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Secure Jobs in the USA

Job security is pretty rare these days. News stories of downsizing, outsourcing and even in-sourcing (jobs going to prisons) abound. However, there are some professions that are more secure then others. Forbes.com recently ran an article on the most secure jobs in the USA.

Topping the list was a federal judge. It's not an easy position to get, and you must be approved by Congress, but once you're in, that's a lifetime appointment. The salaries for U.S. Federal Judges are in the $150,000 and up range. See my post on judges' pay for whether this is a lot or a little...

Before we look at the other "secure" jobs, how secure is your salary?  Find out with our salary calculator.

Tenured Faculty

If being approved by the Congress sounds a bit daunting, then you might want to try being a tenured educator. You do not have a job for life, but there has to be "just cause" to fire you. According to the National Educators Association, an educator has the right to due process and the burden is on the school to prove that you should lose your job, thus making educator one of the most secure jobs in the USA.

There are several levels to consider. The salary for elementary school teachers is not the same as the average salary of a college professor, or the average salary of a principal, but all have some measure of tenure and a permanent job.

My favorite "fake" tenured position is medical school faculty at Duke University. It was not uncommon for clinical faculty (doctors who see patients) to have only a small fraction, as low as 20%, of their salary "tenured". The rest the provost could take away at will any year, without all the need to "just cause." Very few people would stay on at a job, if their pay were cut 80% :-)

Steelworker Union Jobs

Unionized employees have a certain degree of protection, depending on their contracts. Tom Conway, vice president of the United Steel Workers Union, told Forbes.com, "Before companies can do a significant lay-off, they're obligated to discuss and bargain with the union and seek alternatives."

When a company calls in steel workers, they're required to pay the steel workers even if they don't have enough work for them. If the work shortage becomes a serious problem, steel workers still earn 80% of their wages, thanks to the supplemental unemployment benefit. The downside is that union membership is dwindling in this country, particularly in so-called "right to work" states where workers are hired "at will."

Federal Job Civil Service Jobs

Civil service employees have legendary, if not notorious, job security. Some would say that's actually one of the problems of government. Nevertheless, those people employed by federal, state and local government agencies have strong job security because it's difficult to fire them. Hence, the loveable, yet disgruntled postal worker who can earn an average hourly wage $20 or more in major cities.

In fact, the government has to prove that firing an employee will actually "promote the efficiency of the service." There has to be a preponderance of evidence, 30 days written notice of poor performance, and 30 to 90 days opportunity to improve work performance. If they manage to fire you, after all that, you can still appeal the firing.

Given the tendency of patronage and cronyism to filter down from the elected politicians, it makes sense that it is hard to fire a government employee. These rules may actually improve the efficiency of government, by preventing every employee from being fired every few years when the party in charge changes. Does anyone remember Tammany Hall?

Employment for Legal Nurse Consultants

Nurses currently have strong job security because demand exceeds supply. Forbes.com says this is because of an "an aging population and chronic illness." This is why the Department of Labor reportedly lists nurses at one of the 10 fastest-growing occupations. Nurses are hired by hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes, insurance companies (as investigators) and medical sales companies (consultants).

Cheryl Peterson, a senior policy analyst at the American Nurses Association, told Forbes.com, "In '92 or '93, the spiraling cost of health care and managed care caused lay-offs of nurses. We're having a shortage now because so many nurses are retiring, combined with the aging population. If the health care system that exists today stays this way, we will continue to have a shortage."

As I mentioned in an earlier column, List of Salaries for Careers (that stand the test of time), there are some jobs that are not going to be outsourced: doctors, research scientists, barbers, construction workers and waste disposal managers. Forbes.com also adds the following professions to that list: fire fighters, law enforcement officers and long-distance truck drivers. Hmm, they seem to be forgetting bloggers :-)

How does your salary compare to the most secure jobs in the USA? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's full salary survey.

Cheers,

Dr. Al Lee

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