The 10 Most Reliable Jobs, Lowest Unemployment Rates

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If you’re a parent, student, or just someone looking to switch jobs, here’s a list of the professions where you’ll be least likely to become unemployed. Think of it as a career guide for the risk-averse or those who want the best odds.

The WSJ recently compiled a list of jobs and their 2011/2012 unemployment rates based on government labor data. In turn, Derek Thompson of The Atlantic used that data to screen for the jobs with the lowest, steady unemployment rates over that time period. The results:

Source: The Atlantic, WSJ, BLS

The professional-school medical positions – physicians, dentists, veterinarians, do well as expected. Engineers are also well-represented (yes!). Some would say this supports the idea that an STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skill set brings the best value. The medical positions also carefully manage how many graduates they produce each year (unlike law schools). But I’d also note that people should consider why septic tank repairers and animal breeders are also reliable professions (hard to be outsourced, can’t be replaced by machines, etc).

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  1. It’s really sad to see animal breeders on this list.

  2. There are ethical breeders out there, gotta avoid those puppy mills though.

    Consider adoption first. Never buy a dog from a pet store, classified/newspaper ad, or Craigslist ad. The good breeders are highly selective about the homes where their animals end up and don’t need to advertise or wholesale. Our first dog came from the humane society, second came from local breeder. Two others that we didn’t keep were rescues that we helped re-home with friends and family.

  3. Petroleum engineer is definitely one of hte most reliable jobs… unless the price of oil decreases significantly.

  4. Agree with Mike – that jumped out at me as not making sense with the rest of the jobs. Who needs “new” animals? Only our selfish species.

  5. Septic tank servicers and locomotive engineers seem out of place. Those certainly don’t seem like high demand jobs or careers with high barrier to entry. I would bet the low unemployment figure is due to stagnation and stability rather than high demand or anything.

  6. It’s not titled “high demand jobs,” the article highlights fields with low unemployment once you’re in that line of work. Animal breeders work in agricultural jobs–think breeding cattle, horses, swine, poultry, etc. It doesn’t say “pet” breeder. For the septic tank firms, I live in the Research Triangle area of NC and there are very few options. There are many houses here that have septic tanks, and getting reliable information or repairs when buying or selling can involve a long wait. Septic tank companies and locomotive engineers both have extensive licensing/training requirements.

  7. Well certain professions have low unemployment because only those actively employed in them identify themselves as such. For example a judge is nothing but an attorney with the “judge” title, once he seize being a judge, he will most likely identify himself as an unemployed attorney not a judge.

    An animal breeder is most likely to be self-employed. And even those self-employed who don’t make little or no money are still considered “employed”

  8. First Step, Yes I know its not a list of ‘high demand’ but unemployment rate is generally a reflection of supply versus demand. So demand plays a factor. Extensive licensing / training requirements would be the high barrier to entry that I mentioned and would explain why those to professions might have low unemployment.

    I think Serge is also right that unemployment depends on how you label yourself. A few years ago home appraisers had a veyr low unemployment rate but that wasn’t because it was a booming profession, but simply because most of them are self employed and when the recession slammed that profession many appraisers found other employment or simply had low income but they were never ‘unemployed’ they were either appraisers or they weren’t.

  9. I am changing professions right now from engineering (infrastructure/civil engineering) to something more stable. I would like to see data from more than 2-years past. I thought “engineering” was a stable career but there are so many different branches and markets. I don’t know if looking at a 2-year span is enough time to classify petroleum engineering and nuclear engineering (or any career) as stable over the lifetime of a career, but I imagine the medical professions would probably show fairly good stability even if this analysis included a longer time period.

  10. It’s sad how they promise young people that a career in engineering is a ticket to stable, middle class income when that’s obviously not true. Alas what can be outsourced will be outsourced, and even many medical professions that can be done remotely will be done remotely. This trend will continue until the wage gap in developed and developing countries would close.

    But that’s not all, if this Wired article “Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs” is even somewhat prescient, then even the positions that cannot be outsourced, will be replaced by robotic equipment.

    And to a large degree they already do at the lower level positions like self-checkout registers replacing cashiers. But with the rapid progress of the technology, the higher-skilled positions like those of dentists, or at least dental hygienists may be replaced by the robotics.

  11. Jonathan,

    Thanks a lot for sharing this chart with us. However, it only shows one piece of the puzzle. What you want to see is long-term unemployment rates for each of these professions listed above.

    Take the petroleum engineers for example. In the 1980’s, oil prices decreased s, which created oversupply of qualified candidates, particularly since many companies let go their engineers. Many probably changed occupations. In the 1990’s and even early 2000s this has not been a very attractive profession. So as a result, a large portion of Oil company employees with specific skills are in their 40s- 50s, and would retire in a decade or so. And there won’t be much in terms of new hires to satisfy the demands, particularly with the new oil and gas boom we have been experiencing over the past few years in the US.

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