will come back into the workforce on contract or part-time basis, but not keep their old positions." Because longevity means larger salaries and a lower cost-basis, companies will still pressure older workers to retire, but will also need their experience to weather a recession not equaled in decades. If retirement is your next stop, look for firms where your wisdom could be useful on retainer.
The first quarter of the year will be rough for job-seekers. But the upside will be more employer flexibility. "Candidates will have to market themselves," says Krause, "but more employers are open to job sharing and telecommuting as gas prices fluctuate and there is more emphasis on getting the candidate with the right suite of skills." Which means that it's wise to expand your geographical search, and inquire about whether working from home on a part-time basis is an option, regardless of the job you are seeking.
"What's heartening," Krause says of the incoming administration, "is that there's a recognition that there's a problem." If the president-elect's stimulus package works as intended, American job-seekers could see the creation and preservation of about 2.5 million jobs before 2010.